(sorry for the gap in blogs – June was crazy busy here … sigh I anticipate being back to twice monthly posting!)
“Start them right”, “Make sure you do your foundation work”, “Build those blocks” are the types of things you may have heard when thinking about foundation work for dogs.
BUT WHY? Why is it important to invest time, learning, and energy (sometimes oh SO MUCH energy) in foundation work?
It would be easy to be trite and say something along the lines of foundations lay the ground work on which all other work is born. And while that is correct it is not complete. Foundations do so much more than train your dog.
Of course foundation work teaches your dog building block skills. It’s about building those basic skills you will revisit again and again and again as you layer them into whatever sport you want to play. Pick an example – any example will do but let’s look at crating just for fun. By building the skill of your dog happily being able to be in a crate you may have beginning of stay (a la Susan Garret), a way to safely and comfortably confine your dog in a car on a warm day (in the shade, under supervision, with water – yadda yadda ). You may be building skills for confinement in case of injury, or wild small children house guests or any number of other possibilities. Happy crating is great foundation skill not just for dog sports but for life itself !
Foundation work helps your dog’s condition by laying the ground work for building correct muscles, and condition. I don’t mean starting puppies on equipment or even doing whole lot with them … but basic walking, climbing on, over and through things and learning to control their bodies allows condition to be built slowly with dogs learning about their own bodies.
Foundation work builds relationship through early games, play and training you get the best opportunity to experiment. See what works for your dog, for you, and decide how to combine those two sometimes disparate points of view. Consider, if you will. the skill of your dog playing with toys, you and food. A dog’s ability to play with whatever you are able to offer in any given moment creates a way to appreciate each other and to reward great work. The act of building these varied skills through many different games and opportunities will help establish relationship and strengthen your bond.
Taking the time to do things right from the start is frustrating. It feels pointless – what if you don’t WANT to show in dog sports at the end of the day? You’ll never get the time back that you invest in lovely heeling, or great independent weaves, or staying at source – BUT. and it’s a big but – it’s WAY easier to take the time to teach something right than to try to reteach it. Brody’s weaves are my most often referred to example of this. Brody weaved quite well. As long as I was on his right side and right beside him as he did his thing. I never knew there was any reason he should weave alone when I started teaching him and by the time I realized it would make both our lives easier he had hundreds of weaves under his collar done just the way he liked them. Sigh.
Rushing things, skipping steps are not doing yourself or your dog any favours in the long term.
Slow down. Think. Plan. Then Do.
Put another brick in the wall. You’ll be glad you did.