Purpose: The prop setup in this advanced variation of Head Nods creates my new favorite instability!!! It’s a micro wobble, similar to what’s produced when using a single peanut… But I don’t have the space (or $$$) to store a peanut large enough for my dogs to stand on properly with all four feet… And even if I did, I don’t love how far my dog would be off the ground.
Equipment: Standing Platform, 2 Propel Air Platforms or 2 other inflatables
Note: I have since moved away from using the FitBones, in favor of the Propel Air Platform by Blue-9. For a full product review, see my blog post Propel Air Platform Product Review.
Targets: By placing my standing platform on top of two FitBones, the interaction between the two inflatables and the plank creates the “micro wobble” I’ve been trying to reproduce for quite some time. In order to stabilize against this kind of instability, the dog must engage the deep stabilizing muscles that lay close to the joint in a way that is balanced, otherwise the prop will just keep shaking.
This prop setup simultaneously challenges stability in all three planes of motion… Rolling forward/backward (dorsal plane), tipping left and right (transverse plane), and because of the separated nature, and level of inflation of the two FitBones front end lower/rear end higher or vice versa (median plane).
Any movement pattern executed with this prop setup becomes a challenge to the deep joint stabilizers through the shoulder, carpus, spine, hip, stifle and tarsus.
Before attempting this exercise, a dog should be quite familiar with working on all kinds of inflatables, be comfortable with proper foot placement, and fluent in any movement pattern being asked for on this prop setup.
Watchpoints: This “micro wobble” can be a little disconcerting at first. It took Hot Rod about 3 minutes working on sit-stand before she felt comfortable executing proper alignment through her rear end (she wanted to hold her hocks forward of vertical). Had I pushed her too quickly, it would have eroded her confidence, and created an aversive situation.
Alignment principles we’re looking to implement
1. Square Stand: Forelimbs vertical and hocks vertical. Limbs separated shoulder/hip width apart. Stifle pointed straight forward (not outward) and elbow pointed straight backward (not inward or outward)
2. Neutral spine: Top of the head parallel to the ground. Ribcage lifted and scapulae (shoulder blades) stabilized/no dip behind the withers. Lumbar spine in neutral alignment/ no excessive rise over the lumbar.
3. 4 feet stay still during the vertical and horizontal head nods.
NOTE: It’s important to stay within your pup’s ability. Hot Rod has a high level of spinal mobility, and the strength to remain stable to that end range. Your pup may not have that range yet… And depending on their structure/conformation, they may never reach vertical (Ron Burgundy can’t). If your pup is moving the feet, offering a sit (or other behavior), or losing balance, it’s likely the lure is being moved too far, or too quickly. A nose to hand target behavior can also be used in place of the lure if that’s better for your pup. Further instruction regarding watchpoints and handler mechanics can be found in the Head Nods: Beginner video.