Bored with your everyday routine? Looking for something you can do, preferably with your low-rider, four-legged friend? Don't have time to go to class or to venture far from home? Well, look around you...there are a wealth of things right in your own home that you can use to entertain both you and your buddy. After all, play makes your dog happy. It also won't hurt you a bit either. It will probably lower the blood pressure, allow you to laugh a bit and definitely will appeal to your Corgi's sense of fun.
Agility is hot on everyone's list of activities right now. It is a great sport or just a fun way to exercise the two of you. It doesn't have to be too strenuous if you are a bit long-in-tooth as I am or if you have an older dog that needs exercise but hates long walks.
Unfortunately, waiting lists are long for most agility groups. In my case, residing in rural Missouri, it is a 35 mile, drive to the nearest class. Since my own obedience students wanted to get involved as well, I decided to explore other options. I knew right out front that building a fancy agility course was cost prohibitive, I decided to get creative.
In other communities where I have lived, I would take my dogs to play grounds and teach them to go up and down slides, over and under and around other playground equipment and up and down the teeter totter... If there was a school with an athletic field with bleachers, I would walk the dogs on them, getting them used to being up off the ground and "walking the plank." They mastered the skills quickly and even learned to turn around on the "plank". If no one was around to look askance, I would even have them jump up and down on the picnic tables.
Even those resources aren't available to me now, so I have had to get more creative yet. Looking out at my training yard I feel a tingle of joy, just knowing that when it cools off this evening, Flash, Boomer, and Cammie, the Corgis and even little Chiquita the Chihuahua can spend some time going over the jumps, through the tunnel, around the weave poles and over the dog walk, up and down the A-frame and through the hoop. And I made the course pretty much by myself.
The jumps are the easiest problem to solve as most everyone has access to lightweight, PVC obedience jumps. I've hauled my set all over the country with me for the past 10 years or so. The tire took a bit more ingenuity..right now it is a hula hoop attached to a tree, but it works. I have friends on the lookout for a bicycle tire or even an inner-tube. Teaching the weave I first used two x-pens to create a weave pattern, but when we go out tonight, the dogs will get to test the 2' rebar covered by PVC pipe that I have positioned in the ground.
The open tunnel is complements of Toys R Us. It was for little kids, but a friends' kids thought it was dumb. My Corgis think it is wonderful! I'm going to make a PVC pipe frame and cover it with a sheet to make the longer, closed tunnel..even with my limited construction ability, I should be able to do that.
The dog walk right now is a 2" x 6" board (6' long) which started out on the ground. Once the dogs mastered staying on it, I began adding cement blocks to raise it slightly. I plan eventually to put the board across sawhorses, accessed by ramps on both ends.
The A-Frame took more creativity. A friend in Topeka whose 4-H Dog kids built their own course, used hollow core doors hinged together. As luck would have it, a friend here at home is redecorating and mentioned that she was getting new doors. Guess who ended up with her old doors! Right.a pair of them are now on my front lawn, hinged and chained to make the most wonderful A-Frame.A student is currentlylooking for a barrel that we can use to bolt a plank too, and create a teeter-totter.
At this point in time, I probably don't have more than about $25 invested and I have a perfectly serviceable obstacle course that my students and I can use to play with our dogs.
If you aren't into scrounging and have a bit of a budget, there is a lady who makes some inexpensive obstacle course items that are free standing for use on decks or adaptable for lawn placement. I don't have the information as it is packed, however she was advertising regularly in Off Lead when I was subscribing to it, and I am sure that you can contact them (see reference at end of article) for her name, contact numbers, etc.
Some of the other ways that I have exercised my dogs in the past involved creating jumps right in the house using boards, broom handles and chairs. For a smaller dog, put broom handle between rungs of two chairs. For a larger dog you can place broom handle on chair seat. A board between two chairs makes a good dog walk. I have even practices weaving in a garage with pillars and some cones. The dog learns the concept and cues, regardless of what you are using.
There are other fun things you can do with your dog right at home that don't require any equipment. I always enjoyed being able to send dogs out to find toys by name. It certainly impresses the neighbors and company when you have a Corgi like my old Beau who could identify and retrieve five different balls.three by shape and two by color.I could send him after his soccer, tennis, or football, by name even though I had hidden them in the back yard. He never missed. The other two balls were hard rubber and he would locate and retrieve the yellow and the blue, on command.
Playing soccer was an obsession with Beau. In fact, he's the last died-in-the-wool ball playing Corgi that I have had. He would push the soccer ball with his nose, chest and front legs and I could direct him to change direction, right, left and bring it back to me. He was GOOD!
Corgis are naturals when it comes to doing tricks. With their sense of humor, they enjoy the attention and they thoroughly enjoy showing off. Everyone of my dogs does some trick. Their repertoire has been dependent upon the time I had to work with the them.
Anyone wanting to teach tricks will find that learning to use the Clicker will accelerate the learning process for the dog. For instance, I had always wanted a dog that would sneeze on command. After my first Clicker seminar with Gary Wilkes, I dashed home, clicker in hand and proceeded to teach my Chihuahua. She was a quick study as she was prone to sneezing to get attention. With the clicker I quickly put it on cue. Of course, all the other dogs in the house figured out that she was getting more than her share of treats because she sneezed and soon I had four Corgi's sneezing on command as well.
With a little imagination, I am sure that you can come up with dozens of other ways to enjoy your Corgi and keep it from becoming a plain old couch potato. If your imagination isn't fertile, which usually is my problem, you can relay on some great books. There are excellent books on Agility and the best way to scout for what you want is to shop through Direct Books. Their catalogue lists thousands of title. Some of the newer, more exciting ones to stimulate the old creative juices are: The Trick Is In the Training by Taunton & Smith.Fun And Games With Your Dog by Gerd Ludwig from Barron's.
Time spent with your Corgi doesn't have to be confined to walks, jogs or couch potato stuff (which is all OK, too). But if you really want to have more fun with them...expand their talents by adding tricks and other disciplines. I love the stuff that doesn't lead to getting too serious. Remember, your Corgi loves to laugh, too.
For agility equipment that is light, portable & is suitable for a deck as well as a yard, contact Off-Lead Magazine, Arner Publications, Inc., 204 Lewis St. Canastota, NY 13032 (315) 697-2749 phone/fax.
Direct Books, Dog & Cat Catalog, 1-800 776 2665 for free catalog. On line at www.dogandcatbooks.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fun and Games With Your Dog, Gerd Ludwig, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. Hauppauge, New York. 1998
The Trick Is In The Training, Taunton & Smith, Howell, 1998
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT before venturing into any new activities, particularly those that might be more strenuous than what your dog is normally used to doing. Drop by the vet for a checkup. Make sure that your dog is physically fit. Tell the vet what you have in mind so he can advise you as to the dog's soundness for the endeavor planned. You also need to start any new exercise regimen slowly, allow the dog (and yourself) to ease into activities at a slow to moderate pace. After all, you don't want to pull muscles and ligaments and get knocked out of the fun before you ever get started. You also want to keep in mind that you don't want to ask your dog to do something that he may not be physically able to accomplish. These activities are all about having fun.
And, one more word of caution: Use common sense when embarking on any kind of program involving exercise...don't work your dog following a heavy meal. Guard against heat stroke. When it is hot, confine active activities to the cooler times of day. I prefer early morning, but dusk isn't bad either. Always have plenty of cool fresh water available for dog and master. And, don't rely on your dog to tell you when he's had enough. Some dogs get so into some activities such as frisbee and chasing the ball that they will go till they drop. You be in charge of how long a game lasts!
This article was originally printed in the 1999 GGPWCF Corgi Tracks Annual and is reprinted with permission of the Author, Joan B. Guertin, All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or part by any means without permission of the Author, Joan B. Guertin, JBGuertin@aol.com