Getting Started with Canine Fitness and Conditioning Using FitPAWS® Balance Products
What makes my 2 Border Collie’s smile? – working on balance discs with me in their doggie gym.
Doggie Gym Equals Fun!
Everything about our time spent in our doggie gym is about having fun, reinforcement treats, praise and no expectations. Each day at 3:00 p.m. my 2 cool Border Collies, Kaffee and Myst come and remind me it is time.
We have so much fun and both dogs have developed such amazing core strength, balance and coordination that I wanted to share our work with balance discs. Myst started on the discs when she was 10 weeks old. We have continued to add to her collection of advanced balance work and also shaping, obedience work and tricks during our late afternoon time together.
I have so many videos of Myst’s tricks and disc work that I decided to create a web site where others could learn from what we have been doing. The web site was my first project after I retired from Western Governors University as a faculty mentor. My job involved working with Master degree students in one of the first competency-based university programs. Since we did not teach but supported a students’ learning journey, I created many educational videos and webinars to assist their mastery of instructional design and technology. Creating media-based learning materials has always been something I greatly enjoy… especially when students reported how much these materials have helped them.
My background in medicine working as a critical care nurse for many years and my involvement in performance sports such as running marathons, mountain bike racing, and helicopter skiing have all provided me with opportunities to learn a great deal about sports medicine. And now, my journey has taken me to apply so much of what have learned to dog sports.
The “Two Cool Border-Collies” web site was created as a way to enable me to continue creating and sharing educational videos as well as writing about special journeys such as how I created a wonderful hiking partner, Myst’s conditioning for agility, and Kaffee’s excellent rehab from an iliopsosas sprain using mainly balance discs: www.2coolbcs.com
Build Your Doggie Gym
Whenever a friend becomes interested in using balance discs with their dogs they usually ask me what discs I recommend. I feel the following discs are excellent for getting started:
- 1 FitPAWS® Giant Balance Disc
- several 14” Balance Discs
- a FitPAWS® Wobble Board (Choose 20” or 36”)
- and a FitPAWS® Peanut
What I would like to share with people is a basic understanding of how to use the balance discs to accomplish development of core strength, balance, coordination, proprioception, flexibility and prevention of injuries.
A few guidelines to help when beginning include:
(1). Consider how you are going to reward your dog for interacting with the discs. I use a clicker initially to mark the behavior I am looking for, but a verbal marker such as “YES” is also excellent.
(2). All dogs are not going to react the same to the discs. Some will step right on or walk over the disc others might act like they do not even see the discs and take steps to avoid going near them. See the video below for suggested ways to work with these dogs.
(3). Identify a few goals you have when introducing or working with discs. For example, for puppies your goal might be to help them gain confidence on unstable surfaces and to build their balance, coordination and body awareness. Consider how your work with the puppy and disc will help to achieve your goal.
(4). Know what the behavior you are looking for before beginning. For example once the dog has become familiar with the disc, look for things such as
- All 4 feet on the disc before you reward
- 2 feet on the front disc; 2 feet on the back
- Slow movement, which encourages balance if you are having the dog walk across a series of discs
- Duration when standing or sitting on a disc
(5). Balance discs help with compression, extension and proprioception. Proprioception is spatial orientation such as isolating hind feet for work. See the video below for examples of compression, extension and proprioception
REMEMBER, while working on balance discs is fun, be thoughtful of what you are trying to accomplish and consider what muscle group you are targeting. Review videos or read more about which exercises will help you accomplish your goals.
This YouTube video has more work from Beginner to Advanced on the FitPAWS® Peanut.
Cynde Leshin lives in Sedona, Arizona with her husband and 3 dogs: Myst, Kaffee and Puli Ziggy. Cynde has worked in the health care field for over 10 years, and more recently as a faculty member in the College of Education at Western Governors University. Her field of expertise is instructional design and instructional technology. She is now retired and enjoying her free time hiking and training and competing in obedience and agility. She developed her web site “Two Cool Border Collies” (2coolbcs.com) to share her learning experiences with her dogs with others.