The other day I went back to the dance studio where I have many happy memories from past group ballroom and salsa lessons. I heard about a Bollywood class and I thought it’d be fun to learn. Or try anyway.
You may be thinking right about now, what does this have to do with pet training. Please continue reading and you will see where my thoughts are going…
So, there I was in a room of familiar and unfamiliar faces who had taken several other Bollywood lessons before that night. Our teacher was wonderful and she has such a warm, inviting smile that she wore frequently.
Before turning on the music, we began by learning some footwork and practiced several times. I was doing great and feeling confident. I remember looking around the room and seeing how others were doing also. Our instructor went through some of the steps more times so that we could get them.
Next, she taught us the arm work. Again, it was not really that complicated. Some of the moves required arms to flow, others to raise and lower or use our shoulders, or sway our upper body backwards and sideways. I was able to follow along up to that point fairly easily.
The trouble came for me when we put it all together. The steps and movements that I didn’t have any problems with until then suddenly became really, REALLY difficult. And when the music was added, I was extremely challenged. No longer could I even look around the room. I found myself having to stare at our instructor trying to follow along as best I could but I didn’t do a good job. My muscles were tense. My moves had no fluidity to them as my body became rigid just trying to do everything together – which by the way, I did not do very well.
When the music ended, I realized my heart was beating pretty fast too even though we really were not doing anything you would consider aerobic, especially for someone who can exercise on aerobic machines for an hour or more without problem.
And finally, I get to how this relates to our pets. In an earlier post, I wrote about an activity we did at the Karen Pryor Click Training Expo demonstrating how difficult it is to focus on a thinking task with distractions. So I won’t focus so much on that here.
What I do want to focus on is the element of mental exercise. I am often reminding clients that exercise is for both the mind and the body, and when you do an activity that engages both the level of stimulation is greatly magnified.
Some easy ideas for exercising your dog’s mind and body:
Positive training using clickers to shape behaviors while teaching him behaviors AND giving him exercise all at the same time.
Foraging/food enrichment toys where your pet has to work to get that tasty food that is inside.
Play tug and fetch, and other active games (while also teaching game rules such as ‘take’, ‘out’, ‘come’, ‘sit’, etc.)
Have a doggie play date with another dog who plays well with your pet.
If your dog likes water and likes to chase, take out your hose, turn it on and move it around. You can even add in training to this by teaching your dog to do a calm behavior like sit until released with the reinforcement being the movement of water.
For water loving dogs, you can put water resistant balls and toys in a kiddie pool filled with some water.
What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear.