Every dog needs exercise!
Some owners go for regular walks during the day, others will take their dogs to a park and play fetch games with them. There are also some who take their dogs to dog parks and let them play with other dogs, while they get to socialize with dog owners. Some people love running with their dogs and that is what I used to do until I twisted and broke my ankle last summer. My dogs weren’t too impressed with their new lack of exercise… and decided to cause me some grief in their spare time. Digging holes in our backyard, destroying toys in a matter of seconds while unattended and play-fighting to a point of snapping at each other.
I quickly came to realize that I needed to get them occupied in a meaningful way despite my crippled leg. At the beginning, driving to the park and playing fetch worked just fine, especially with Lutz and his never-ending desire to chase after a ball. Funny side story: one day my wife Marie Therese took our kids and Lutz to the playground adjacent to the baseball field where I play fetch with Lutz. My wife had her hands full with the kids and suddenly realized that Lutz was no longer at the playground! She called him several times to no avail as he wasn’t anywhere to be found. She headed toward the baseball field where she saw Mr. Lutz playing fetch with a man and his ball, while the man’s dog sat and watched. Lutz came over to her side after being called wagging his tail. The kind gentleman, stated that he had a blast playing with Lutz as his own dog (a little Shitzu) didn’t really have any drive to chase after the ball. It just goes to show that Lutz would even go and play with strangers to satisfy his ball drive!
Anyways, when I became somewhat mobile but still unable to run, I decided to teach Lutz and Nika some basic positioning skills for accompanying me on a bike ride. Nika wasn’t much of a challenge as I’ve had her since she was a puppy and she fully understands what it means to heel. Lutz on the other hand caused me to almost drive myself into a parked car. I realized that I had to take some baby steps in teaching him how to properly heel beside my bicycle. Here is how I started:
- Walk slowly beside the bicycle while on leash (it took me a few days to get him used to not running in front of my bike). I did lots of reps in a straight line to ensure that Lutz understood what was expected of him.
- Lutz heels on my left side by default so I decided to take him for his first slow jog around the block, selecting only right turns in order to avoid the possibility of him cutting me off. He did great and actually quite enjoyed himself. I decided to keep on going at that pace for a while to do some proofing with Lutz, while still leading him on-leash.
- Several weeks passed and I decided it was time to change the route on Lutz and take him for a first slow jog while off-leash. I need to say there have been better days!
- A few days later I returned to off-leash practice while riding on my bicycle only to find out that Lutz was ready for the challenge. I was able to speed up significantly to a point of a full gallop for Lutz while riding through our neighbourhood and expose him to unexpected cat sightings, which for Lutz are usually very exciting, if you know what I mean. Regardless of the distractions he still heeled beside me off leash.
At this stage, I can take both Lutz and Nika with me for a nice bike ride without worrying about colliding with them. It is a huge improvement from one month ago and an enjoyable form of exercise for the dogs and I.
Written by: Andy Krzus