Dogs love a challenge and balancing on fallen trees, rocks and agility equipment can dramatically raise their self confidence.
The dog is a direct descendant to the wolf and wolfs travel great distances when they are out trekking. Up hills and down hills, over rocks, under branches and over streams. Just like the wolf, the dog has an amazing sense of balance.
Exercising your dogs balance is really important and it is both a mental and physical exercise.
One word of warning before you start - be careful with this kind of exercise if your dog is under a year old or if your dog has got any physical problems, like hip dysplasia.
When you are out in the forest or a in a park with your dog, try to find a fallen tree, a slanting rock or a low park bench. Try to get your dog to climb up and balance on the object. Do it without any force, just coax your dog, encourage him to get up on the object. I would use a treat or a favourite toy to encourage them.
If your dog seems reluctant, make sure you take it very slowly and praise your dog for putting one paw on the object. Keep training with just getting that one paw up on the tree or rock.
You will notice after a couple of training sessions that your dog will carefully try to put a second paw up. If he/she does give him/her masses of praise. Continue exercising until your dog is up on the tree or rock with all four legs. This may take a couple of weeks training,
Never, never help the dog up by force. That will not only destroy the exercise, it will also turn into a fragile situation that can make your dog uncomfortable around you.
Also be careful so you don't choose a tree that is wet and slippery or a rock that is too high. Safety should always come first.
This should be a fun exercise for your dog, not a tedious task, so make it fun!
If your dog can handle jumping up on a fallen tree or that slanting rock and manage to stand up there waiting for his/her reward, you can then go a bit further.
Ask you dog to sit down. If your dog can do that, ask him/her to lie down. Always reward handsomely (look out for the next article on how to reward your dog in the best way).
If you want to go a bit further, try Agility. It is a great sport that most dogs love and it is so rewarding! Find yourself a certified Agility trainer and take classes. Don't try it yourself, unless you've been trained how to teach a dog each agility equipment. Your dog might get injured or loose some of his trust in you, so let a professional teach you the basics first.