A few months ago, I attended the Association of Pet Dog Trainers annual conference and trade show. I was immediately drawn to the FitPAWS booth at the trade show, because my own dogs enjoyed using this equipment in the agility classes we took. I decided to purchase some equipment for my training school, Our Gang Pet Services, LLC, after watching two different presentations by veterinarians at the conference, both of whom use FitPAWS with their clients. In their presentations, they demonstrated through video clips, how beneficial this equipment is in building strength, balance, coordination and body awareness. I already knew how much my own dogs had benefited from using this equipment in their agility classes, but what I had yet to realize, was how much fun my clients and their dogs would have on it! I placed an order for some equipment and when I returned home from the conference, I created a curriculum for a 4 week class I call SHAPE! which combines fitness training using the FitPAWS equipment and free shaping training techniques using the clicker. My clients love it and their dogs are not only benefiting physically, but mentally as well!
Video of our SHAPE! class in action:
One benefit that I think is important to mention is how using FitPAWS and free shaping techniques can help shy dogs build confidence. I have been training in a variety of dog sports over the last thirteen years including agility, flyball, lure coursing, disc dog, obedience and rally. I’ve seen so many dogs blossom and improve their self confidence through learning new skills via sports training. Recently, we adopted a dog who was part of a large cruelty case. He did not have a good start in life, and was not socialized properly. Despite that, he loves people and other dogs, and it is through his relationship with people and dogs that he gains confidence and is willing to try new things. He was not overly food motivated when we adopted him, so getting him to try things using food rewards was difficult. However, when he saw my other dogs trying the FitPAWS equipment, he wanted to investigate it. Pretty soon, he was trying it out, placing his paws on the equipment. He was tentative those first few sessions, and would get scared when the equipment moved, but now he readily gets on them to practice exercises and loves doing so!
Look at the difference in Finn on FitPAWS during his first session:
Finn, a little later:
We teach our students that a combination of physical and mental exercise is most beneficial in keeping dogs physically fit, mentally stimulated, and emotionally healthy. Doing so in a group class environment also reaps the benefit of socialization around other dogs and people. We love using FitPAWS in our SHAPE! class and have even added a level 2 SHAPE! class for our students!
About the Author:
Andrea Kilkenny, M.A., CPDT-KA, is the owner of Our Gang Pet Services, LLC in River Vale, NJ. She has been training dogs for 15 years, and started out by training with shelter dogs in a municipal shelter where she worked part time while attending graduate school. Our Gang offers obedience classes, private lessons, behavior consultation and a day training program. She believes strongly in using positive reinforcement methods, and helping strengthen the bond between pets and their owners.