Time to get into shape!
Proper stretching, movement, and body awareness contribute to overall good health whether we're dog or human. Don’t wait for your dog to be injured before you teach him some beneficial “doga poses” – start now!
Here are two of my favorite “tricks” that carry with them some whopping physical benefits:
“Who’s your queen?”
A bow – butt in air/elbows on floor - is, in canine culture, the international play invitation. Dogs bow when they first get up as a way to prepare their bodies for movement. Not only is it a great full-body stretch for the joints, spine, and muscles, but this friendly, playful gesture puts a smile on your dog’s face. As dogs age, they can lose flexibility. If you can elicit this super stretch by getting it on cue, you can monitor and help them maintain important range of motion.
Here’s one way to teach it:
You will need: a few small and several large soft yummy treats such as a hunk of cheese or chicken; a hungry dog; an object that your dog can easily reach his head and shoulders under (your leg or a chair or stool might work).
Put a few little treats under the object and let your dog find and eat them. (You may need to secure the object, so he doesn’t tip it over). You’ve just added relevance to that location – super! He may even have lowered onto his elbows in order to get the food.
Put a few more little treats under the object and while your dog is eating them, reach underneath with the big yummy snack in your hand and let him nibble on it only if he’s starting to move into a bow position. Click or mark any part of this progression so your dog knows why he’s getting rewarded. You may have to lure his head further under the object to be successful. If he lies down completely, just start over – you needn’t say anything. He’ll soon get the idea that the feast ceases the moment his butt goes down.
Repeat this several times a day for just a minute or so. Try it without the prop.
Dog in sit position with his front paws in the air.
It’s sometimes called “sit pretty” and is a fabulous way to engage core muscles and encourage a nice, tight and symmetrical sit.
How to teach it:
You’ll need a few big yummy pieces of soft treats and a hungry pooch who knows “sit.”
With the treat in your hand, present it to your dog at nose height, then wiggle it and draw it towards the top of his head. Watch his front feet! The moment you see any “lift off,” mark, and then offer him the treat. After some practice, you will treat him only for more effort. If your dog backs up or wiggles away, you can have him sit against a wall or other object.
The more we teach our dogs, the more they can do! When it’s fun and rewarding for both human and canine, there’s no end to what we can do together.