You know how it is: you see dogs that move easily, effortlessly and elegantly. And then there are those who seem to bump mercilessly everywhere and are real gross motorists? This really exists. It’s not just us humans who have well-developed fine motor skills and others who are real gross motorists. Our dogs can also lack fine motor skills.
But what exactly does motor activity mean anyway? Fine motor skills in dogs
The term motor function, derived from the Latin movere – to move – stands for the totality of muscle movement. In motor skills, a distinction is made between gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills include movement functions that serve overall movement (e.g., running or jumping).
What does fine motor skills mean in dogs?
Fine motor skills are defined as specific, small, delicate, precise and coordinated movements. For good fine motor skills, all areas of the body must fit and function well together. Especially important for this is that a dog has a good perception of its own body. Fine motor skills are important for close-up exploration. This is in contrast to gross motor skills, which are significant for the exploration of distant space.
Without good fine motor skills, it’s hard to get by in daily life. It is about the exact individual movement of the individual body parts and also the accuracy of aiming
The following prerequisites are needed to be able to work with fine motor skills:
- a feeling for fine movements
- sufficient muscle tension
- Execution of goal-oriented movements
- Force dosing
Why are fine motor skills so important? Fine motor skills in dogs
Fine motor skills are very important so that small, delicate movements can be performed safely and accurately. This prevents injuries in everyday movement and life. But injuries are also avoided during any form of sporting activity. Without good fine motor skills it is also not possible to be really specifically (successfully) active in sports.
What are the consequences of poor fine motor skills?
Dogs with poor fine motor skills often have trouble moving safely in close quarters in a goal-directed manner. These dogs are more likely to trip and injure themselves. Even with athletically active dogs, difficulties become apparent especially in the “fine points” and the risk of injury increases significantly. Fine motor skills in dogs
By the way: Errors in gross motor skills are easier to recognize than in fine motor skills.
Many dogs have a poor sense of body
The problem is that in many dogs the body feeling is not right. In the movement sequences of the dogs, it becomes apparent that for many dogs, it feels like their body stops behind the torso. The hind legs don’t really seem to belong. In addition, the force dosage also plays a major role.
For which dogs is the training useful?
Basically, it doesn’t hurt any dog to train fine motor skills on a regular basis. It is already helpful for a puppy to be confident in life. However, there are also conditions, such as herniated discs, that interfere with fine motor skills due to neurological causes. Again, it is important to retrain fine motor skills. In many older dogs, fine motor skills diminish as part of the natural aging process. This makes everyday life difficult. Regular training is a great support and brings fast progress. Sporting dogs also need good fine motor skills to perform their sport safely and successfully.
As you can see, good fine motor skills are indispensable in all situations. Fine motor skills in dogs
There are some important points to consider when training:
Before we continue with specific suggestions on how to train fine motor skills, I would like to mention that there are a few points to keep in mind for successful training.
The exercises should be performed as slowly and deliberately as possible. The brain stores motion sequences at a certain pace, a feel-good pace, so to speak. In order to specifically train movement sequences – and in particular small and delicate movement sequences – and manifest them in the brain, they must be performed more slowly than they normally are. In addition, it is very important that these movements are repeated regularly in the form of exercises so that the brain stores them permanently. Training is not about making the exercises as complex as possible, but it is recommended to start with simple movement sequences and slowly increase the complexity.
It is recommended to keep the exercise sessions short, as they require a very high level of concentration. Otherwise the dog is overstrained and the training result will be worse rather than better.
How to train your dog’s fine motor skills
Proprioception or depth sensitivity is the self-awareness of the body. In addition to coordination and body awareness, proprioceptive training also trains the speed and accuracy of the execution of a movement – in other words, fine motor skills. Fine motor skills in dogs
This protects against injuries in everyday life and sports and also promotes the dog’s ability to perform and concentrate. By walking the dog over different surfaces, uneven ground or unstable surfaces, the proprioceptors are activated.
There are several options for training.
Different surfaces – the proprioceptive course
Here the dog must move as slowly as possible with targeted movements over various surfaces. You can assemble and vary the components of the proprioceptive bar yourself. Sand, corks and pebbles can be deposited in shallow wooden trays.
Ideas for the course:
- Pebble (or mosaic tiles with pebble structure)
- Artificial turf
- Rubber mat
- one (air) mattress
On the walk
Even on the daily walk there are many opportunities to train fine motor skills in addition to coordination and body awareness:
- Mowed fields
- Forest floor with small roots
- Sandy soil
- Pebble path
Lead your dog here in the step over the different undergrounds. In order for you to control the pace well, it is recommended that you lead your dog on a leash. Keep the sessions of the workout short and vary the surfaces more frequently to avoid a habit effect. Fine motor skills in dogs
Other exercises from active movement training
There are a variety of exercises from active movement training that specifically train your dog’s fine motor skills. It is always about conscious, purposeful and slow movements.
Cavaletti training is extremely versatile and more complex for the dog than you might think. I present you here a basic variant.
You sit down on the floor with your legs spread. Your dog should sit next to you. This allows him to calm down and concentrate. Guide it slowly, step by step over your legs. In order for him to understand what you want from him, it is useful in the beginning if you run your hand over your legs. So he follows your hand and climbs over your legs. Once on the other side, you can let him dismount again and reward him. Now it’s back over your legs again. The slower your dog walks, the better it is, because that’s how healthy movement patterns are stored in the dog’s brain. When your dog understands what it is about, you can also combine walking over your legs with a word signal. You should then reward him each time he arrives on the other side. So he is not focused on the food, but fully on the movement.
For slalom training, you will need several pylons or other objects that are easy for your dog to see, placed a comfortable dog length apart. Four to five is optimal to get your dog into a flow of movement. Now lead your dog slowly around the pylons (objects). Once your dog is practiced, you can vary the distances between each pylon.
Intelligence toys for the development of fine motor skills in dogs
Also, many intelligence toys, which are solved using the paws, promote not only mental abilities. They can also help train fine motor skills.
You see, there are many ways to do something for your dog’s fine motor skills in just a few every day. Even though training can be easily integrated into everyday life, you should always schedule enough time and rest for a conscious and thus effective workout.
By the way: these and many more exercises are also available in my Doggy Fitness online courses for dog fitness and exercise training. Sensibly combined with each other in professional training plans and with detailed video instructions.
All the love, your Tina