Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From dining to exercising

This is part V to my treadmill training exercising.
To recap from the last blog, we left off with Sensi “dining on the run.” OK, OK — maybe it’s more appropriate to say “dining on the walk, the very, very slow walk.”
But the goal, remember, is to have him running. In fact, the goal is to have him running on his own accord before breakfast every morning and again before dinner each night.
I want to make a little note here, too, that there is a reason I chose to have exercise time precede mealtime. In the wild, wolves expend a ton of energy just to get a meal — think about the stalking time and coordination of the pack, then the actual chase, which has got to be exhausting, before the whole deal is sealed with a wrestling match at the end.
So, having your dog exercise before mealtime is bound to feel natural for them. Of course, you don’t want to go from strenuous exercise straight to eating. Just like humans, dogs need a little time to cool down before filling their bellies. It is actually really important for them to cool down or else they risk getting bloat, which can be fatal and require emergency surgery.
All right, back to the main topic. How to move from dining to exercising.
First, let’s recall that the treadmill is moving so very slowly in these beginning stages that even the word “plodding” conjures an image that is too fast to accurately describe the speed he is traveling at.
The focus for him, right now, is still on the dining aspect. I need to move him away from that.
I’m going to do a week of just letting him eat at whatever pace he desires while walking ever so slowly on the treadmill.
The second week, I’m going to make some slight adjustments. I’ll start pulling the food bowl back from him, at first just for a second or two at a time. This way, he’ll have to continue walking while waiting for me to give the food bowl back.
It’s very important that this is done very, very gradually. If I were to pull the food bowl away from him for even five second intervals in the beginning, he might think that he should jump off the treadmill and try a different behavior to get his dinner back. So, this has to be done with the ultimate baby step mentality.
I will continue with this until eventually, he gets no food until after he walks on the treadmill. Once I reach that point, I will begin gradually extending the amount of time I expect him to walk on the treadmill — probably until we reach ten minutes or so.
Once we’ve reached that point, we’re most of the way to our goal and I can then start increasing the speed on the treadmill. Until then, however, the speed of the treadmill will remain painfully slow.
It probably will take me until December 31 to complete my goal of having him run on the treadmill while I shower each morning, and again before dinner each night.
But that’s OK. This is a big deal and when you’re training dogs “big deal” things, you need to make sure you have the patience and take the time to get it right the first time around.
If you don’t, it’ll be a lot harder trying to rehab the effects of a shoddy training job.

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