Welcome to Day 93 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.
At a glance:
- fun in, around or under water!
- sensory based enrichment
- interaction or exposure to water is not loved by all dogs, but introduced carefully and with a choice-led approach, lots of dogs can have fun with water sports
- get the family involved in this one – for the most part, the dog will be doing all the work
All interactions between dogs and children must be supervised and extra care will be needed with both dogs and children AND water.
What do you need?
- food rewards
- favourite toys
- access to water e.g. the seaside, lakes, canals, rivers, ponds, puddles, paddling pools (solid, not inflatable), large dog bowls, shallow trays or tubs
- to encourage interaction with water
- provide outlets for sensory enrichment
- to encourage interaction with their environment and help in the development of behaviours/strategies interacting with and exposure to water
- to build confidence through choice-led interactions with sensory enrichment
- to encourage dogs to choose and introduce choice into their day to day life
What goals can you add to this list for your pets?
While most dogs do not have to become comfortable with water or ever learn to swim, providing dogs with sensory enrichment that involves water, even in very small amounts, may contribute to a well-rounded enrichment experience.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs, just like people, must learn to swim so care must be taken around water, particularly with novice dogs or young dogs.
Decker didn’t start swimming in the ocean until he was about 13 months, after many months of practicing paddling and swimming, all led by him, in ponds, streams and puddles. These are some of his first opportunities to swim in the ocean, at Dollymount Beach (above).
He started out with puddles and ponds and will still gravitate toward any water, that at least covers his wrists, to this day!
Exposing puppies to shallow trays of water that they can paddle through, is an excellent sensory and cognitive challenge for developing brains.
Interacting with their environment and experiencing different feedback from the world around them is confidence building.
How can we achieve these goals?
- provide your dog with safe access to water and to today’s challenges
- take the pressure off – allow the dog to decide if and when they interact with water
- make water a fun part of the dog’s normal environment, without making too big a deal about it
- allow the dog to guide interest or progress – this is all on them!
What adjustments will you make for your pets?
Applications of Watersports:
Swimming is pretty wonderful exercise and is fun for lots of dogs. But, swimming is not universally beneficial and trends in attending “hydrotherapy” need some reigning in.
While swimming might be beneficial as part of recovery from some injuries, traumas, surgeries, it’s not always so. And where it does provide benefits, hydrotherapy and swimming should form PART of a therapeutic recovery program.
Just swimming, as exercise and not much else isn’t great either as it doesn’t universally challenge all soft-tissue in a well rounded and balanced manner.
But as part of a dog’s overall exercise or fitness program, swimming and messing about in water is a wonderful addition.
Most dogs will need some help when introducing them to water, and may benefit from hanging out with a more aquatic pal.
Sometimes tossing a toy or other item of interest can encourage them to dip their toe, but in general, too much encouragement reads as social pressure to which dogs are very sensitive. Allowing the dog work it out and consider their options, in their own time, will be better for confidence building.
While swimming can be great exercise, most dogs will find it most arousing. Swimming requires a lot of physical exertion as well as considerable cognitive and mental involvement. As such, arousal increases to accommodate for the extra challenges the dog’s body is facing.
This means we might need to take care so that our dog can stay in control and has the opportunity to calm, out of the water and away from the action.
Option 1 Swimming & Paddling
Bringing your dog to places where they can safely access water can be a really enriching experience for them. Bodies of water change how air and scents move, affect the terrain and the soundscape, maximising the sensory and enrichment experience.
Just paddling in shallow water, like puddles or streams, or even just moving across damp grass or wet ground can offer big sensory pay-off and encourage cognitive adjustment as the dog must adapt their movement and weight distribution to accommodate.
Option 1 Challenges might include:
- wetting a towel or blanket and laying it on the ground for your dog to interact with.
This can be a great cooler for hot days, as it allows the dog to choose when they wish for cooling.
Toss some food rewards across it on the ground to encourage the dog to move over it.
- add some water to a shallow tray or tub and allow your dog to investigate or explore.
Try tossing a toy into the water to encourage the dog to pop in and out.
- use a child’s paddling pool and add a couple of inches of water – you can toss their toy in and out of the water
Bring your dog to shallow, slow moving water to introduce them. Make sure they have a gently sloping bank so that they do not become distressed going in or coming out.
Make sure the dog is secured on a long line or similar so that you can safely restrain them, if needed.
If your dog is to spend time close to a body of water, it’s recommend that you invest in a life-jacket for them and make sure that the dog is secured safely at all times.
When taking your dog swimming, know your dog and their swimming abilities, and know the currents and water conditions.
Stormy weather can lead to debris being churned up in bodies of water meaning that your dog could get caught on them and be injured by them.
Jellyfish, glass and even shells can lead to injuries and illness when at the beach.
Keep exposure to water brief – dry drowning, from aspirating water, or water toxicity, as a result of ingesting too much water, are most likely to happen after a longer periods of exposure to water, especially when the dog is active, running in and out of the water, or fetching.
Generally, play in the water and swimming are highly exerting, meaning that you get a lot of bang for your buck!
Teaching your dog to go into the water on cue, is a great way of building a reliable recall. The dog returns to you to get you to send him in again – runaway recalls!
Option 2: Bobbing!
Your dog can bob for food rewards or toys!
Use a large dog bowl, shallow tray or tub and add a small amount of water – an inch or two is sufficient to get started with but you can make it deeper as your dog’s confidence grows.
Toss in some kibble or treats and wait for them a sink a bit before allowing your dog access.
Take it on the road and play bobbing for kibble in puddles or streams! It’s best not to do this in sea water as ingestion of lots of salt water will cause vomiting.
Decker will fish for items in bodies of water, like this flooded ditch, or for anything overhanging water!
Care must be taken playing fetch in and out of water as the dog is more likely to aspirate or ingest more water, but brief reps of fetch or toy chasing into water will likely be fine. Know your dog!
Option 3 Blow Bubbles
This clip and tutorial has been a long standing favourite clip of mine, that I first saw when it was entered in an online clicker training comp, many many many years ago.
And while I have taught Decker this trick, and lots of other dogs too, and probably have video clips somewhere, this is the original and it stands the test of the time in terms of mechanical skill and managing training criteria – just lovely work!
Option 4 Pupsicles
Now, I know that this is a bit of a stretch but ice is just frozen water, right?! For the dogs who aren’t up for water sports today, enjoy some pupsicles instead!
Use any freezable containers, such as :
- lunchboxes or bowls
- freezer or lunch bags
- upturned non-slip dog bowls
Line the underside of the bowl and add food, treats and water. Freeze and then pull the ring out. This can make a great suspended puzzle by hanging the ice-ring up with a dog lead.
- muffin pans or similar baking trays
- ice cube trays, which are available in lots of different sizes
- pyramid baking mats
Smear spreadable yummies and add add treats or food to each space. Freeze and then turn out.
- freeze stuffables
- Fill each gap with a variety of possibilities; scroll down to our list of ingredients for Stuffables that can be used for these frozen chews too. We talk about Pupsicles there too.
- Load each gap in a muffin tray or ice cube tray with a mix of your dog’s favourites and add a stick-like chew, such as a pizzle to each mix. Freeze and your will have pupsicles with sticks, just like a human ice-cream!
- Make a gravy out of wet dog food or spreadables by mixing with a little water. Pour the mixture into the container, freeze and have different sized treats ready for training, for stuffing in toys and for enjoying.
Using a pyramid tray makes small sized, handy treats and there are lots of recipes on line for baked treats too.
- Add treats to each space and freeze or add smaller amounts of food, topped up with water, to make lighter snacks.
- Freeze meat, wet dog food, or even a kibble mash and give the block to the dog to chew.
- For dogs on more restricted diets, just adding their regular kibble or food to some water and freezing in a container can present a novelty that might be attractive to the dog.
- Freeze fruits or vegetables in a tray or whole. If your dog needs enticement, dip the fruit or veg in some meat juices and freeze that. This is a great way to add low calorie, but very tasty treats, to a fat restricted diet.
Always allow meat juices to cool and skim the fat first, before use.
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!