We’ve called it all kinds of names. Canine Parkour. Urban Agility. Doggy Obstacle courses.
But honestly, when we’re talking amongst ourselves we call them trust obstacles. Cause that’s what they are. Your dog develops confidence with environmental stuff, and confidence in you. It’s a huge relationship builder.
Now with all exercise therapies, the depth of the work depends on how hard it is for your dog. So, if your dog is bomb-proof and nothing scares it, then this activity would just be a fun way to play. But for some dogs, it can be REALLY, REALLY hard. Psychologically I mean. They have to trust you enough to do the obstacle, even though it’s a weird-looking thing that they never traversed before. That’s tough for a fearful dog. It takes a lot of trust! And develops a lot of confidence! And, for environmentally shaky dogs, this can be absolutely life altering.
We’ve had that experience with our little pack. It had a great effect on each one of our “Bad Bullies”, but they were all different.
Milo hates training. As in traditional obedience. I mean, if you use a box of treats, he may stay interested, but mostly he just pouts, and falls asleep sitting up. But not with Parkour (or whatever you want to call it). His eyes light up like a kid at X-mas! Some of his best obedience is done on an obstacle course. It just really engages him. For him, it’s a party.
Ah, the devil. She doesn’t get excited about obstacles like Miilo, but, she really likes the praise and attention she gets when she does one. She’s definitely on a “nothing in life is free” type structure to reign in her hyper freak out streaks. And the only time she gets the really over the top excited praise, that she craves is when she does a really challenging obstacle! For her the obstacles themselves aren’t reinforcing, but the reward is. For her, the fact that we are asking her to work for reward, goes a long way to solidify our pack structure. So, it’s a very useful tool for miss Mabel.
Bell’s default mode is fearful. If we don’t expose her to novel (scary) things, on a regular basis, and INSIST that she go through them, she would be a shivering mess in the corner. For Bella, obstacles are a way for us to show her that we are safe leaders, that would never ask her to do something that would turn out bad. And, that even though things look scary, if she just trusts us, she’ll be OK. “Agility” has been one of the MAJOR rehabilitative things we’ve done for her. We know her well enough to see her apprehension sneak up on her in situations, but most people from the outside would think she was as brave as any other dog! For her, this work is mandatory!
Now, add all those great effects to the obvious physical exercise dogs get doing sessions of agility, and you’ve got a pretty awesome method of exercise therapy! The kind of fulfillment dogs get doing something physically AND mentally challenging is a joy to witness.
So, that’s our experience with Trust Obstacles, and how they’ve effected our pack for the better.