Couch Potato Dog
It’s winter. We’re bored. Our dogs are bored, too. (Don’t ask me what my bored dog just did at home. It was really, really bad. Anyone want a Newfoundland mutt?) So, train your dog something new! “Distance Work”, or getting your dog to move ahead of you to an obstacle, is one of the more advanced exercises of agility. You can start training your dog to do this at any level now, by incorporating little games into your everyday training. Another good thing to do is teaching your dog to focus! My favorite exercises are done indoors and not out in the evil negative 3 wind chill!
Prepare ahead by setting up a single obstacle in the living room- lets’ say a jump. Position it up so your dog has to go over it, not around it (like in a hall or between two things the don’t can’t go over, under, or around). Put the bars down really low to start. With your dog in a stay (or not looking), place a plastic lidded container (like an old butter container) with a snack inside behind the jump. Poke a hole in the top so your dog can smell the treat. Then go sit down or lay on your couch for a bit. Now, don’t wake your dog up from a sound sleep, but if he is just sitting there, or doing nothing in particular (like you), you can then point to the jump. Say ‘jump’ (or whatever word you use). The first time this happens, unless your dog has been patiently waiting for you to release him from the stay to investigate that mysterious container, your dog might not know what you are saying at first. So you’ll have to get up and point closer to the jump, and the container, to encourage him to come over. When he goes over the jump, reward him by opening the container. Try it again over the course of your tv time (during commercials!), each time taking your dog over to the jump until he gets the idea. Keep playing this game, and eventually you should be able to just say “jump”, and your dog is going to immediately find the jump, wherever you placed it. (Future games will move the jump around). This may take a few days, but its a fun way to teach an important skill, and you can even watch TV while doing it!
Another idea is focus training during commercial breaks- have a pocket full of treats and reward your dog for looking at you or touching you with his nose or paw on command. Ask him to go over the jump (which you’ve already trained him to do, right? 🙂 ) and then recall him, getting him to focus on you. It helps to teach your dog to focus on you in a relaxed setting, and come spring, you can move it outdoors to a more challenging setting with birds and bees and trees and…
I want it to be spring.