Following the Coronavirus Pandemic we’re experiencing I’ve had a few people contact me to ask what they should be doing with their dogs while they’re either working from home or self-isolating. I’ve put a list together going through some helpful ideas and games you can build into your routine to ensure your dogs are receiving the physical and mental stimulation they need.
Flirt Pole – Flirt poles are essentially a fishing rod with an elastic cord and a tug or toy attached. They’re great for building prey drive in dogs and enable you to really exercise your dog with limited available space (https://amzn.to/2WqIMkc).
Tug – Another amazing way to exercise your dog (and you) with limited space. It’s a great opportunity to build relationship with your dog, teach impulse control and work on bite inhibition.
Basic Obedience Training – Use your dogs food to improve their basic obedience training. Work on sit, down, stand, backwards, spin, retrieve, speak and leave – to name just a few. If your dog knows all of these already you can increase the duration they can do it, the distance between you and the dog, and the level of distraction they can do it in.
Towel Roll – Place a tea towel or bath towel on the ground, drop a couple of treats across one edge, roll it slightly so the treats are inside, drop a couple treats again, and repeat this until the towel is completely rolled up and full of treats. Let your dog figure out they need to use their nose to unroll the towel and find treats along the way.
Threshold Training – Train your dog to wait before going through doorways. Many dogs drag their owners through thresholds when they know they’re heading out on a walk, use this time to teach them patience and to wait for a signal before walking through.
Desensitisation to Doorbell – How many of you have dogs who bark when the doorbell goes? Dogs quickly build the association between the sound of the door and a visitor arriving, so there’s no wonder why this quickly builds excitement or apprehension depending on the dog. You can desensitise your dog to the sound by knocking on the door or using a doorbell app on your phone and not answering the door or reacting to it all. Doorbell = Nothing.
Snuffle mats – Snuffle mats are feeding mats made of polar fleece that encourage a dog to forage around the fabric finding little pieces of food as they go. It’s super rewarding for the dog as the rate of reinforcement is high and it’s great mental stimulation for them. We make snuffle mats ourselves so if you’d like one just drop us a message and we can make one up for you.
Brain Boards – Interactive board games for dogs are essentially strategy games that come in various sizes and levels of difficulty. They require the dog to use their nose and paws to interact with a board, revealing pieces of food. Great mental stimulation for dogs, although we find they can be quite pricey depending on how quickly the dog learns the mechanics (https://amzn.to/3b3vCO6).
Hide and Seek – Take your dogs favourite food or toy and hide it somewhere in the house. Release your dog to go and find it. Make it really easy at first so they understand the game, then gradually make it more difficult over time.
We’re in strange and uncertain times at the moment, and it’s really important that we stay calm and collected for those around us, including our dogs who’re always looking to us for guidance and reassurance.
We hope this list provides you with tools you need to make the most of the unprecedented time at home with your dogs and please like and share this post with all of the dog owners you know.