Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day 8: Body Awareness – cavaletti

Welcome to Day 8 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!



At a glance:

  • borrowed from the horse world, cavaletti are small jumps for stepping or trotting over, rather than leaping (for the most part)
  • cognitive and sensory based enrichment
  • often used in training for sports dogs and for rehab after injury, trauma or surgery
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love setting up challenges like this for their pets. It’s probably better than an adult to help the dog move over the obstacles though as this requires a level of care and coordination, particularly at the beginning.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • practice in very short sessions of 2-5 minutes at a time – this can be very tiring, both mentally and physically so it’s important that you work for very short sessions


What do you need?

  • eggboxes – you can stack them for more height, but is generally a suitable height for starting out


  • drinks cans (empty) – crush them to adjust their height; just squeeze in the middle so that the ends provide stability

20190110_115118550_ios 20190110_115100479_ios

  • broom or mop handles
  • walk sticks, crutches
  • bamboo or similar light poles
  • flat lying ladder




  • food rewards – it’s better to use soft food rewards for this one so that they don’t roll on the floor too much, which is important for these challenges

We are talking homemade cavaletti here, but you can go all out on this one, if you have any of the following:

  • PVC pipes, cut to size
  • pool noodles



  • sports cones – the collapsible types are ideal (lower right) for safety and because they have lots of holes in them allowing for adjustments and movement



Some resources will show upturned laundry baskets being used, but we need to take care. We want what ever the poles are suspended into be easily moved should the dog bang off it or tumble over a pole.

You will see that we have used all sorts of things as cavaletti including chairs, cones of different types, plastic tubs and hula hoops. You can keep this as simple as you need to though!

Enrichment Goals:

  • to help dogs develop awareness of how their body moves, where their limbs are and how to adjust and shift their weight to compensate during physical challenge
  • to provide physical and mental challenge to pet dogs
  • to encourage dogs to interact with novel or weird things in their environment
  • to help dogs develop confidence through enhanced body awareness
  • to help dogs slow down and think about how they move and physically interact with their environment
  • to help prevent injury, improve fitness, lengthen stride, increase back and core strength

Cavaletti are used in the dog-world most often to improve an individual’s propioception. This refers to helping the animal develop better awareness of where their body is in space.

This might not sound like a terribly challenging concept, but I can assure you that many dogs have difficulty with this, and if dogs are to train or compete in sports, especially those that require repetitive activities, and dogs recovering from injury or surgery, these exercises can be very beneficial.

While this challenge is certainly cognitive, the dogs are also experiencing sensory challenge and we are adding enrichment to their environment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Cavaletti can be especially helpful for puppies, whose brains are forming resulting in improving coordination as the relevant brain areas mature, and for older dogs whose cognitive abilities and coordination may be disimproving as they age.

Shy puppies can be particularly helped and given a big confidence boost with cavaletti work. They are learning to interact with their environment, being exposed to novel stimuli and sensory experiences, and engaging their cognitive and sensory systems…literally growing puppy brains!



What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • take your time with this one and listen carefully to your pet
  • some dogs will be reluctant to pass over the poles on the floor or ground so leave out the cavaletti arrangement and just allow them to check it out in their own time, without you using food to lure them or encouraging them too much
  • setting up cavaletti on grass or on a non-slip rug or runner, bath mat or yoga mat can help improve the dog’s comfort and increase their willingness and confidence; this is also safer
  • this is not a race – the goal here is to help the dog move slowly over each pole so that they need to think about placing each foot, weight shifting and compensating for different heights and strides
  • work with your dog on lead if required to help them move a little slower but don’t use lead pressure, otherwise they will need to further compensate
  • walk through the cavaletti with your dog and place a treat in each space so that your dog stops and steps over each pole individually and slowly
  • don’t lure your pet, with food in your hand; drop a treat in each space so that your dog has to get it

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Cavaletti:

Cavaletti, in the horse, world are used to improve balance, fitness and stride. In dog sports and rehab, it’s applied for pretty similar benefits.

But, this work really can help in other, ‘everyday’ ways too.

My favourite application of cavaletti and other body awareness exercises is with dogs who can have difficulty coping with the ups and downs of the world; dogs who exhibit behaviour associated with cautiousness, shyness or fear, dogs who may show behaviours associated with excitability, frenetic movements, and who have a hard time calming after getting wound up.

Although these dogs’ responses may seem very different, their behaviour may be associated with having difficulty coping with swings in stress, having a hard time recovering and losing control fast.

Getting them thinking about their movement helps them to think rather than react and boosts their confidence on a number of levels.


Enrichment Options

Option 1: Cavaletti foundations

Start by using similar poles in a course of at least four obstacles.

Roughly measure the distance from the floor to your dog’s elbow; that’s the distance between each pole. The dog should be able to complete one stride or step between two poles.
For short legged/long backed dog like Dachsies, this needs to be a greater distance. These dogs will complete two strides or steps between two poles.

You might have to experiment a little for your dog’s comfort.

Have each pole at a similar height and the same distance apart.
This helps the dog get the game – they build their confidence because all they need to think about is stepping over the poles and they don’t need to worry about adjusting to varying heights or strides, yet.


  • set up a cavaletti course of four obstacles
  • work on a non-slip surface or on a yoga mat or similar
  • you will step sideways through the course (carefully!) alongside your dog
  • as you step, drop one treat into the space between the pole – try to get just ahead of your dog so there is continuous but slow and steady movement
  • while your dog eats a treat, you step ahead and drop the next one – it might take some practice to get into a rhythm so don’t give up!


  • set up exactly the same
  • this time, drop one treat between the middle poles and one treat after the last pole
  • only begin to reduce the number of treats between each pole when your dog gets the game
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back to the Beginners stage and continue to practice


  • set up as you have done before
  • have treats in a little bowl after the last pole only
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back a stage



With your dog progressing, they will begin to move a little faster through the obstacles. Speeding up to a trotting gait is fine, but they shouldn’t move any faster than that. If they do speed up, go back to feeding between poles.
Remember, the point here is to encourage them to think about each body movement, each step. The faster they go, the less they think.

Option 2: Mix it up

It’s important that your dog gets the cavaletti game before starting with this option. There’s no hurry here – progress according to you and your dog’s abilities. Take your time – really invest in building the dog’s confidence with this set-up.

As before, a course of four cavalettis is fine. But this time, we will be mixing it up a little; have poles that are at differing heights and vary the distance between them. This will engage your dog’s sensory and cognitive systems even more.


  • set up a cavaletti course of four obstacles
  • work on a non-slip surface or on a yoga mat or similar
  • you will step sideways through the course (carefully!) alongside your dog
  • as you step, drop one treat into the space between the pole – try to get just ahead of your dog so there is continuous but slow and steady movement
  • while your dog eats a treat, you step ahead and drop the next one – it might take some practice to get into a rhythm so don’t give up!


  • set up exactly the same
  • this time, drop one treat between the middle poles and one treat after the last pole
  • only begin to reduce the number of treats between each pole when your dog gets the game
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back to the Beginners stage and continue to practice


  • set up as you have done before
  • have treats in a little bowl after the last pole only
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back a stage


Body awareness work is very tiring for dogs because it is such exerting physical and mental exercise. Just like a good Sniffathon, you might be surprised just how tiring your dog will find these exercises.

Practice in short sessions of just a few minutes at a time. As you notice your dog becoming more clumsy, that’s a good indication that they are tiring, mentally and physically. The dog might knock poles, might attempt to jump or rush poles, or might show reluctance to engage with the obstacles.

Listen to your dog and let them go at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race!

Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!





Our Courses: Animal Welfare, with critical evaluation

At a glance:

When?: Course seminar on 10th and 11th March, 2018. Four months to complete optional assessment work from there – ends 31st July 2018

Where?: at the AniEd centre, Glasnevin, Dublin 11 (M50, J5)

How much?: Course fees: €120 includes weekend seminar, comprehensive course materials and supplementary resources
Assessment fee: €40 payable at submission

Who should do it?: anyone working with animals, for example, trainers, kennel and petshop staff, groomers, rescue staff and volunteers, and pet owners with a keen interest in animal care and welfare.

Booking: register here and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.
We will ask you how you would like to pay, and raise an invoice for you by which you can pay.
Upon receipt of payment we will send you your Learner Handbook and ask that you sign and return the declaration at the back.
A couple of days before your course starts, we will send you details, directions and so on, for your seminar and then you’ll be good to go!


Why do this course?

An understanding of animal welfare is at the core of what we do, and at the heart of every interaction. But, unfortunately, an understanding of animal welfare is poor across professionals and pet owners alike.
This is often down to a poor understanding of the approaches taken to studying and measuring welfare, and an even poorer understanding of the behavioural needs of animals, particularly companion animals.

This course aims to  help you with all that!

We will look at how you feel about animal welfare related topics, how to develop a good understanding based on reliable data and animal welfare science. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be scared of science – this thought provoking course will keep you busy that you won’t even realise we are applying science approaches to animal welfare!


What will you learn?

This course comprises seven parts:

Part 1: Critical Evaluation
Part 2: What is Animal Welfare?
Part 3: Animal Welfare Science
Part 4: Animal Welfare Ethics
Part 5: Animal Welfare Legislation
Part 6: Assessing Animal Welfare
Part 7: Improving Animal Welfare

Part 1 Critical Evaluation:

It’s truly wonderful that we live in an age where reliable information (and lots of not-so-reliable information) about animals is available at the touch of a button.
But, with so much information bombarding us, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Critical evaluation skills are essential in the information age, and especially when we are looking at such emotive topics.

It helps us directly with our studies of animal welfare, given the very definition and our approach to studying welfare; looking at the animals’ quality of life, from its point of view. Learning to look beyond our personal opinions, beyond our considerations to the bigger picture, to the wider implications.

Part 2 What is animal welfare?

Animal welfare is define and described in literature, and learning to apply this to real life is challenging. We will look at these definitions, how they apply, and how we approach our studies.

Part 3 Animal Welfare Science

This approach to studying animal welfare allows us to measure the effects of what we do to animals, and learn to evaluate how they feel about that.

We look at what animal welfare scientists do and why we need a science of animal welfare.

Part 4 Animal Welfare Ethics

While science measures animal welfare, ethics poses questions about what we do with that information.
Is it ok if animals experience poor standards of welfare? These are individual, cultural, and often biased topics, making it less clear and more difficult – thought provoking and challenging is only the half of it! You will be helped to unravel these puzzles for yourself.

Part 5 Animal Welfare Legislation

We will look at the acts of legislation protecting animals and the organisations charged with safe-guarding animal welfare, and their practices and efficacy.

Part 6 Assessing Animal Welfare

Learn to develop animal centered outcomes so that you can evaluate animal welfare from many different angles, providing you with a full picture.

Part 7 Improving Animal Welfare

Assessing an animal’s welfare is only the beginning…we will look at developing skills that allow you to assess and improve an animal’s conditions, measuring the effects as we go.


All assessment work is optional, unless you are completing a Specialisation.
But don’t worry, there are no tests or exams! All assessment will be conducted over a number of months, and as part of your course materials, you are provided with a study planner to help you organise your studies.
Even if you don’t plan to submit, you are encouraged to complete assessment work.

For this course, there are a number of assesssment pieces:

  • Q&A workbook relating to coursework, lots of which we will work on during the seminar weekend
  • a log documenting your journey to critical understanding of topics that you find particularly interesting
  • practical health and welfare demonstrations
  • constructing a welfare audit for specific animals

You have four months of complete this assessment work.

Register here.

Weekly Woof from the Web

Yes, there’s been a bit of a gap but there’s just so much good stuff out there that we have more for you…

petting cats

Petting your cat, a bit like a minefield? This guide may help you understand feline behaviour a little better!

It’s never easy, but how do you know? How to say goodbye

Smoking has an effect on our pet’s health, with increased risks associated with various cancers: Are dogs who live with smokers more likely to get cancer?

Some pretty nifty training here to make your dog into man’s best friend, truly:


Really nice introduction to Crate Training – such an important skill for your dog to have, training that will pay back dividends!

Summer and autumn are the perfect times to get out there walking with your dog – check out some safety guidelines from Ordinance Survey Ireland.

Lots of ideas for homemade dog toys here and here!

Have fun with flirt poles:


Labeling breed characteristics in mixed breeds dogs is tricky and best left out – it’s a complex business: My dog is quarter wolf

There’s still plenty of summer sunshine owed to us so being aware of some of the basic care principles needed for pets in warm weather is important:

Perfect for a lazy long weekend…


This week at AniEd

Another week of admin as we prepare for CBTT7 and get our warehouse space sorted so we can have a new training area – we can’t wait to get back to teaching classes!

Awesome Pets & their People

Tia came for some behaviour work during the week to help with some reactive behaviour.


Along with her owner, we are developing a program of management, relaxation, gradually increasing the level of stimulation and counterconditioning to specific triggering stimuli, including the latest Vodafone ad (the one with the pig), which Tia is not a big fan of at all!


Opie came for a recall training session too and we practiced lots of our basic recall games to get started on the road to an awesome recall!


We also practiced a new tug routine so that we are establishing rules with our games, to help Opie learn some better self control, even when excited which is especially hard for a teenager!


Opie just wants to get back to training, when, during our session the grown-ups have a chat…


And cutie pie Nidge came for a recall session too.


We start our recall games off with conditioning a new cue that will always mean, to the dog, that something AMAZING is about to happen. Pairing the new word with a high value treat, in the right order, is the best start.



The AniEd dogs are as helpful as usual as we get everything ready for new learners…


As part of the Animal Health & Welfare act, 2013, microchipping is set to become compulsory for all dogs from the end of this month in Ireland; Microchipping of Dogs Regulations, 2015.

This is great news in terms of tracking dogs and their owners, holding owners responsible for their dogs’ behaviour and reuniting lost/stolen dogs. But before we reap some of the benefits there are going to be some hurdles to jump first.


What is microchipping?

Mircochipping involves implanting a tiny microchip (a little bigger than a grain of rice) under your dog’s skin, usually in the shoulder area.

The chip contains a unique barcode number that can be read with a scanner. The details linked with the barcode are recorded on a database that can be accessed.

Having the chip implanted certainly doesn’t seem to be comfortable as the needle used is larger than those used for vaccinations or blood samples.
Sometimes if a dog is being anaesthetised for another procedure the vet will chip then too, but for the most part the dog is conscious.

Holding the dog calmly against your body and providing him with a Kong toy lined with pate while this is going on will help. Here’s more on lining and stuffing Kongs, ideal for such procedures.

Once chipped the implanter will check the location and functioning of the chip by scanning over the dog’s back and shoulders.

You can also check your dog’s chip at Maxizoo stores around the country – this is a good idea as chips can move so knowing where your dog’s chip is can be recorded too.


Microchipping legislation…the story so far

Since September 2015 all puppies must be be chipped by the age of 12 weeks, or before leaving their birth home.

This has become one more way of identifying more responsible breeders, as those who put lots of other things in place plus make sure that each puppy they produce is chipped.

It became illegal to acquire or supply a puppy without a chip and certificate of microchip registration.


To collect and record all this microchipping data the department has approved FIDO as the first database.
Apparently, other databases will also be approved.

Microchips must only be implanted by vets, vet nurses or lay implanters who have a Unique Identifying Code (UIC) and the chips they use must meet specific technical standards.
Approved chip implanters will have completed specific training.

What’s next?

By 31st March, 2016 all dogs must be microchipped with an appropriately compliant chip, the dog’s details recorded on an approved database and the owner hold a Cert of Microchip Registration.

To help with this lots of different organisations have help microchipping events such as various SPCAs, Dog’s Trust and local rescue organisations, along with vets. Many offer reduced price and even free microchipping.

When bringing your dog to be chipped the owner must provide photo ID and proof of address too so that those details can be recorded with the dog’s chip.

So, first thing’s first, get your dog microchipped NOW!


My dog is chipped…?

This is where it gets a bit complicated. If your dog was chipped previously you may have had a cert printed out from the FIDO website, which previously acted as a database for reunification of lost/stolen dogs. This is no good any more.

Chipping prior to this legislation (so first half of last year or before) means that you probably didn’t get the required Certificate of Microchip  Registration – you need that now, regardless of on which database your chip details are held.

FIDO, as the first approved government database, requires that you go here so that they can check all your details and make sure everything is in order according to the new legislation.

FIDO check your details and for €4.50 (correct as of last year) will send you the legally compliant certificate. Keep that safe!

On your cert will be a PIN that you can use to log into the database and check your details, keep contact details up to date or register change of ownership.
The details must be kept updated by law.

More here from FIDO.

If your dog has not previously been registered with FIDO, you will need to return to the database that your chip is registered to, to get your cert. This may be AniMark, IKC or the Irish Coursing Club – all recently approved databases (we couldn’t find reference to it on the AniMark or Irish Kennel Club websites though!).
Unfortunately, none of these organisations seem to have done a whole lot to inform their clients and pet owners in general so this has been shrouded in confusion.

If you prefer you can re-register your chip with FIDO and request a cert that way. This costs €15.00.

Should you not know which database your dog’s chip is registered with or it’s not registered with one of the approved four, you will need to register with an approved database as soon as possible.
You can check Europetnet to see where your chip is registered. You will need your dog’s microchip number – if you don’t have that, go to your vet who can scan your dog and help you.

You can get a chip check card from your vet or Dog’s Trust and mail that to FIDO for further help also. Yes, snail mail…

From April, if you acquire any dog, of any age from any source the dog must be microchipped and you must receive a cert registering you as the dog’s owner.

The onus, for all of this legislation, is on the owner of the dog to comply.

More from Dog’s Trust here.

More from DSPCA here.

More from ISPCA here.

Week 1 Bonus Challenge

Because we know you can’t enough, here’s an extra bonus training game for you and your dog to enjoy!


Where’s my keys?

Transfer some of your dog’s new-found sniffing-genius to a really useful task by teaching him to hunt down often-missing items such as your keys.

Time Allowance:
Practice for 1 minute sessions at a time with plenty of down-time in between.
It’s best to try to work practice into your routine, such as while you wait for the kettle to boil, while you wait for the computer to start up or during the ad break of a TV show.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure safely.
If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Get started…

Work on scent puzzles that encourage your dog to sniff out a hidden treat, like this simple game:


 With a bit of practice…

Introduce cups or tubs – your dog is learning how to indicate that he smells something interesting:


 And soon…

Playing the Cup Game with your keys helps to teach your dog the relevance of their smell.

Reward your dog at source for this one – that means to reward with several food rewards, delivered one after another right at your keys.

(Note in the clip I toss food to move Decker away so I can reset – I’m working with one hand and holding the camera with the other!)


Show us how you get on with this challenge!