The winter months bring weather and conditions that are not always conducive to regular outdoor activities with your dog.
Consequently the stir crazy factor tends to become part of cold weather days. Though I’m a big proponent of bundling up and going out anyway at least a few days a week, there are days that are simply too cold, too blustery, rainy or the snow is just too much to muster.
Even in a place like San Diego factors for taking your dog outside for exercise and adequate physical training can sometimes be a challenge. Obstacles like rain to supervising the kids homework activities can effect the option to go outside everyday with your dog. A quick inside workout can make a big difference in everyone’s day.
There are many things you can do for you and your dog inside the house to relieve the uneasy feeling too little activity can cause. From making your own home gym out of things you already have to playing ball with inside rules, you can keep the movement flowing, the stress level down and the fun factor up.
When most people think of playing ball with their dog an immediate mental picture of a big open field comes to mind. And for the most part our urban societies don’t have this sort of thing available to you and your dog right out your back door. Even if you did, with the wind blowing, the rain coming down, or the glitter of fresh white snow could put a damper on your fervor from the outdoor activity anyway!
Forget the big open field, you can play ball with your dog as a new sort of game even in the house.
Teaching your dog pop fly does many things in the smallest of spaces. First, engaging your dog in any type of organized activity is the first step to taking the edge off of nervous energy, barking, or any other habit your dog has formed out of boredom. The game also builds some core strength as well as leg strength both front and back.
How to Start the Pop Fly Ball Game
Dogs who have never played this game might not be good at it in the beginning especially if you go at it from an advanced perspective. In other words don’t start by pitching the ball up so your dog has to jump three feet in the air and snag it! Of course some of the sporting dogs would catch on very quickly, but just like deciding to do a gym workout for the first time in a long time… it seems like you should know what to do, but the the very fundamental basics are the best place to start.
Have your dog “Sit”. Then throw the ball up only a few inches above the nose. An easy place for your dog to naturally grab it without leaving the floor more than a couple of inches with the front paws. If your dog doesn’t succeed the first time, chalk it up to a bad throw, or just not knowing what to do the first time. Keep trying and encouraging. Even an attempt to catch the ball should be richly rewarded with verbal praise.
Teaching Out, Drop, or Spit It (My dogs love Spit It)
The one stumbling block many have with teaching the pop fly ball game is not to allow it to be a game of keep away. The game shouldn’t be one in which your dog catches the ball, then won’t give it back to you. The best way to clear this one up right from the get go is to exchange the ball for something else.
It looks something like you throw the ball up, your dog catches it, you use your word release phrase “drop it”. As you say the words hold out an irresistible treat. Done. Your dog drops the ball takes the treat and you start the game over. After several successful repetitions, begin to fade the treat. WhaLa…. you have taught your dog to drop things on command…. just think, you can use this skill in many scenarios!
I know it’s odd to think, but not all dogs know how to play on their own right away. Show your dog in steps and keep practicing if your dog has trouble and you’ll end up with a game and skill set that will provide much joy and exercise for years to come.
The Many Uses of Play Ball
As the DogTread Pro Trainer I like to use the Play Ball game for many reasons. A warm up to treadmill training for your dog is always an awesome thing. And yes, let me go into the treadmilling your dog for a minute.
This is an activity that can benefit so many dogs and can be used for in-climate weather as well as behavior training for fear aggression, dog aggression or the out of control chewer. It can also be used simply to keep your well behaved dog in shape and happy. After all no matter how active you are there are those days that work, kids, and the laundry get in the way of getting the dog out and for the minimum amount of healthy exercise.
It can also be used as an adjunct to treadmill training as a cross training workout. Add it to a 20 minute power workout for you and your dog or as the stand alone fill in exercise that keeps everyone’s tail wagging for the day.
Teach your kids to play this game with your dog and it gives you a suggestion in the moments of “what should we do” with all the energy in the house. It becomes interactive for everyone and the idea of moving from 30 to 60 minutes a day gets added to with fun and games.
It’s a game that teaches your dog to drop things on command as well…. the more you have fun in training and fitness, the happy and healthier the entire household will be.
What games do you play with your dog inside? Leave Wag!