Resistance Training As Behavioral Therapy: Its Called Canine Weightpulling

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Obedience trainers and behaviorists are often searching for better solutions to help their clients address behavioral issues with their dogs.  In that search, many have found a common denominator in the most effective solutions.

 

That common denominator is exercise. Common complaints about issues with dogs are barking, biting, whining, chewing, and jumping.  Training is a key component, but even with good behavioral modification, the improvements can be minimal if the dog is not exercised according to his/her individual energy level.  Giving the dog a job, an outlet to drain their excess energy, is an integral part of addressing these issues.

 

In our current society, given the busy lifestyles of Americans today, many people find it difficult to properly exercise their dogs.  Living in the city, balancing work and family commitments, or having a physical impediment – any of these can prevent an owner from exercising their dog consistently enough.  And while many owners are QUITE dedicated, spending significant time exercising their dog, sometimes their dog just needs more.

 

As a trainer, I work regularly with owners and their dogs addressing a wide variety of behavioral problems.  Six years ago I happened across an efficient way of draining excess energy that requires just about the same amount of time and effort on the part of the owner as going for a walk.  This simple addition to their routine has made a considerable difference in behavioral issues in many dogs.

 

I introduced weightpulling at my training center as an additional sport to offer my clients.  I wanted to make something available that was less equipment and time intensive than the demanding sport of agility.  I thought that perhaps people whose dog dragged them down the street might enjoy putting their dog’s natural tendency to work.  Of course, I hoped those people might enroll in my obedience classes as well.

 

To my surprise, I found instead that it was my obedience students who wound up doing weightpull.  Quite the opposite response than I expected.

 

More and more often, I ended up recommending weightpulling to my obedience class students whose dogs were suffering from a variety of significant behavioral issues. From aggression, to anxiety, to extreme fear issues . . . I wanted to encourage a method of exercise that builds confidence, requires focus, and drains energy.

 

I found that resistance training was particularly successful for fearful and reactive dogs.  The simplicity of the task encouraged the dog to focus, and allowed them to be consistently successful.  And this method drained more energy in less time by engaging more muscle groups in a longer, more consistent muscle contraction than the fast sports that require running and chasing (like agility, lure coursing, and retrieving).  I knew that swimming could have been an effective alternative, except for the simple fact that many owners don’t have regular access to a body of water, either because of proximity or season.  I do find a direct correlation to reactive issues in dogs due to the weather in our region (Central New York).  January through March are often the worst for many dogs because it is just too cold to spend extended periods outside exercising regularly.

 

As a result of conditioning dogs with a variety of issues utilizing weightpulling, I found that the length of time it takes to rehabilitate problem behaviors through behavior modification was significantly decreased.  I also found this useful for dogs who had already had behavioral modification techniques in place for some time, and had come to a plateau in their progress.  Their owners and trainers found significant improvement in the dogs confidence and continuing improvement after incorporating weightpulling into their regimen.

Please see http://www.APDASports.com for more information about weightpulling, training, and testimonials.

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