Lunging with a dog essentially corresponds to the equestrian sport of the same name. The dogs run with or without a leash along a defined lunging circle and have to follow various commands, carry out exercises and recognize visual signals. Lunging has been practiced as a dog sport since the 1960s. It originally served as endurance training for police dogs in Scandinavia and then became popular among dog owners. Lunging is not yet a competitive sport for dogs, so there are no binding guidelines. Lunging serves rather as a joint training for dog and owner.
Lunging strengthens the bond between humans and dogs, since both act in constant communication despite the spatial distance. The dog is mentally and physically busy and learns to concentrate, work carefully and under instruction. Basic commands are trained as well as simple rules of conduct that are often used in everyday life. For example, stopping, lying down or sitting down can be fixed at a distance. The dog also learns to read and follow the dog owner’s body language. Conversely, the owner consciously trains his own body language in relation to the dog. Lunging can also be used as a therapeutic measure for dogs with behavioral problems and as support for rehabilitation. Muscle mass can also be built up when lunging.
In order to get the dog used to the unusual situation, it is first guided on a lunge along a clearly delineated circle; the demarcation can consist, for example, of barrier tape or pylons. He has to learn to stay outside the circle and should always be rewarded for this at the beginning. The reward can then be gradually reduced as the training progresses. The owner initially follows the dog a short distance away, but gradually moves towards the center of the circle. As soon as the dog enters the circle, the owner uses clear body signals to signal that this is not desired.
When the dog has learned to respect the boundary of the lunging circle, lunging can be started without a leash and the first exercises are built into the training. At the beginning, simple commands such as sit, place and stand are suitable for this. First, the usual commands and body signals are given. Once the dog has got used to the situation, the switch is made to pure visual signals. At this point it is crucial that the owner learns to use his own body language in a controlled manner so as not to confuse the dog. A second person can help correct mistakes in body language and choose the right moment for a reward.
Change of direction and pace
Changes in direction or pace can be incorporated into the training once the dog has learned to recognize and follow visual signals. In order to bring the dog to a standstill, the owner turns to him abruptly, a look in the opposite direction and crossing the imaginary leash indicates the change of direction. Distractions inside the circle can also be built in over time to strengthen the dog’s concentration. A second person is just as suitable as another dog. Simple tournament equipment such as tires or jumps also serve as an extension of the training.
Types of lunging
- Lungeing with a taboo zone: The dog learns to understand the inside of the circle as a “taboo”.
- Lunging without a taboo zone: the dog is not banned, but is instead rewarded for running on the outer edge of the circle.
- Cooperative lunging: The bond between dog and owner is deepened. Commands and changes of direction are built in, the circle is enlarged.
- Coordinating lunging: The dog is distracted by external stimuli and learns to follow instructions reliably.
- Occupation lunging: Additional devices are installed or several dogs are lunged at the same time.
- Free-swinging: Free-swinging takes place without a visible marking of the circle.
- Tricklonging: The dog follows two circles in an eight shape or in an oval.
In principle, dogs of all ages and breeds can be lunged. Caution should only be exercised in very young dogs or dogs with joint problems, as long running in a circle can strain the joints. One-sided stress should therefore be avoided in every dog, for example by changing direction.