All About Cavalettis
By Patt Quinn, Trainer
Although I have had Goldens and been involved in obedience for the past 14 years, I acquired my first breed dog just three years ago. I've learned a lot, but recognize that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what I still need to learn. Unfortunately, I live in an area where handling classes are not available. At the suggestion of one of my mentors, I began doing cavaletti work to promote better extension during gaiting; more recently I have used them to help minimize/correct pacing in my pup.
Cavaletti training is a valuable exercise for us "newbies". It promotes coordination, flexibility, and muscle development while providing a simple conditioning exercise. It also serves to build confidence and a good working attitude. Repetition encourages extension and provides muscle memory and foot timing. Cavalettis also encourages a dog to steady its rear, thus promoting a clean down and back. Frequent practice also helps build stamina, for both the dog and handler.
Stride length is a function of both the length and flexibility of the back and is calculated by measuring the points at which the lead leg hits the ground on successive steps. Length of leg and the degree of angulation of both the front and rear are also determining factors. Stride length is partly determined by speed. When a dog moves faster, more power is put into the limbs as the front legs stretch out as far a possible and the rear legs are extended to increase horizontal propulsion, thus increasing the distance covered with each stride. Stride length shortens at slower speeds, in hot weather, in slippery conditions, when running uphill, and when a dog lacks confidence. It is not possible to accurately determine the proper stride length for each dog due to differences in the relationship of height and body length in relation to front and rear angulation. The goal here is to provide an approximation that will promote as much extension as possible without causing trauma/stress. As with any conditioning program, it is important to have your dog's overall health, fitness, and structure evaluated by your veterinarian prior before starting cavaletti work.
Cavaletti training has been helpful since I train alone. It has provided me with a means to promote extension and prevent pacing in my dogs. It helps condition me as well as my dog.
Printed by permission, written for Everything Golden www.everythinggolden.com by Pat Quinn
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