Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting Started

Before beginning any exercise program you should ask yourself several questions concerning your health:

• Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
• Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
• In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
• Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
• Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in you physical activity?
• Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
• Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions talk with your doctor before you begin exercise. If you answered “No” you are probably fit enough to begin an exercise program. If you have any questions or concerns you should speak with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.

If you have any concerns that your dog is overweight, or has any medical concerns, talk with your veterinarian prior to beginning any exercise program for you pup.

You will need comfortable clothing and good tennis shoes. As you will probably be performing the exercises outside remember to dress for the weather, and layer your clothing. To layer for colder weather wear most recommended is three layers. The base layer next to your skin should be a tight fitting wicking material. Examples of these materials are polypropylene, silk, polyester, Thermax or Thinsulate. Don’t wear cotton as cotton will absorb moisture and trap it next to your skin. Next wear a slightly looser- fitting garment made of a material such as down, polyester, fleece, wool or newer synthetic/natural blends. These two layers serve to wick moisture away from you body, helping to warm and dry. The third layer or outer garment serves to block wind and let moisture escape. Choose a garment made of Gore-Tex, with ventilation zippers. For warmer weather choose garments made of the wicking materials described in base layers. This will move moisture away from your body and help keep you cool. Choose good tennis shoes!!! Remember, your feet are your foundation! While good tennis shoes can be expensive, a well-fitted shoe can help deter or alleviate feet problems.

For your dog you will need a flat collar, a 6’leash, possibly a 20’ leash (for more advanced movements and training), and a bag of small yummy treats. The treats should be approximately the size of the tips of your finger. Check for low calorie, natural treats or your dog may gain weight during training!!! Treats are easiest stored and given when placed in a small pouch on your waist. I wear a small inexpensive pack which I can also stash keys and my cell phone in. I’m not an advocate of choke, prong or electrical collars, and don’t recommend them for these training sessions. I rely much more on positive reinforcement theories and that during training you will be interacting with your dog, keeping them focused on you and thinking. Don’t forget water for both you and you dog! Even in winter when you think you’re cold you both need water during exercise.

Picking a site to exercise and train should be creative and fun. If you have the luxury, pick a beautiful spot you want to go to. I found a playground area to be like Christmas when it came to features I could use for exercise. The many features and fixtures offered endless possibilities for exercise and training on various levels. But, you can also set up a routine in your backyard or park with no playground. I’ll explain in later blogs how to set up an exercise course if you can’t make it to a park.
So, it's “time to grab the leash and get the lead out”

Mary Manka
Owner, PushUpsnPawS,LLC

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Basic Obedience Commands

In this blog I’ll review some basic obedience commands. Most of us want a good dog that will walk quietly by our side, and stay close when we stop. We enjoy taking our dogs with us to a variety of places, and love hearing the comment “What a great dog!” A perfectly executed response to an obedience command is not necessary, more just a response. We simply want a companion we can have fun with and trust to obey simple commands.

I prefer to use positive reinforcement training principals in my classes. The most common positive reinforcement is the use of small, nutritious treats. Small means fingertip size!! Remember to use nutritious, low calorie treats - check with your local pet shop if you have any questions about treats. As your dog learns the basic commands, and responds promptly, you can wean them slowly away from constant treats, and more verbal praise. The positive reinforcement, combined with the constant activity, variety and repetitions help the dogs learn very quickly. I place less emphasis on perfection in the sit or down, and more that the dog simply performs the command. In other words, I don’t care if the dog sits/downs exactly by your side in a perfect heel position, more that they sit/down quietly and close to you while you perform your exercises. Through repetition the dogs learn their basic obedience in a less stressful setting. Not to insult the 2-legged part of the team, but there is no “performance anxiety” that can make training more stressful. It’s all about getting exercise and having fun, the training component falls naturally into place.

The most basic command is the “watch me.” This teaches your dog to focus on you. Taking one of your yummy doggie treats hold the treat in front of your dogs’ nose, then raise the treat to between your eyes. You should now have eye contact with your dog. In the beginning maintain eye contact for several seconds, then give your dog his treat. When your dog learns the command lengthen the amount of time he watches you.

To teach the sit, ask your dog to “watch me.” When you have his attention take one of the treats, hold it above his nose, and raise it above his head. You may have to gently push his bottom to the ground. As soon as his bottom hits the ground praise him and give him the treat.


After your dog has mastered the “sit”, move on to the “down” command. Ask your dog to “watch me,” and “sit.” When he’s sitting quietly take one of the treats and move it from his nose down to his front paws. As soon as his chest hits the ground, praise and reward with the treat. As he improves add the “watch me” from a down position.

 The “stay” command is taught by virtue the dog remains in position while the person is performing their exercises. The dogs learn very quickly to stay while Mom or Dad is performing some silly looking moves. In the beginning you may need to perform exercises close to your dog so that you can correct them if they break command, and perform the exercises for short time periods. But, as your dog improves you can increase the distance between you and your dog, and increase the amount of time spent on command and in exercise.

Walking on a loose leash in an important component in basic obedience training. No one wants to be drug down the sidewalk! Start by holding your leash in your right hand, and treats in your left. As you are walking only give your dog a treat when he’s by your side. In classes we use a variety of fixtures such as picnic tables or benches to weave through, mix up the speed at which we walk, and are taking constant exercise breaks. This variety helps to keeps your dog focused on you. I feel that trying to teach a dog a loose leash walk in a straight line can be an exercise in frustration. Most dogs travel at a faster pace than we do, and the only way to get them to slow down is to pull on them. They pull back and the tug-of-war is on! Because of this I try to constantly vary direction and pace. This variety coupled with constant exercise/obedience breaks helps to slow the dog down and keep them focused on you. They soon learn to walk at your pace, and by your side.

The “come” command can save your dogs life, and is a must-have command. While teaching the command, only give the command when you know you can enforce it if your dog fails to obey. And always generously treat when it is obeyed!!! Start with your dog on the short leash, in either a sit or down position. Walk back to the end of the leash. Give your command, then start to run backward a short distance. Stop, let your dog catch up, and have them sit in front of you. Treat when they are seated in front of you.

Don’t forget the most important part of a training program!!!!! It's got to be fun!!!

Mary Manka

Push Ups n PawS, LLC