In our puppy classes, we spend our last week playing "puppy agility" - basically having the puppies walk on and through various surfaces. Not only is this usually a lot of fun, but I believe it is good for pups in a couple ways. First, it helps them build confidence on different surfaces, things that move or are unsteady, and things that might make noise. Second, it starts to build body awareness and coordination. We hope Royal will grow up to be a performance dog in agility and other sports, so it is important for those sports that he knows how to use his body. But even if your puppy isn't planning on a dog sports future, coordination, confidence, and an awareness of all four feet is an important skill to develop. We have had numerous owners approach us with dogs that are afraid to walk on the wood or linoleum floors in their new house, or simply can not figure out how to negotiate a flight of stairs. The confidence to do these types of tasks comes from knowing how to use their body, and that is a skill we can teach.
We daily try to have Royal practice walking in or on something new, starting with a somewhat unsteady surface with a novel texture:
Building up to more unsteady surfaces, that also make noise:
And challenges to build his body awareness and confidence. In this exercise, you notice that Royal has to figure out this challenge and it isn't always easy for him. He is allowed to stop and can choose to start over without pressure. Letting him problem solve at his pace and work through something new helps him be resilient, and the next time around he aces the prior problem spot.
Because he is growing and his muscles and bones are developing, we are careful not to do high impact activities or to have him jumping higher than his elbows right now. We don't ask for numerous repetitions of the same thing, but let him mostly self-direct his own exercise.
Because I like having dogs that enjoy to swim - it is good fitness, a good way to cool down on a hot run, and I find it fun to play around in the water with them - we are also working daily on getting Royal to enjoy water. We first rewarded him for getting in and out of an empty wading pool, until he loved charging in there to make good treats happen. Then every day we began adding a bit more water. He makes the choice to get in, but since we have built a lot of value for the pool by associating it with good things, he hops in and out multiple times a day. He currently is getting in and out of water about elbow deep.
Outings this week included going into town, hanging out at a cafe and a winery, visiting dog friendly stores, meeting his "grandparents," and meeting lots of new strangers. He continues to take all his new adventures in stride!
Angela and Lowell, your friendly Harmony Dog Trainers!