We, as two-legged beings, take for granted that we have two feet. Even if we refer to some awkwardness in the way we do something, i.e. "I have 2 left feet", we still know that we have a left and a right foot. So, many might think that dogs, even though they are 4-legged beings, would still be aware that they have 4 feet.
In fact, dogs do not have the self-awareness ability that people do to keep track of their feet. They are not posing in front of the mirror on their way out the door, nor are they admiring themselves after being groomed.
This lack of self awareness has made it possible for us to be creative in introducing them to fun ways of getting dogs to discover that they do, in fact, have a back end. Dogs learn kinesthetically, much like people learn a sport or how to get our hands and fingers in the correct position to play a musical instrument. Some breed of dogs seem to have an almost human-like ability to perform a certain task or activity. The herding breeds come to mind when they are rounding up a herd of sheep through verbal commands by their handler or how efficient and quick they are to cover an agility course. Even though they can make these activities look easy, there is still a great deal of training and practice involved.
Cooper, the miniature Australian Shepherd in the above picture, gives a glimpse at how effortless he makes walking and hopping from tire to tire look as he moves through the tire course. "I love that I can hop from tire to tire, bouncing in and out of the course."
Lucy is a little Havanese and she spends most of her time nervously watching her house mate participate in activities, but when she is having a good day and feeling confident, she is all over the tire course. "I love it, watch out and get out of my way, I am trying not to fall off a tire. This is a little scary, but a lot of fun!"
Another activity that we get the dogs to participate in is to climb up and down the stairs and ramps of our playground equipment. The pieces can be configured into different positions and most of the dogs enjoy criss-crossing from piece to piece. There are those who would rather run around the different set ups but we calm that down so they are better apt to go slow and, therefore, become more aware of their feet. Yampa, a Golden Retriever, shows that if you have two feet on two different pieces, this can be pretty cool. "I like to let myself go and get my ya-yas out of my system when I first hit the playground equipment. Sometimes I lose my footing or slip off completely, but I always get back up."
Guiding the dogs as they traverse these structures gets them use to following directions by their handlers and walking slow. Yes, guiding them with a light leash is sometimes necessary to keep things under control and with enough of this repetition, they are good at walking along without a leash.
Some dogs, like our friend Nelson, a Golden Retriever, are generally a little spooky and cautious about climbing around tires, steps and ramps, so we lure him along as long as he is OK to keep going. "Ohhh, I don't know about this, again, why do I need to be so high off the ground? and don't even get me started on the tire course!"
Teddy, a Labradoodle, prefers to hop up on a flat piece of equipment that connects two other pieces, "climbing or going up a ramp takes too much time, I would rather just get to where I want to be so the fun can begin!"
Cooper, a Goldendoodle, is slowly learning that he has 4 feet and legs attached! He is young and a little cautious, but when there is a class mate to chase, he is off and running. " I like to chase but chasing and running (flying) up and down the playground pieces is the very best fun for me when I am at the Enrichment Facility."
Thanks for stopping by to read about what we are doing to enrich the lives of dogs with fun and challenging activities because "It Is What Dogs Want".