By Lynnie Ford
I have a new dog. His name is Grover….or “nutsy butz”, “leave it”, “drop it”, or “uh-oh.” Grover is a busy little boy. He feels obligated to grab shoes and run before we can put them on our feet. It is also his duty to shred the newspaper before we read it, to landscape the yard, and to drag anything not tied down out the dog door – including my underwear. Yes, he has an agenda – run, run, run…sleep. Run, run, run…eat and sleep. Run, run, run….well, you’re probably getting the picture. Just like having a toddler, silence is not golden.
Little Grover is ½ Cavalier King Charles and ½ Brittany Spaniel with a super-long constantly wagging tail – sure to be a deadly weapon to wine glasses in the future – and disproportionately long front and back legs – none of which work well together. For example: “There goes the rest of my pack,” thinks Grover, as he chases across the yard after them – run, run, run, trip over a bump, somersault, and up and running again – who cares if it’s in the wrong direction.
While I love to expound on the greatness of my puppy, there is a point to this other than telling you what a klutz he is. Grover is just that – a puppy. He often loses his proprioception – the sense of where his paws or anything else are in space. He is also just beginning to develop skills – such as sit, down and drop that cell phone – and his strength and endurance.
What Grover needs is – Puppy Pilates. Yes, your puppy can do Pilates right along with you with just a few simple items: phonebooks, baskets, a balance disc or round pillows and plenty of treats. Puppy Pilates helps your puppy become aware of its body, strengthen its core, and build its skills all while developing a fun relationship with you.
Puppy Pilates: Start with a small basket or box that is filled with something to hold it down, and use rubber drawer lining on the bottom – the side that will be up – so it’s not slippery to stand on. Or can you can use several phone books taped together. Lure your puppy onto the box – just the front legs – and offer a treat. Then see if you can get all the legs on the box and treat. Next try to have them get off the box slowly, trying to leave the back legs on and treat. If you know how to use a clicker, click away for any action toward or on the box. You can try a sit on the box, a down on a bigger box, turns, puppy squats – sit-stand-sit, and a beg.
Then, add another box right next to the first so your puppy walks from one to another. You can add a balance disc or a round pillow in between the two boxes and have them walk from one to the next. The possibilities are endless. Different heights, and different textures – solid vs. soft –builds both core strength and confidence.
Other fun ideas to do with your puppy are:
1.Buy some noodles (swim-type not pasta-type silly!) and have your puppy walk over them, one at a time, treating after each step-over or put a treat between each one. It might be easier to do this game on a leash so they walk through the maze rather than race through, tripping and grabbing treats. You can also try having them walk through a ladder placed on the ground – again with one treat between each rung. Try walking them backwards with you in front of them, walking toward them.
2.Put a plank between two paint or coffee cans and have your dog “walk the plank” – great for finding their feet and good core strengthening. Add pirate hats and an eye patch for the dog and give the neighbors something to talk about.
3.Buy an Ikea tunnel and encourage them to run through the tunnel. Or really have fun and lead your puppy through the tunnel.
4.And my favorite game – “Treasure Hunt”. Put your puppy in another room and then hide tiny bits of kibble around a room. Let them in and say, “Treasure Hunt” . Show them where the first treat is and maybe the second … they’ll get it after that. I play this game with four dogs and I’m sure the neighbors think I’ve discovered gold in my living room when they hear “Treasure Hunt” booming out our open windows.
Most important – have fun. Puppies are lots of work – when they’re not sleeping – but they’re also hilariously funny, especially when attempting new skills. And, if you don’t have a puppy and need some landscaping done – digging holes for your bushes, dragging a plant from one place to another – send me an e-mail. Grover works cheap.