I wanted to share a bit about groundwork exercises and how they can help your dog. Groundwork, in relation to dogs, consists of slow, thoughtful exercises done on-leash and consist of weaving through cones, walking over poles and walking over different surfaces to improve confidence, coordination and balance. Along with these benefits, these simple exercises can also:
Help calm a nervous or hyperactive dog
Help a dog practice approaching another dog in a softer, more appropriate way
Help a dog practice following direction and focus
We practice groundwork at least once a week at our facility and have seen numerous benefits. You can try these activities at home using items easily found around your house. Let's start with weaving through cones. We use agility weave poles or pylons with our dogs but you can substitute with cans, 2-liter bottles, plungers.... be creative!
To start, place 6-8 cones/poles in a straight line, approximately 8 ft. apart. You want to have enough room for you and your dog to navigate through together without crowding each other. As your dog improves his confidence and fluidity, you can move the cones/poles closer together to continue building skills. With your dog on leash to help with focus and ensure thoughtful movement, start walking through the cones slowly, guiding your dog gently as he follows you.
Do this activity for five minutes, making sure your dog is paying attention and moving thoughtfully. This is certainly not competitive weave poles-this is an exercise in focused, careful movement of the body. You may realize your dog is unaware he has a hind end! If that is the case, this exercise can help with that too :)
If your dog struggles with walking or weaving through these cones, try increasing the distance between them. You might also try working with him on walking around one cone to build some familiarity. Remember to have fun with this activity-there is no failing. It is all about exposure, practice, figuring things out and improvement at a pace comfortable for your dog!