Category Archives: Exercise Therapy

Spring Pole: Good Or Bad?

I’ve gotten this question a few times in the last couple of days. Thought I’d share my response here since a few other people may have the same question. Enjoy:

Question:  “What are your thoughts on people who tie a tug and let the dog hang?  ……..What’s the purpose?”

dreadspringtree

(old school shot of a tree Spring Pole)

My Answer:  “Back in the day Spring Poles were just ways to develop grip and drive. They would put dogs on them and let them rip. Most dogs didn’t have an out so they would break stick them off the hide/tug. This is CLASSIC agitation. Take the dog up pulling on a 2 inch collar going apeshit. Let them get it and go NUTS. Then….. Literally pry them off! Makes a ton of drive. Not to mention physically conditions their wrestling, and biting musculature. That said….. There were a lot of stuff in old school Keeps/Pit Dogmanship that can be super useful if done a little different. Spring Poles are one of them. Typically everyone now knows that tug can be a great way of training your dog. Builds great obedience, and impulse control. Develops relationship. And, satisfies a very biologically appropriate style of play. Spring Poles have all those same benefits…… AND……

1- MORE impulse control. The tug is being directly controlled by you. Which means “some” of what keeps them from early strikes is spatial/social pressure. And “some” of what makes them out is you “deading” the toy (-P) to enforce the command. Well….. If the toy is inherently self reinforcing and not being controlled…… Their impulse control must be SOLID. And their out must be BOMBPROOF. Because, when you say out, they “can” keep going. That’s a HUGE jump in impulse control.

2- Increased area of influence. For you to send away, out, recall, down at distance etc…. your obedience from a distance has to be solid. Most people can say down and get compliance at 2 ft. At 20…. Not so much. compliance from your dog at 20 ft, in the face of an available, HUGE temptation…… That’s monster training.

3- Real world translation of skill. If you can out and down at a distance….. Or recall your dog OFF a spring pole, you have a much better chance of calling them off a squirrel! 

4- People have adopted  WAAAAAAY to much dog. There are a gang of nice little old ladies that are adopting Pits. Good for them. But they couldn’t play tug with their dog to save their fucking life. That’s a huge bummer. That dog will forever miss out on an amazing activity. And that owner will miss out on a great training modality. a trainer can do a few sessions and get the dog working on a spring pole. Then help them put one up. Get them all set. Then,,,,, Granny can work that dog like a champ! That’s a HUGE benefit. Really fills a hole for new, over their head adopters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(modern day Bully on a constructed pole Tell me that dog’s not the epitome of happy)

Here’s one of my dogs during their 3’rd session learning Spring Pole. As he gets better it’ll get higher. (the higher it is, the more it “fights”, the more impulse control it requires)

So…. There you are. Why I like, and teach people how to use the old school spring pole!

Maybe now I’ll put up a “How To Make One” article.

Tug: 2.0

So….. If you’ve read the blog at all, you know I’m a fan of tug.

10426637_10152415003764754_6729142417425977728_n

Particularly, in the Balabanov tradition, with Ellis making a close second. They’ve always said that it develops:

1. Engagement

2. Relationship

3. Language of training (terminal bridge, intermediate bridge, & no reward mark)

4. Impulse control

5. A high value “reward event” that isn’t food based

But….. If those weren’t enough reason to do it, I now have a few more!!!! And, they’re BIG.

1. This one is practical: It begins to “shape” the Conditioned Relaxation exercise Kayce Cover calls the “Toggle”. The way I teach the “out” is by using a “Dead Toy” out. It’s a form of Negative Punishment. Basically….. You make the toy become less fun. They “restart” the game, by letting go. I always knew that it shaped the idea that a sudden shift in body language could stop play. But once I learned the Toggle from Kayce (shifting from “Alert” to “Easy”), I realized that teaching tug first helps them understand the concept of “shifting gears”. Toggling just takes it much further.

(This little guy picked up the “toggle” much faster after teaching tug. A little bit of shaping, and a little bit of stress relief. Bringing me to #2)

1526874_10152415003519754_677962202105950270_n

2. This one is theoretical: Biologically appropriate activity. That’s huge for a couple of reasons. First, it is a big stress reliever. And I don’t just mean in the way that exercise dissipates stress.  That’s totally true. Any exercise alleviates stress. But biologically appropriate activities are more than just an energy drain. Temple Grandin describes the “Freedom to express normal behaviors” as one of the four freedoms that define a healthy lifestyle. The others being freedom from hunger, pain, and fear! Well, for a dog, ripping and tearing with their mouth is as biologically fulfilling as it gets! Hell, developing COOPERATION over a thing we’re both gripping is natural!. Watch a pig hunt…. dogs hunting a pig…. not a pig hunting, that would just be weird. But, of all the activities you can do with your dog it is probably the MOST biologically fulfilling activity you can engage in with them.

Yeah, those are more “realizations” of what the hidden benefits are, than actual technique discoveries. But still….. Way more reasons to do it, if you don’t already.

Not sure HOW to do this?

Let me show you!

 

Blind Sled Dog!!!

Just in case you need some feel good motivation today…..

I give you a blind sled dog. What can you take from this?

A- Dogs are awesome.

B- Happy stories motivate.

C- The reason that you tell yourself why your dog “can’t” do awesome things is most likely invalid.

Check it out:

AP/ January 25, 2013, 9:34 AM

Blind sled dog thrives with brother’s help

Gonzo, a blind sled dog, and his brother and guide Poncho, run together at the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H.

(Gonzo, a blind sled dog, and his brother and guide Poncho, run together at the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H.)

JEFFERSON, N.H. When Gonzo started tripping over his food dish three years ago, no one could explain or stop the Alaskan husky’s quickly advancing blindness. But a veterinarian offered some simple advice: “Run this dog.”

Blind sled dog aided by brother

Gonzo, one of 120 dogs at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, was happy to comply. With help from his brother, Poncho, he soon resumed his place pulling a sled all over New Hampshire’s North Country to the delight of tourists and his caretakers, who quickly realized that if Gonzo didn’t treat his blindness like an obstacle, neither would they. Given the dog’s obvious eagerness, he was allowed to continue on as usual.

“Even though he’s blind, he still knows when hook-ups are happening. He’s still very aware,” said kennel manager Ben Morehouse. “When you have a dog such as Gonzo, with such a want and a drive and a desire … you try it, you hook up, you see what happens.”

A frenzy of excited barking engulfs the kennel whenever Morehouse and other staffers haul out a sled. The chosen team is outfitted with harnesses and booties; those left behind scramble onto their doghouse roofs and howl. Gonzo and Poncho are lined up side-by-side, usually toward the back of the eight-member team — “brains to brawn” is how Morehouse describes the order.

(Gonzo, a blind sled dog, throws his head to the wind as part of a team of dog taking riders through the snows of New Hampshire.)

“A lot of people say everything about dog sledding is efficiency. Gonzo and Poncho are not the most efficient sled dogs out there. They won’t set a speed record, they won’t pull the most you’ve ever seen,” Morehouse said. “To be honest, they’re probably some of the goofiest dogs you can put in harness. But they’re just fun.”

Some dogs at the kennel, including Gonzo and Poncho, were born there. But it’s also home to what kennel owner Neil Beaulieu calls “second-chance” dogs — former professional sled dogs a bit past their prime — as well as dogs rescued from bad situations.

READ MORE…..

Happy Holidays

Whatever you celebrate…… Enjoy it!

A lot of people are either having guests over. Or are leaving their pets at home for longer than usual while they go somewhere. If you have a “difficult” dog, this can be daunting. I’m very familiar with the urge to cancel holiday plans because it just doesn’t seem worth the “dog” issues. But, over the years, I’ve learned how to manage things better. Hopefully some of these will help.

Some holiday tips:

1. The obligatory training/lifestyle suggestion.  Yeah, if you don’t have this base already covered, it’s not gonna help for tomorrow…. But, I’d be misleading if I didn’t suggest it helps EVERYTHING. It is a HUGE part of the equation. Like 2 thirds. Lifestyle, “Pack Structure”, or how you live with you dogs, is 1 third. Obedience training is the second third.  But, like I said. This can’t be done in a day…. So not really helpful if you’re staring down the x-mas barrel. But, for next year!!!

2. Exercise. It doesn’t fix everything. But it sure helps manage things. It is the other 3rd of the equation for a good dog. But, more importantly, it’s one of the only “short term”, “immediate” fixes.  It sure is hard for dogs to be annoying when they’re worn out. So, before you leave them for the day, or have people over….. Plan a little extra time, and WEAR THEM OUT!!!!

3. Crates.Obviously, if you leave them. But, they can be great for when guests come over.  Crates, are a great way for dogs to be WITH everyone. If you’re little difficult one, is weird with people, or just hyper, you can put a crate in the room where everyone is. They get to be “with” everyone, but not bother everyone so much. Yes, they’ll probably freak out for a sec. But usually, they settle down. They get to be there, but not ruin the day.

4. Enforce the rules. On your dog; if they don’t normally beg food, don’t let them “just today”. If they normally sit before being invited onto the couch, just cause it’s Festivus, doesn’t change anything. But honestly, and I think more importantly, enforce the rules on your guests. Yes, it’s it’s gonna be annoying. Yes, people will be irritated. But, if you let people act differently, your dog will see, and they will act differently. For some that just means after the guests leave, you’re dog may take a few annoying hours to get back on the program. For some of us, that means, HUGE protesting when we try to re-instate the rules. And for some, that means the inconsistency means your dog slides back into fearfulness, or aggression, and now your back in a world of shit. Make sure that if you’re gonna put your dogs in that situation….. do what’s right for them, NO MATTER WHAT. Otherwise, leave them home, or in their crate.

5. If you leave them crated for way longer than normal. leave them something interesting to do. That may take up the first part of time at least. Puzzle/treat toys. Meaty bones. Or my new favorite…. A Kong filled with peanut butter that’s been frozen. That one takes a WHILE. Helps pass the time, and release a little frustration.

6. If they didn’t get the privilege of being loose, you’re obviously not looking forward to “Releasing The Krackens” when you are done. Step 1- don’t come in and make a thing about it. You’re guilt, excitement, whatever, is just gonna get them tripped out worse. Just walk in AND IGNORE THEM. as soon as they start to settle down (yes it will seem like forever) get them out and WEAR THEM OUT again. They’re gonna need to dump that energy to not be completely annoying. Then, get right back to your normal structure ASAP.

Hope that helps some of you.

Happy Holidays!

New Toy For A Maine Winter!

Oh yeah! I got me some sliding snowshoes!!!!!

L.L.Bean Boreal Sliding Snowshoes

These bad boys are a cross between Backcountry skis, and Snowshoes.

In my zeal for bad ass dog activities under ANY circumstances, I’ve run into some snags with the tapering period before and after the snow season. My kicksled, is awesome for when it’s been snowing regular. But, if you hit patches of thin cover you’re carrying that rig. Not fun.

Oddly enough, the kicksled sucks in fresh deep snow too. The runners are are only about two inches wide, and so they just sink into fresh deep powder. Come to think of it, the kicksled is really only awesome on packed trails. Now, that said, on a packed trail, it’s about the coolest thing in the world!

But, I’ve run into problems on un-groomed trails. If it’s real deep, the sled sinks. Snowshoes don’t help, at least not for a pulling scenario!

The obvious answer is for big, backcountry skis!

Sure. But, here’s my issue with that. I wind up getting out of the skis, a ton during an excursion. To walk to the trailhead. To walk through a dry, or rocky patch. Or, even ditch, or ravine crossing.

The trail by my house is a perfect example. There’s two ways to access it. A 3/4 mile walk on the road, that even when the trail is beautiful, the road can be dry, and no good for sliding. Or, through a deep un-groomed field about 2 blocks long, and a ravine crossing.

Both options suck bad with a sled. And aren’t much better in ski boots.

Enter the “Sliding” snowshoes!

They are fat, and short like backcountry skis, so they’re great for breaking trail in deep snow. Plus, they’ll SLIDE like skis….. Which is good if there’s dogs pulling you! But the reason they’re way cooler than regular skis, is that they work with my regular boots! Which means, I can throw them on my back, and hike it, if there’s not enough snow! That means, there’s no risk in picking the wrong equipment. If there’s enough snow, we “skijor”. If there’s not, we are Canicrossing!

Bring on the snow! Or not, doesn’t matter.

BTW, if all that sounds like too much hassle for you, but you’d still like your dogs out on the trail…..

Give us a call. We’ll pull em for you.

Snow, or not.

What The Hell Is A Flirt Pole!

Flirt Poles are awesome!

They are a fantastic way to exercise your dog! And not just in that “screw it, just get em tired” kind of way. But, in a way that can help establish rules, boundaries, and bonding.

It’s just like tug. Literally. It’s just an extension of your arm. You can make them cover more ground, and have exciting near misses in between your actual tugging bouts.

If they have reliable “outs” you can just play tug with the pole like you’re fishing for dogs! If their “outs” aren’t solid yet, you can just hand over hand down to the tug, and immobilize it to encourage the “out”. I’ve recently become a fan of the -P method of corrections!

In this way it’s just a higher energy draining version of tug.

But I’ve used it with a few dogs that didn’t have any desire to play tug. It’s been a great bridge to get to tug as a new activity.

One of them just wasn’t that excited about about the “prey” I was holding. I just couldn’t move it enough, or in a fashion to trigger her interest. But, with a flirt pole, I was able to draw her out. Literally, like fishing. I would throw it out like casting. She would sort of ignore it. I would make very small movements. After a minute or two she FINALLY got a little interested. When she bothered to give it a sniff, I made it jump and run away from her. It took about two of those for her to go absolutely apeshit chasing it. When I let her get it, I gently tugged “fishing pole” style. I am not going to start “outing” her for a few more sessions. I don’t want to discourage her drive in any way. If I can get it away from her, it means she’s not really gripping it. Which means her drive isn’t high enough. Once she can grip that thing and I can’t get it back from the pole I will transition into teaching the “out” and possibly switching to straight tug.

On another dog I was working, they had trust issues. They had a TON of prey drive, but….. If you tried to engage them in tug, they would just let you have it. They didn’t want to “challenge” you for this thing that you obviously wanted. Sometimes, you can just tug less vigorously to help build their confidence. But in this case it was bad enough that I had to use a flirt pole so that the toy didn’t seem “attached” to me. They could chase, and chase. When they caught it, I would tug “fishing pole” style, and praise a lot. Then once they are into that, when tugging, I will slide down the line and tug holding the line. I’ll get closer and closer until, I can actually tug while holding it. Once you can use the pole to engage rounds of hands on tug play, you may be able to just switch to straight tug.

Anyway, flirt poles are bad ass! Use them to build trust, or drive for tug work, Or just use them to wear you little one down. Cause, even though I am a HUGE proponent of obedience work, if a dog is tired, it’s hard for them to be bad!

So, Buy one. Make one.

Or call us…. We’ll bring ours!