I’ve started Risa on a canine conditioning regimen. I should have started this with her ages ago but it’s better late than never. After all, she’s not getting any younger yet she’s still active and athletic. I’d like to keep her that way. Besides, she does have back troubles and arthritis in her knees. It will also be lure coursing season soon and I want her to be able to take full advantage of her ability to race after pseudo-prey. I also want to make sure she’s in top form for her other competitive sports; I don’t want her to tweak her back before a competition again.
So I’ve pulled out her wobble board, created some cavalettis, and bought an exercise ball.
We’ve done some conditioning work on the wobble board before. I brought it out a couple years ago when Risa’s chiropractor mentioned her muscle mass differed greatly between her left and right thighs (her arthritis is worse in her left knee). I had her walk back and forth across it, spin around on it, and I rocked it back and forth beneath her while she held a stand or a bow. She was even able to perform a “sit pretty” as it moved beneath her which I encouraged to help her build up her core strength. I have also begun holding her front paws while she stands or walks across it on her hind feet only.
It has been several years since I’ve done any work with cavalettis but Risa has pretty good hind-end awareness already. Her ability to back up away from me along with her enthusiasm for doing backward circles in both directions proves this. But I knew this was a good exercise to add to her regimen. The first few attempts she sped through the poles without issue. I set up the poles again over the weekend using my training gates to create a channel. This method worked best as it forced her to stay straight and allowed me to easily set up 6 poles and keep them equidistant from each other. I also have more flexibility in adjusting the height of the poles. She was a bit cautious going through at first which is ideal as the dog is supposed to walk through slowly. After a couple passes, she decided that these were supposed to be jumps and sailed over the first 3 poles landing artfully between the remaining ones without ticking a single bar. Yes, she has good hind-end awareness. 😉 But this is not something I wanted to encourage so I made sure to guide her with my hand for the next repetitions to prevent her from leaping around again.
Out of all the exercises I’ve introduced, I think her favorite are the ones involving the exercise ball. I don’t have a very solid stand for it to rest on so it’s often butted up against my legs for support or stuck in a corner. This means that it has a tendency to roll around a lot once she puts her weight on it. I am trying my best to prevent this since that’s not how the exercises are supposed to work. However, I am incredibly thrilled that she is so confident on the roll-y and unpredictable object. One day, while working on the ball, she decided to hop up onto it completely. It rolled out from under her and she got off it quickly. She was not phased at all and immediately put her front feet back up on it when I cued her to do so. I’m always impressed with how much she trusts me and how easily she can shrug off potentially scary situations!!
Despite having just started these exercises, I can already see positive results. She’s always been very well-muscled but I’m seeing some definition I haven’t seen in a while. I’m hopeful that, along with keeping her strong and safe when she is active, this will decrease the frequency in which we have to see her chiropractor too.