Activities

By | May 31, 2010

Swimming

Swimming is a great way for dogs to get their exercise. It is a low-impact form of exercise that doesn’t tax any joints, but builds muscles. Dogs that are prone to gaining weight can swim to remain in shape and cut pounds from their frames. Good health can be maintained while the dog is having fun.

Swimming is also a great way to safely exercise your dog in the summer heat. She can exercise and keep her body temperature down at the same time.

Equipment for swimming can be minimal, yet there are certain things to have with you to provide a safe swimming experience for you and your pet. A long leash helps your dog learn to return to your side and gives you some control over where she’s swimming. Wear water shoes of some sort. You should be prepared to go in the water to teach your dog to swim, and you should always be prepared to jump in — even with a seasoned swimmer, just in case something happens. Having a toy to retrieve is helpful once the dog has learned to swim.

Not all dogs (even sporting breeds) know how to swim right away, so do not throw your dog into the water in the hopes of his learning quickly. This will only scare him and perhaps cause panic and an accident. Do not make this new learning experience a negative one.

You will want to get in the water with your puppy. Keep a leash on him and guide him around the water to help him feel relaxed and safe. You may even want to help him “float” by holding him under his belly. This will help him feel secure enough to stop flailing his legs long enough to realize he can float.

Be cautious around his legs and feet. Once their arms, legs, and paws begin thrashing through the water, they can accidentally cause serious damage to your skin.

Swim with a “lifeline.” Some folks like to have their dog swim on a thirty-foot leash. This way, you can direct your dog back to you at any time in his swim if you feel he’s getting too far away. Once your off-leash training is in place, you will no longer need your leash.

Do not take your dog swimming when the water is extremely cold in late autumn, winter, and early spring. Even though your dog may think he enjoys water at all times, be smart and prevent him from making a mistake that could cost him his health. Wait until the water warms in the spring and cut out swimming at a reasonable time in the autumn.

Being a doggie lifeguard

Lifeguard Tip #1: Check the area for remnants of fishing line and hooks. These can be very dangerous if your dog becomes tangled up in them. Severe cuts can happen from the line, and hooks can impale tender skin and footpads.

Lifeguard Tip #2: Be certain that the water isn’t too deep. Deep water for a beginner swimmer is challenging and frightening. Make your new swimmer‘s experience positive and easy.

Lifeguard Tip #3: If your dog likes to jump from the slope at the edge of the creek into the water, be certain that the water is deep enough for your dog to land without injury to her legs or belly. If the water is too shallow, you may risk your dog breaking a limb when she lands.

Lifeguard Tip #4: Do not allow your dog to swim in swiftly running water. This can be extremely difficult for your dog to navigate. Swimming into a small current will help him exercise, yet do not underestimate the power of a strong current to overpower your dog. Take precautions.

Lifeguard Tip #5: Be careful that your long leash doesn’t get caught on rocks in the creek bed. It could prove dangerous for your dog while swimming, especially if there’s even the tiniest current.

Hiking

Hiking is a great activity to enjoy with your dog. It combines the peace of walking through the quiet woods with exercise.

Wildlife sounds and scents provide wonderful distraction-training opportunities for you and your dog. Even if your dog knows to behave in their regular setting, remember that you may have to instruct and reinforce some old concepts in this new setting. With all these new distractions at your fingertips, you should come away from your fun experience with some higher-level skills as well!

A short leash for getting your dog out of and back into the parking lot may also be needed to work through some distraction situations as they occur during the walk. A long, cotton leash (not a retractable leash), either thirty or fifty feet long, may be handy also so your dog may have some freedom during the hike.

If you select a thirty-foot leash, place a brightly colored mark (tape or something that will not wash off) at the midpoint of the leash. For the fifty-foot leash, place the mark twenty feet before the loop end of the leash.

It is a good idea to keep your cell phone with you on a hike. Many things can happen when you’re away from the suburbs. Becoming lost, you or your dog becoming injured, and a questionable person following or approaching you are all reasons you may want the security of your phone and 911 on hand.

Always take a water bottle with you on hikes. There are many water bottle / dog cup devices, as well as combination devices that allow you and your dog to drink from the same container without ever sharing germs. You can also buy collapsible water bowls that clip to your belt or belt loops and prove very convenient when traveling.

If you need to navigate some questionable terrain, you may want to have a pair of doggie booties with you. Doggie booties can be purchased from some pet supply stores and online. The booties are usually made for search and rescue dogs that need to navigate dangerous terrain. They are also made for sensitive feet in the snow and ice. If you like to hike in a variety of places, you may want to purchase these as part of your equipment for your dog.

Pick a terrain that both you and your dog can navigate easily and safely. Not all hiking trails are conducive to a fun walk for your dog. Humans wear heavy-duty hiking boots on some trails, but our dogs do not. Be fair to your dog and choose something upon which his feet, legs, and joints will remain comfortable.

Periodically take the time to sit down and rest. Your dog may welcome the break if he is new to hiking.

It is a good idea to keep a leash on your dog for at least the first ten visits to a new hiking area, even if there is no leash requirement. Choose a thirty-foot-long leash so that your dog can enjoy the “freedom” of a good long run, yet the safety of your direction and control. Once your dog is truly reliable off-leash, you can remove this, providing it doesn’t break the leash law.

When hiking in different places, be sure to respect the leash laws of the area. Most country settings require a leash; some specify a six-foot leash, while others have more flexible requirements.

Practice WAIT (or STAY) on your hike. When you are at a familiar hiking spot and away from the parking lot, place the thirty-foot (or fifty-foot) hiking leash on your dog. Allow your dog to wander ahead of you, dragging the leash on the ground behind him. When you notice the colored mark on the leash pass you by, give the command WAIT (or STAY). If your dog does not stop moving forward, command NO and re-command WAIT (or STAY) and step on the leash (if your dog is running, you will need to be quick).

Walk up the leash, stepping on it with each step so your dog cannot advance forward. Praise with good WAIT (or STAY). When you reach your dog, command BREAK and step off the leash. Allow your dog to continue down the path and repeat the exercise every time the colored mark on the leash passes you.

Teach this walking style with an older (eighteen months to two years) dog. Younger dogs may respond to this exercise if they have burned out their excess energy first. If your dog runs around in circles, this exercise will be difficult. Begin slowly and add freedom as your dog improves.

Once your dog understands the WAIT (or STAY) command, a remote device may be used in conjunction with the leash. Command WAIT (or STAY). If your dog does not stop walking forward, remotely correct with NO and re-command WAIT (or STAY) while you step on the leash to prevent any additional forward movement.

As you take more walks with your dog using this exercise, he will learn a boundary of how far you will allow him to get away from you. When you begin to see your dog stop (on his own) and look toward you, praise heartily and remind him to WAIT (or STAY). Release him with BREAK and praise again.

Never let your dog get out of sight on a hike. If you see a corner, hillcrest, or curve, have your dog wait until you catch up. Other hikers with or without dogs may come upon you suddenly. Hikers generally do not like to be surprised by a dog without the owner close by.

Be aware of wildlife, snakes, poisonous plants, etc., while you’re walking. Staying alert and aware will prevent many potential accidents. Most animals will run from you and your dog when they hear you approaching, but stumbling upon them suddenly may frighten or provoke them to take action to protect themselves.

Be alert to hunting season schedules and designated hunting areas. Many hiking parks are adjacent to hunting areas, and this may put you and your dog in jeopardy if you’re walking too close to those areas.

Gunshot noises may spook your dog. Keeping a distance from hunting areas and having your dog on-leash will maximize your safety in these situations. Desensitize your dog to loud noises before walking near these areas. This can reduce the chances of your dog panicking and darting away.

If you do venture near hunting areas regularly, it is important to wear blaze orange on yourself as well as blaze orange on your dog. You can purchase blaze orange coat drapes for your dog in many pet stores, in hunting stores, and online.

Genetic Outlet Activities

Once all of your obedience has been created and self-control filters have been developed, you can begin adding healthy activities that are outlets for instinctual drives. Be certain that genetic outlet activities do not break down everyday manners or compromise your dog’s mental well-being.

Don’t do these activities prior to obedience training and distraction training. Natural instincts are so hardwired that distraction training is needed first so the dog learns to make choices rather than act purely on instinct. Once good choices are established, then we can go back and give instincts their outlets.

Cart pulling is one activity for drafting and working dogs such as Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Great Pyrenees, and others. In this activity, dogs are fitted with harnesses and are hooked to carts. The pull is a competition utilizing natural working and drafting instincts of these giant breeds.

Weight pulls are great outlets for breeds prone to being quite tough. American Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, Malamutes, etc., all can benefit from the release of aggression during this sport. Dogs are fitted with harnesses and initially taught to pull an empty cart. Weight is added to the cart and is gradually increased as the dog learns to pull more weight. When watching one of these events, one can see exactly how much these dogs appear to be enjoying this “tough guy” outlet!

Herding clubs exist for dogs and their owners to get experience channeling herding drive. This usually takes place on a farm where the club owner has either sheep or geese or both on the property. Dogs and handlers alike are taught the proper way to channel a dog’s natural herding energy on livestock. This is also a fantastic use of the dog’s intelligence and working ability. Herding exercise is especially good for breeds like German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Corgis, and many more.

Tracking / search and rescue clubs are not only wonderful ways to use the intelligence and hunting drives of certain breeds, but also a way to employ dogs to do important real-life jobs. Labs, Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Bloodhounds are all breeds that have great abilities in hunting and scent detection. Their abilities, instincts, and training education through this activity have saved many lives.

Lure coursing is an activity that utilizes a sight hound’s incredible visual skills and speed. No live rabbits are used, but a rabbit’s zigzagging path is simulated using pulleys and a set of white bags. The coursing is judged on the dog’s enthusiasm, speed, agility, endurance, and the ability to follow the lure.

Hunting and retrieval: some people like to use their sporting breeds to actually hunt. A sporting breed loves nothing more than to utilize her natural instincts for her owner. Even if you don’t hunt, you can utilize these instincts by working retrieval games with toys on land and water. Both allow your dog’s drive to be channeled appropriately and with enthusiasm.

Schutzhund trials are based on obedience, tracking, and protection training. Since obedience is one of the areas judged, it must be extremely precise. In this way, the protection training is more reliable and safe, since the owner has complete control over the dog and his responses. Along with that, the dog has learned to control his behaviors rather than allow his pure guard instincts to rise unchecked.