All good dog owners know that dogs need regular exercise to keep their bodies in shape. Sadly, the exercise almost always consists of a (hopefully) long walk and maybe a session of ball chasing. This is great as far as it goes, but dogs need something for the mind as well. This is especially true of Westie puppies. They are such intelligent, energetic little guys that they need something extra. The use of obstacles can provide the stimulation they need in a way nothing else can. Best of all, there is no special equipment to buy and no classes to join. Once you get tuned into this need you can find obstacles to use all around.
I’ll just give you one example here, and that’s the follow me game. Find a park or patch of bush that has a lot of small trees and that is comparatively clear underfoot. Start jogging in and out between the trees with your Westie puppy in tow. Then, pick up the pace while running straight at a tree and dodge to one side or the other at the last minute. The first few times you’ll find yourself on the opposite side of the tree from the young Westie. Just pull gently until he retraces his steps and ignore any protests he may utter. In very short order, you will find it almost impossible to fool your dog. When we were training our current Westie puppy, Willow, she got the point on the fourth try and she’s never gotten it wrong since. Like I said, Westies are smart.
This kind of obstacle training is even better if you couple it with umbilical training. When the dog is secured to your waist you have your hands free to balance yourself and you can move a lot quicker.
The point of this exercise is not to torture your dog, but to get him to pay attention to you instead of you having to pay attention to him. What we are really after here is that, whenever the dog finds itself in an unfamiliar or confusing situation, he looks to you for guidance. In very short order you’ll notice the dog turning its head slightly to look at you as you hurtle toward the tree or pole together so that he knows which side to go to.
The best thing about this little game is that its fun. Its fun for you to try to fool the dog and its fun for your dog to figure out what’s going to happen next. When he gets it right he’ll be very proud, and you can be proud too.