Not being able to get out of the house can be tricky for your pets, especially if you have a dog. We speak to Jasmin from The Pawkeeper Dog Training who shares some tips on mentally stimulating your dogs to keep them healthy and happy.
“Lockdown doesn’t have to be dreadful, especially for our dogs, Jasmin says. “Did you know that mental stimulation is three times more effective in tiring a dog than going for a run?”
Here are the top five things to do with your dog if you're stuck at home.
Trick and obedience training
This is a wonderful activity which enhances your bond and who wouldn’t like their dogs to show off some impressive tricks? From weaving through legs, rolling over and paw shakes to more complex behaviours such as retrieving water from the fridge – all dogs can learn new tricks. You can also brush up on your basic training skills that take more time to learn such as heel walk or recall. Online group and one-to-one dog training classes are a great resource to acquire new training techniques and get you started on the right paw.
Sniffing (scent/nose work) is an activity which is physically, emotionally and mentally enriching, while building confidence and trust between you and your dog. Have your dog hunt for some or all of their meals in the house. Before you start, decide what your start and stop cue would be. While your dog waits outside the room, start by scattering a small amount of your dog’s food in an area of the room. Ask your dog to enter the room, speak out your start cue and let your dog go on a hunt. When your dog finds a piece, give him or her lots of praise. Help your dog by pointing out pieces of food if you feel it is a bit too difficult. As your pup needs less help and becomes faster in hunting, sprinkle more food over a larger area or multiple rooms and continue to change the set up until your dog becomes a pro.
Ditch the food bowl
The purpose of canine enrichment is to add the element of mental stimulation to your dog’s life, not to over-saturate their diet with extra food. When you give all your dog’s meals out of enrichment, this gives your dog something to do, a job. Dogs like working for their food. Make feeding a highly beneficial opportunity for your dog’s day.
Work-to-eat toys such The Kong, Nina Ottosson puzzle games and Snuffle Mats are like free training. Just fill them with your dog’s favourite treats or entire meal and sit back while your dog tries to discover different ways to get to the food. Not only does this activity satisfy their natural instinct to hunt and scavenge, it is also an effective way of slowing down fast eaters. You do not necessarily need to buy puzzle toys, you can make your own by recycling and reusing different household items. Empty toilet paper rolls or water bottles are just two of so many items that can serve as a food toy. Just be careful to never ever leave your dog unsupervised during puzzle feeding to avoid injuries.
Hide and seek
Ask your dog to “sit-wait” and hide in your house (behind the door or sofa, under the staircase, etc.). Call your dog to come to you and let the seek begin. You will be amazed how focused your dog will be. Once your dog finds you, make sure you shower your pooch with praise. If you face difficulties with “sit-wait”, ask someone to hold your dog while you hide. This game is bond strengthening, simulates your dog’s senses and lets you improve your obedience training.