Category Archives: #100daysofenrichment

Week 4 Equipment List

Week 3 is almost over – how did that happen?!

Keep up with all the resources and challenges relating to #100daysofenrichment here
and join our Facebook group too!

All challenges are presented with multiple options so you won’t lose out if you don’t have one or two of the items.

For Week 4 you will need:

  • stuff for cavaletti
  • blankets, towels
  • cushions
  • shallow plastic tub or basin
  • tin foil, newspaper, sheets of different materials (shiny, crinkly etc.)
  • shoe lace, fine dog lead, cord
  • long tug toy
  • paper for wrapping
  • old phone books (do they still exist?), paper books
  • cardboard boxes
  • Snuffle Mat or similar (don’t worry if you don’t have one)
  • a variety of food rewards, toys and other things your dog will work for

And for Freestyle Friday you will design your own enrichment device with the following ingredients:

  • shallow box or tub
  • loose items like plastic bottles, balls, toilet roll tubes, Pringles tubes, stuffable toys like Kongs and so on

We have lots more fun and brain games for you for next week. Start getting ready…

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Day 17 Handling & Husbandry: Comfort with Gear

Welcome to Day 17 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Comfort with Gear

At a glance:

  • improve your pet’s comfort with having gear fitted, such as collars, harnesses, leads and other tools
  • almost all dogs will have to wear gear at some point, an experience many individuals find invasive and uncomfortable
  • social and cognitive based enrichment
  • although children can make great dog trainers with the right guidance, these exercises are best established by the adults in the household
    Children might help by preparing treats for practicing this exercise.
  • these exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of no more than 30 seconds at a time; have as many sessions as you can!

What do you need?

  • food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
  • a lappable stuffable (see ideas from Day 1)
  • the gear you use for your dog such as collars, leads and harnesses

With the rise in popularity of ever increasingly complicated harnesses for walking dogs, I see A LOT of puppies and dogs who are uncomfortable with the fitting and wearing of these and other gear. Harnesses aren’t really to blame but some of them are so complex in design, in both fit and fitting, that getting them on and wearing them are disliked by many dogs.

While most pet owners will presume that their dog is pretty comfortable with the sort of manipulation that’s required to fit walking gear and the wearing of it, most dogs do a wonderful job of merely tolerating human behaviour. Our goal is to achieve more than just tolerance, we want joy!

Many pet owners are surprised that their pet might be reluctant to have walking gear fitted…aren’t dogs supposed to enjoy their walks?! And as such, will hope that the dog will just get used to it and eventually associate the appearance of gear with getting to go out and about.

What can happen instead is that the dog will show terribly conflicted behaviour, which their owner might interpret as them playing or messing about.
Because the dog might want to go for a walk, but isn’t comfortable with having their gear fitted or with wearing it, the dog will have difficulty cooperating. Feeling conflicted is distressing and these dogs will often exhibit stress related behaviour.
Dogs are pretty non-confrontational and have a large vocabulary of signals that aim to reduce social pressure, without aggression. Conflicted dogs start by showing the first tier of canine stress related behaviour often referred to as ‘fidgeting’ or ‘flirtation’ but it’s really conflict resolution behaviour. The dog might look like their playing; they might jump forward and then jump back, they might vocalise, they might even show side-eye. But, unlike true play, this behaviour is generally tighter and stiffer as the dog asks for relief from social pressure.
Of course, where not listened to, this behaviour may escalate to avoidance, hiding, strongly appeasing behaviour (often interpreted as ‘guilt’), and more demonstrative distance increasing behaviour (like warning and threat related behaviour).

Some of the excitement seen when walking gear is produced, and when the dog knows it’s walkies time, may also be associated with the conflict related to being physically manipulated into a collar or harness.

chewing flexi in phoenix

But, even where fear or discomfort isn’t at the root of the dog’s behaviour, these exercises are helpful in teaching dogs about choice and in teaching appropriate alternative behaviour during handling and gear fitting.

Just like Day 3, we are going to ask you to really observe your dog’s behaviour and think about consent.
It’s not our pets’ obligation to consent to handling or physical manipulation; our pets are individuals who have likes and dislikes, and good and bad days. They are allowed to say “STOP!” and “WAIT!” if they need to.
And what’s more, teaching them that they can consent, or not, is confidence boosting and bond boosting. You become a beacon of trust, you become predictable and reliable.

I have included these exercises in our project because enrichment is about giving animals skills that help them cope better with their day to day lives (in captivity), along with establishing predictability and controlability.

Enrichment Goals:

  • to improve the dog’s comfort with the handling and fitting involved in fitting and wearing walking gear
  • to teach the dog that they can consent to, delay or refuse handling and manipulation
  • reduce stress associated with loss of predictability and controlability
  • to encourage a dance of communication, consent, and connection between dog and human
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans

While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.

This process highlights the complex social relationships forged between humans and companion animals. It’s a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

By helping the dog learn that they have control over what happens them, in interactions with humans, the world becomes a safer place for them.

When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.

There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

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How can we achieve these goals?

  • work with toys or other rewards that your dog enjoys – associate each handling interaction with a reward and after many pairings, handling becomes just as enjoyable
  • make it very easy for your dog by gradually adding handling or pressure
  • watch your dog closely for any signs of reluctance; they might go still, or duck or lean away, they may lick at or mouth your hand or gear, they might pull away
  • if the animal shows the slightest reluctance, stop immediately
  • review your approach and don’t go quite so far next time
  • working like this teaches the dog that, to object, they only need show minor discomfort because you are listening; to gain relief, they don’t need to growl, snarl or snap
  • keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
  • take your time and work in many short sessions
  • try for 30 seconds at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
  • plan each session – what behaviours are you looking for and rewarding?
  • watch the clips and try out the exercise
  • portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises

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  • make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable and rewarding

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  • remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
  • split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go

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If you are feeding wet or fresh foods, cut up small or mash to a paste and present on a wooden spoon or spatula. Alternatively you can freeze in small ice cube trays or a pyramid baking tray so that you can use small portions and individual treats.

  • for some of these exercises, I love to use a lappable stuffable (see Day 1) – reward the dog by allowing them to have a few licks and then withdraw the toy

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of gear comfort:

These exercises continue to build your dog’s comfort in all sorts of situations and interactions with humans. This means that these interactions become safer and more pleasant for everyone.

Pretty much every dog will require some sort of gear to be fitted and to wear it, often on a daily basis.

Dogs, when super stressed, either go very still and quiet, or move about, struggle and aggress (or somewhere in between). When they are still and quiet, they are presumed to be ‘well behaved’ and tolerant. When they struggle and aggress, we label them ‘difficult’, ‘vicious’ or ‘dominant’, none of which is accurate.

Either way, this isn’t pleasant for our dogs and as the humans (with the big primate brains), we know that our dogs will need to endure such handling throughout their lives. It’s our job to prepare them for this so it’s a little easier all round.

Helping the dog feel predictability and controlability has wider positive implications, with some research suggesting that these effects generalise to other areas of the animals’ lives. Reducing stress is a good thing!

When we work on handling and husbandry preparations, we establish comfort at different levels that range from management and distraction, to building comfort, to teaching cooperative behaviours.
Throughout our 100 day project, we will introduce exercises from these categories.

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Enrichment Options

Throughout these exercises we are attempting to establish a CER or Conditioned Emotional Response. This means that our dogs learn that one stimulus makes another very reliably happen; putting the harness over the dog’s head, for example, makes yummy treats happen.

A CER helps the dog feel differently about a particular situation. A dog may already have developed a negative CER toward having his harness fitted due to the discomfort with manipulation for fitting and wearing it. To help form a positive CER, we must undo the negative one (by not exposing the dog to that situation) while building a new, positive association.

This requires lots and lots and lots of practice. In the case of an established negative CER, it might take many tens of thousands of repetitions over many months to turn it around.

We are always following the rules that we have laid out for our dogs:

  • building progress gradually
  • allowing the dog decide how comfortable they are, or not
  • always pairing any move with something yummy, no matter what
  • listening to the dog

For a CER to be established, we must also get the sequence right:

  • reach toward the dog and then reach toward the treat
  • gear makes you produce a treat
  • if you reach toward the treat at the same time as you reach toward the dog, or if you have the treat out and visible while you reach toward the dog, the dog might not even notice you reaching toward them so no association will be formed

The key to improvement with gear exercises is to practice at times when you are not going for a walk, that way you can practice several times a day and gear coming out doesn’t always mean great excitement and action.

If your dog does get excited after these training exercises, help them come down again by working on a stuffable or some snuffling.

Where a negative CER has already been established, it can be a little trickier to get going but you’ve come to the right place to get started!
Right now, when you indicate that the gear, to which your dog has developed a negative CER, is about to be revealed will kick off an internal emotional and stress response in your dog’s brain and body. This cascades into the behavioural response that you observe. Every time this happens, the scenario is further confirmed as being negative, scary, choice-less and unpleasant to the brain and it will do its best to help the body avoid exposure. In other words, every exposure is probably making it worse.

To turn that around, there are some essentials:

  • stop the rehearsal of the scary situation; this might mean using different gear, getting it from a different storage point, changing the picture
    If necessary and possible, use distraction & management techniques to work with old gear but store it and use it in a new place.

Your dog is anticipating when the scary stuff is about to happen so their negative response is starting earlier and earlier on in the process. With more exposure to stress, the brain becomes more sensitive to stress and gets better at anticipating stressful scenarios to allow the body to avoid them.

  • use new gear that’s different from the old scary stuff
  • work in a completely new scenario with the new gear (new storage place, new training location, new words or signals prior to getting it) – change the scene
  • use HIGH value food rewards
  • as above, get your timing right
  • do not use the gear outside of training situations, for now
  • create a positive CER to it and the processes required for fitting:

A new CER will be needed to its appearance. Work in short sessions of 5-10 reps. Have the gear in one hand behind your back and the yummies in the other hand behind your back.
Reveal the gear and as soon as your dog sees it, reveal your other hand and feed a yummy. Reset with everything behind your back again and repeat.

A new CER will be needed to its fitting. For example, its approach to the head, going over the head and so on. Get the first CER, to its appearance first, and then very gradually begin with each tiny stage of fitting.

In separate sessions, it’s also a good idea to create a CER to the sound of the fastenings. Lots of dogs find this aversive, including Decker. All our collars go over his head so that we don’t need to click the buckle. I don’t even fasten non-clicky buckles as the anticipation is aversive to him.
With the gear out of sight, up and over a counter for example, click the fastening and immediately toss a treat to your pet.

Option 1: Distraction & Management

Lots of dogs are a little concerned about things going over their head and having their feet handled, to fit a harness, for example.

Both the head and the extremities are delicate and sensitive and many animals will show some avoidance or defensive behaviour when reached toward or grabbed.

Consent matters.

We are starting with exercises that help us manage the dog’s behaviour while we fit gear to reduce wiggling and mouthing, and to prevent, puppies especially, associating biting with having gear fitted.
So, this is really what we refer to as management; preventing the dog being put into a situation that triggers unwanted behaviour.

If a dog is showing true signs of discomfort with having their harness fitted or in association with the manipulation involved, this is probably not the right option at this stage.

We are effectively luring the dog and even though we are using something the dog enjoys, the lure, we are not allowing them much choice or say in this process. They are there for the food. As such, if a dog is even mildly distressed by their gear and its fitting, we are further diminishing their choice and control over what happens them. Not nice 😦

I particularly apply this to working with young puppies so it’s easier to fit their fiddly little collars, leads and harnesses, while keeping their pointy bits busy. At the same time, they are, hopefully, forming positive associations between their gear being fitted and yummies.

Beginners:

Put the lead on and take it off!

On and off a collar:

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On and off a harness:

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Intermediate:

Getting a harness on or off a dog can be a bit more of a job as there are often more than one or two procedures. For example, we will need to get the next piece over the head and then secure the belly strap.

My preference is to use a really yummy stuffed or lined stuffable to help keep the dog busy while the human fiddles with all the straps and closures.

How you go about it will depend on the style of harness you are using, but generally I lure the dog’s head through the head piece by putting the stuffable through it and then I hold the toy under my knee for the dog to work on. While their head is lowered, I can fasten the belly strap and attach the lead.

For step-in harness (I call them “bra-type” harnesses), hold the stuffable under your foot or knee or between your knee. Feed the harness in under the dog’s head and gently place their legs into the holes.

Only do this if your dog is comfortable with having their feet handled and with you physically manipulating them while they eat something valuable.

This procedure must be applied with consent. If the dog stops working on the toy or comes away from the foot, then you stop. Allow them to resume before continuing.

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With H-harness, sometimes referred to as Figure 8 harnesses, draw the dog’s head through the head piece and then move the stuffable to under your knee so that you can quickly fasten the belly straps.

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Although we will NOT be getting into conversations about training tools and equipment, this is the harness model I prefer because of where it sits on the body (when fitted correctly), that it has a front/chest ring for extra control if needed, and for the relative ease of fitting using this procedure.

This approach has other useful applications, including for grooming and husbandry procedures.

  • use a spatula, dipped in something irresistible like pate, cable tied to the leg of a chair or table so it’s easy to fit and remove for regular use

Stick a dipped wooden spoon into the plug hole of the bath or shower for your dog to work on while you bathe them:

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  • line or stuff a Kong toy or other stuffable and wedge in between the sofa cushions; this will be at head height for a lot of medium and large sized dogs

Use a stuffed or line stuffable between your knees to carry out husbandry procedures, such as eye cleaning:

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  • smear the sides of the bath or the walls around a grooming table so that your dog can lap, while you groom and bathe

I found this vegetable cleaner, with a little suction cup, in a home wares store for €1.50 and it’s been really effective for keeping dogs occupied and happy for grooming and bathing. I jam in some pate and freeze it; there are two sides to keep them interested:

You can also buy stuffable toys with suction cups for dogs like the Chase n’ Chomp Sticky Bone or Licky Mats, and there are lots of other types and designs. The suction cup is handy for in the bath and most will connect readily to slick walls or doors.

A Snuffle Mat or similar feeder can be placed on a stool or chair for the dog to work on while you groom them too.

Advanced:

Use luring and shaping to help build comfort with a harness or collar being fitted over the dog’s head.

Lots of dogs will find this uncomfortable and show some reluctance. While we are using a lot of luring so far, to build comfort we must add in the shaping component. Shaping is a way to teaching that involves us breaking down the big, goal behaviour into small steps. This is particularly important when we are working with fear, caution or stress because to lump the entire process in one go may cause the dog to become overwhelmed by it all, upsetting them and further establishing negative CERs to these situations.

So, we take it slow and build progress very gradually, over a number of sessions if required. Again, the dog gets to decide how far we can go and we listen. Consent matters.

The design of the harness will dictate how you get going but most importantly the dog’s comfort and consent will dictate how you proceed and progress.

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In emergency situations, where, for example, you needed to catch an injured, straying or wary dog, using a slip lead can be your most effective tool. On our Safe Dog Handling course we talk about all sorts of considerations when it comes to handling dogs in situations where care may be required; this is about keeping the handler safe, rather than training the dog.

Here are just two ideas relating to getting a slip lead on a concerned dog, in an emergency situation:

LInk

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Option 2: Shaping

As already discussed, shaping means to break a behaviour down into its component stages and teaching each stage, then building to the next until the goal behaviour is achieved. This is done by reinforcing successive approximations of the final behaviour.

When we are working with a dog who finds having a collar or harness put on, over their head, scary, uncomfortable or distressing, we must work very gradually to help them feel better about the process.

We do this be splitting criteria finely, which means breaking the process down into teeny tiny stages and allowing the dog to dictate when and how to move onto the next stage.

With a dog who is afraid to have a collar or harness fitted over his head, we might just start with making a treat happen every time the collar is presented. We are creating a CER to the presentation of the collar or harness.
Next, we might work on the dog approaching or looking at the gear, touching it with their nose, sticking their nose through the opening and so on.
Little by little, always listening to them.
Consent matters.

Shaping is always my choice where a dog is reluctant or showing the slightest comfort with gear. The difference between this and luring, is that with shaping we are pretty sure the dog is choosing to proceed, rather than just moving in blind following of the lure.

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This isn’t just for leads and collars, and harnesses.

I love muzzle training and I want dogs to love their muzzles. Really, all dogs should be muzzle trained to some degree so that they are comfortable with their use during, for example, veterinary procedures. Otherwise a muzzle being used is just another stressor compounding an already difficult situation.

Lots of dogs will require muzzling over their lives due to BSL or during training and behaviour modification.

But, the majority of dogs will find wearing a muzzle uncomfortable and often stressful so careful muzzle training will be required. All our CBTT students must complete a muzzle training demonstration showing their shaping skills and mechanics, as well as showing acute awareness for the dog’s consent and comfort. This is especially clear to assess during teaching procedures such as muzzle training.

One of may favourite muzzle training videos is one produced by one of our wonderful CBTTs, Caterina Lodo of Canis Major, with her dog, Dante.

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For more on using muzzles and breaking the stigma surrounding muzzling, see Maureen Backman’s Muzzle Up Project.

Although I recommend and supervise their use in very specific situations, with special care and under certain conditions, head collars may form part of some behavioural modification programs. If they are to be used, they must be carefully applied and the dog must be trained to LOVE wearing it before it’s operational.

A similar shaping process may be applied to head collar training:

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Option 3 Assume the position

Teach the dog to take up a position to have their gear fitted, using targeting. The dog getting into position is taken as consent to proceed, the dog moving out of position or showing intent to move out of position, means you stop.

We talked about targeting on Day 15  so this is a handy application of these exercises.

For example, a two feet up behaviour can make it easier to fit the dog’s harness as there’s less need for bending. This might be more comfortable for the dog too as the human doesn’t need to loom over so much.

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This clip shows the stages in building to getting the harness on, with two feet up. We split criteria finely again to make sure that the dog has the opportunity to object and come down off the stool.

Option 4 Calm for lead on

If the dog is already comfortable with having gear fitted, we can begin to teach them behaviours that help maintain calm for having their lead or gear put on.

These are stationary behaviours we are asking the dog to take up and if they are even slightly worried by their gear, this may cause great upset. When a dog is afraid of something, their primary goal is to escape aversion – they want to get away. If we ‘make’ them sit or do some other stationary behaviour, we are preventing them from doing that, diminishing their choice and increasing their conflict and stress.

So, comfort first.

This might be especially helpful for puppies who can get a little overwhelmed with all the handling associated with getting their collar on. This might manifest in what looks like excitable behaviour and lead to lead biting and hand biting. They are seeking relief so let’s make the process a little easier for everyone!

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You could also use a hand target, or ideally a chin target, so that the dog is positioned and still for adding gear. More on targeting on Day 15.

Your challenge

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!

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Day 16 Tubs

Welcome to Day 16 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Tubs

At a glance:

  • plastic tubs that are the puzzle or have fun and puzzles inside
  • food based enrichment
  • add food, add the lid, add packing, stick in a busy box, stack in another tub
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best tub puzzles for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • prepping tub puzzles will take 5-10 minutes and you can use lots of the bits and pieces we use in other puzzles

 

What do you need?

  • small plastic tubs from cream cheese, vegetables or fruit, or even lunchboxes; with their lid

closed tub

  • paper e.g. packing paper, kitchen roll, newspaper etc.
  • a bigger box (one that the tub fits into)
  • paper cups or toilet roll tubes
  • a range of food rewards

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the boxes
  • by varying the design of each Tub puzzle we will facilitate carrying out a range of different behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to manipulate and open the tub to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the tubs and packing are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Tub puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the box is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of tub puzzles, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • give your pet plenty of space for working on tub puzzles and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Tub Puzzles:

Tub puzzles, just like Busy Boxes, can keep dogs occupied as they offer different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively. They are truly adaptable and again you only limited by your imagination!

Add a lid, in tub puzzles, adds a new challenge to Busy Boxes and similar.

Just as I tend to see with Busy Boxes, well-meaning owners can go waaaaay over board, coming up with the most elaborate designs to really challenge their pet.

While it’s great to go for challenge, it’s important that enrichment remain enriching. That means that the challenge must be made appropriate and doable for the individual puzzler.

Our job is to adjust the puzzle difficulty so that our dog uses a range of behaviour and gets to the goal pretty quickly.

This is the true way to improve the dog’s confidence in puzzling (and in life) and help them expand their behavioural repertoire.

 

 

Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in tub puzzles, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester or a cruncher, tub puzzles may not work  for you and at the very least, careful supervision will be required. Although they might still eat the plastic in a tub puzzle, it will just take them longer.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the paper.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Today’s Tub Puzzle challenge will bring you and your pet through several levels. Even if you are both experienced puzzlers, start with the lower levels to see how wide a range of behaviours your dog offers, to solve the puzzle.

Do they just barrel in, in full-on destruction mode?

Do they try different behaviours for different challenges?

What range of exploratory and foraging behaviours can you observe?

Option 1: Close the lid

This is your starting point and it builds on puzzling challenges like Busy Boxes.

Beginners:

  • add food to the tub
  • loosely place the lid on the tub and give it to the dog

This might be important to help build confidence in the process and reduce frustration and blind-destruction.

Intermediate:

  • add food to the tub
  • close the lid

If the tub is from a suitable food, like cream cheese or butter, closing the lid and allowing the dog to clean the tub is even less work for you!

 

 

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If your dog has difficulty with the lid (frustrated vocalising, bites or chews at it intensely, gives up), try this adjustment to help them learn about lids:

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Advanced:

  • stuff it!
  • wrap treats into paper, such as newspaper, kitchen roll or packing paper
  • add to the tub and close the lid

packed tub

No lid? No worries

Pop a treat under an upturned tub and let your dog work out this brain teaser!

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Option 2 Wrap It!

Add paper on the outside to bring a new dimension to the challenge!

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Beginners:

  • add food to the tub
  • don’t put the lid on and just wrap the tub in paper
  • use a large enough piece of paper that you can make a Christmas cracker shape – scrunch and twist the two ends to secure everything inside

Intermediate:

  • add the food, close the lid
  • wrap it!

Advanced:

  • stuff the tub with food in paper
  • close the lid
  • wrap it!

Option 3 Add to a Busy Box

Add Tub Puzzles to Busy Boxes to make a compound puzzle; a puzzle in a puzzle in a puzzle!

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Beginners:

  • add a closed tub puzzle to a box
  • if you like, add packing or other items to the box like egg boxes or balls

Intermediate:

  • add a stuffed tub puzzle to a box
  • if you like, add packing or other items to the box like egg boxes or balls

Advanced:

  • add a wrapped tub puzzle to a box
  • if you like, add packing or other items to the box like egg boxes or balls

Option 4 Tube in a Tub

Stuffing a tub is one thing, but you can expand the challenge by adding a tube, such as toilet roll tube, to a closed tub.

Beginners:

  • stuff a tube
  • add to a tub and close the lid

 

 

 

Intermediate:

  • add treats to a tube or paper cup
  • fold down the openings to make a treat parcel
  • add to a tub and close the lid

treat parcels

Advanced:

  • add a stuffed tube or a treat parcel to a tub
  • close the lid
  • wrap it!

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Option 5 Stacked Tubs

Stacking open tubs brings a whole new set of challenges for the dog. This works well if you can’t find or don’t have lids for your tubs.

Beginners:

  • take two tubs that can stack
  • add lots of paper, with treats, to one tub
  • stack the other tub on top

Intermediate:

  • add more layers

Advanced:

  • use less stuffing in each layer so that it’s more difficult to split the stacked tubs

stacked tubs

Your challenge

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!

Day 15 Targeting

Welcome to Day 15 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Targeting

At a glance:

  • targeting exercises teach the animal to touch or rest a specific body part on a particular target or place
  • targeting has a wide range of applications and is very versatile
  • cognitive based enrichment
  • we can use targeting to teach obedience behaviours, to improve confidence, to help in cooperative care and to teach tricks….there’s nothing we can’t do with targeting!
  • get the family involved in this one – children can be great dog trainers with lots of guidance, and lots of these behaviours are child-friendly, and make maintaining the peace with kids and K9s easier.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • training exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of no more than 30 seconds at a time; have as many sessions as you can!

What do you need?

  • food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
  • targets such as post-its, spatula or wooden spoon, commercially available target sticks, small stools, chairs, blanket, towel, face cloth

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Targeting behaviours may form the end-goal behaviour or may be used to teach other behaviours using the targeting behaviour to guide the dog into position, for example.

You have already practicing some targeting during our project already. On Day 10 we worked on matwork; that’s essentially a targeting exercise: the mat is a target for the dog’s body to lie on.

There are a number of reasons that I have included targeting in #100daysofenrichment.

First off, targeting behaviours are easy and quick to teach and are a great mental workout for dogs, and good practice for training skills for humans.
Just practicing short training sessions with simple behaviours helps your dog become a better learner, making teaching new and more complex behaviours a doddle.

Targeting is versatile and we can use it to teach lots of behaviours and develop important life skills.

Targeting behaviours, such as hand targets and other nose targets, are neurologically cheap behaviours. That means that they can be easily used to refocus your dog, after some exciting event where there brain has been very busy, because a nose touch doesn’t require a whole lot of brain or body power, particularly where it’s been drilled.

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And because of that  and that they are simple to teach, we can build a really good reinforcement history, making targeting behaviours excellent for getting our dogs’ focus back on us, when we need it.

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Some targeting behaviours like matwork and chin targeting can help in calming a dog after excitement, and help them come down a little from being wound up. We teach a chin rest, along with matwork and deep breathing, in our Crazy2Calm class as a way to help with whole-body recovery from arousal.

And of course, right now, it’s very popular to talk about the application of targeting behaviours in cooperative care during husbandry procedures. More on that later.

Targeting behaviours are useful in moving and positioning an animal, non-confrontationally and hands-off, which makes things safer and more comfortable for all.

Here, one of our awesome students teaches a targeting behaviour and applies that to moving the sheep non-confrontationally.

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Enrichment Goals:

  • to teach the dog to touch a specific body part to a specific target
  • to teach the dog that their human will ask for behaviour and will make sure reinforcement is available – this reduces stress by improving predictability and controlability
  • to apply targeting to teaching a range of behaviours
  • improve day to day life, for dog and human, through targeting
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans
  • to learn about learning – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!

While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.

Providing dogs with cues allows for a complex level of communication between two species; you are merely requesting that the dog perform behaviour (he already knows how to do the behaviour…they can already drop things) and that request comes with a contract. Respond appropriately to this signal and rewards are coming your way. That’s the deal…that’s what being a good teacher is about – keeping your word and making it easy for your dog to train you.

This forges the most healthy of relationships between our two species. This is a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.

There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • although you can use any reward that your dog will work for, using small food rewards that are quick to eat are best for these exercises so we can have lots of fast repetitions
  • keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
  • take your time and work in many short sessions
  • try for 30 seconds at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
  • plan each session – what behaviours are you looking for and rewarding?
  • watch the clips and try out the exercise
  • portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises

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  • make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable

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  • remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
  • split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go

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If you are feeding wet or fresh foods, cut up small or mash to a paste and present on a wooden spoon or spatula. Alternatively you can freeze in small ice cube trays or a pyramid baking tray so that you can use small portions and individual treats.

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of targeting behaviours:

Where do I even start?! Targeting is truly the most versatile training approach. I much prefer it to luring, as a way of teaching behaviours, and I use it in so many training and every day interactions with dogs.

We might have the dog target specific parts of their body such as their nose, the side of their face, their chin, each food, two feet at a time (front or back), their side/shoulder, their underside, their backside…we can even teach visual targeting behaviour so that the dog watches a particular target.

There is a targeting application for every training problem and we are only covering the basics here!

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In this clip, a hand target is being used as a consent tester. I build up a chain of behaviours (things that I do) so that he learns what’s about to happen: the ear drop bottle means I am going to ask for a hand target which means I am about to administer drops.

He can opt out at any stage and the hand target behaviour allows for a really clear signal, that he consents or not.

This is not, and should not be, used in isolation. I have worked to create a CER (Conditioned Emotional Response) to the presentation of the bottle first; he has a well established CER to ear handling already. Putting that emotional response (how he feels about what’s happening) together with behaviours, like standing there, hand targeting and holding still, builds a truly cooperative experience. (We discussed the establishment of CERs on Day 3 )
Behaviour is happening because he feels good about it all, and he feels good about it all because behaviour is happening. You can’t have one without the other!

Enrichment Options

Option 1: Nose targeting

All that needs to happen is the dog’s nose touches the target!

Beginners

Start with teaching a simple hand targeting exercise – the animal touches their nose to your palm.

If you are just starting out with a novice dog, a dog new to training, begin with the luring approach:

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But if you have some mechanical training skills and your dog loves to train, try capturing – this approach just offers a bit of a short cut over the luring approach above:

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Once you get some reliable nose targeting to your palm, begin to mix it up a little:

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Intermediate

hand targeting is so helpful in teaching lots of different obedience exercises and my favourite applications are to teaching recall and loose leash walking.

Start by getting your dog moving more and more toward your presented palm:

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Build the amount of movement gradually, so as to keep your dog successful:

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As you move about, you can begin to position the dog at your side, in loose leash walking position and that can help you build some nice walking behaviour.

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You might even like to practice cavaletti, from Day 8, using a target. This can help to get their nose off the ground, looking for treats, and to straighten up so that they can really benefit from strengthening and striding.

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Play the Hand Target Game to get your dog moving back and forth and making approaching to nose-touch super-rewarding. This is a great rainy day game and a wonderful game to get the entire family involved.

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You can play with a group, just two people or on your own – toss a treat away, present your palm and when your dog returns to touch it, reward and toss another reward to repeat.

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This can help us build a reliable recall too. Even though we know that dogs are more reliably responsive to body cues, hand signals and facial expressions, we rely on word and sound recall cues, for some of the most important and potentially life saving behaviour we teach dogs. Adding a hand target to your recall routine, a visual hand signal, will greatly improve reliability and clarity in learning.

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We teach it in three separate pieces: conditioning a recall cue so that we can get that whiplash turn, building a STRONG CER to collar touches, and building lots of movement and rewards into hand targeting.

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And can gradually add more and more distance by tossing the treat.

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Advanced

Target all the things!

Help establish this behaviour by teaching your dog to touch their nose to different items. Introduce other nose targets in largely the same way you did your palm.
While this is wonderful for generalising and further establishing targeting behaviours, it’s a great way of helping shy or cautious dogs experiencing the world; a nose touch, no matter how tentative, results in a food reward AND the opportunity to move away. Gaining distance and relief may often be the most reinforcing outcome for a worried dog.

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Shut The Front Door!

We can use our target behaviour and apply it to lots of useful and cute exercises; this trick fits both useful and cute!

Using a small target, like a post-it note, on the door, we can teach the dog to close the door with a gently tap of their nose.

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Our awesome students worked hard to get this behaviour on cue, during their workshop, so that they could use their fun verbal cue: “Were you born in a barn?!” for closing the door!

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Option 2 Foot Targeting

Just like nose targeting, teaching the dog to touch feet to targets is versatile and applicable to a wide range of situations. It’s perfect for teaching animals to station in a certain spot, for stepping up on to something, to teach them behaviours that can help with husbandry procedures, and of course, cute tricks!

Start by teaching your dog to put a paw or two onto something flat like a coaster, paper plate or a towel or mat, folded up.

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Note the food reward placement, and where I stand, in relation to the target, here. To get the dog to step on the blanket, I throw the food to the opposite side of it so when the dog returns to me, he must approach or pass over the blanket – we can set him up to  carry out the desired behaviour. This allows for a high rate of reinforcement and rapid learning.

Once your dog is happy to put two feet on a flat target, you can begin to introduce height. Work with a small stool, upturned dog bowl, an upturned pot or similar. Make it big enough that your dog can comfortably fit both feet.

You can increase the difficulty with smaller targets and selecting for specific foot movements (left or right) as your dog progresses.

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Later in #100daysofenrichment, we will introduce rear foot targeting and some rear end awareness and will talk more about foot targeting in relation to foot handling and nail care.

Asking your dog for two-feet-up is a great consent behaviour that your dog can use to let you know they are ok to be groomed or to have their walking equipment fitted (we’ll talk about that later on too!).

Option 3 Chin Targeting

Chin targeting has just about become the new hand targeting for versatility and applicability. Chin targeting may also be preferred by lots of dogs who are sensitive about touching their noses to hands or other things.

Lots of targeting practice here, with my boy:

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I love chin targeting for helping to position the dog for husbandry procedures and it’s great that there is now such interest in teaching dogs behaviours that allow for cooperative care. But, the tendency to aim for behaviours only or primarily, like a chin target, can cause the dog to be put in situations where they don’t feel delighted about what’s happening to them.
Some will say, “but the dog can move away at any time…” and while that might be true, dogs often don’t. Dogs are stoic and often, when overwhelmed with worry, can’t move, or they begin to offer appeasement type behaviours (which may be missed or misinterpreted).
Making sure that the dog learns to move, which is behaviour that needs to be taught too, is an important part of teaching, as well as the development of the necessary observation skills on the human’s part.
With husbandry behaviours, I want to work in comfort building too – helping the dog feel good about the handling experience. That’s why we introduced handling comfort exercises on Day 3 – we can establish that first, and in separate sessions work on targeting, positioning and the behaviours necessary.
Then you can begin to put it altogether so that you have the behaviours and the feelings right.

And we practice comfort + targeting, especially when there has been some sensitivity:

Beginners:

Start with teaching a chin rest in your hand:

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You can use this exact approach to teach the dog to rest their chin on a surface, such as a chair, stool or your lap.

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Intermediate

Build some duration by  delaying the treat, in very small increments. Note the reward positioning in this clip too – these trainers have their their treats coming from behind and often slightly below the dog’s eye line. This helps to keep the dog’s chin in place as they rest in your palm waiting for their treat.

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Advanced

Introduce hands approaching the dog, building toward handling and husbandry. Make sure that you have practiced some comfort with handling too separately though! (Day 3)

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You can see how gradually we add any challenge to these exercises – each time we progress we do so in teeny tiny increments. This is referred to as splitting criteria finely and that makes sure we have time to observe the dog closely for signs of even mild discomfort, while allowing the dog plenty of opportunities to withdraw consent.

Your challenge

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!

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Day 14 Sunday Funday!

Welcome to Day 14 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

 

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Every Sunday during #100daysofenrichment is Sunday Funday! This means you and your pet repeat your favourite challenge or challenges from the week.

You can do it exactly as you did first time round, you can try a different option, build on your progress already established, reinvent and rejig it…what ever you want to do with the last week of challenges!

Monday Day 8

Tuesday Day 9

Wednesday Day 10

Thursday Day 11

Friday Day 12

Saturday Day 13

Your challenge

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!

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Day 13 Sniffing Saturday

Welcome to Day 13 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

sniff

Scatter Feeding

Saturdays during #100daysofenrichment are all about emphasising the dog in all our dogs; all about sniffing and doing dog things.

You really can’t find an easier way of adding sniffing to your dog’s life than Scatter Feeding. It simply involves you tossing food for your dog to sniff out…that’s it!

Last week, for Sniffing Saturday, we went on a Sniffathon. I asked you to get your pet sniffing, for sniffing’s sake; trying not to use food so that your dog can just sniff, interact with his environment and let his nose run wild.

This week, we’re going sniffing for food!

Sniffing for food

Ideally, we would like our dogs to be sniffing out their regular meals, as much as possible. But, some dogs will need a little help to get them going and we can have our dog sniffing for treats too!

Kibble is a pretty versatile food type for enrichment type feeding, and works well for scatter feeding.

You can add kibble in with other yummier treats and scatter those. Or you can make a Training Mix so that kibble smells and tastes yummier, but without having to add extra calories or other foods, should the dog be sensitive or restricted.

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You can improve the smell/taste of kibble by grilling it a little, so that it becomes crunchier and oilier. You might also soak it in stock or other flavouring.

Wet and fresh foods can be a little more challenging:

  • Fresh meats and meat mixes (e.g. raw and home prepared diets) – cut up into small pieces, boiled or baked, frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small individual treats.
    Alternatively, you could use dried or semi-moist meats and cut them into small pieces for scattering. (Note that you feed a smaller volume of dried or dehydrated foods as they are more concentrated.)

 

  • Wet feeds (e.g. canned foods) – frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small, individual treats.

Don’t forget fruit and vegetables too, if you’re dog likes them. Frozen peas are one of Decker’s favourite scattering treats!

Scatter Feeding Challenges

This is something your dog will excel at and it’s not a whole lot of work for you. If looking to convince a pet owner that enrichment feeding is the way to go, Scatter Feeding is the perfect gateway drug.
Measure out the dog’s food in their bowl, and instead of putting the bowl down, toss the food on the floor – simples!

Throughout our 100 day project we will talk lots about further applications of scatter feeding in different situations and as a training tool, but for today, just scatter and sniff!

Enrichment Options

We’ll look at lots of different ways that you can enhance Scatter Feeding, presenting different types of sniffing challenges to your dog. The basic rule is that the more visible the food is, the easier it will be to fine. As the dog improves in both their ability to locate food and their willingness to persist with the challenge, you can use different substrates that will require more sniffing.

Option 1 Scatter Feeding

Simple for humans, sniffing for dogs; win-win!

Beginners

Scatter your dog’s food on the floor, carpet, concrete or artificial grass. The dog can see it, but will likely sniff for lots of it, as that may be more efficient for them.

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Intermediate

Scatter in the grass or bushes. The longer and denser the growth, the more of a challenge.

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Advanced

Scatter food in piles of leaves, very long or thick vegetation or, if you’re lucky enough, snow.

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Somebody told me that, where relevant, piles of leaves can harbour ticks (ewww!). That’s not really a problem for us here in Ireland, but if this is an issue in your locality, scattering elsewhere is better.

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Snow changes the olfactory landscape, presenting great sniffing challenges for dogs and an overall wonderful enriching experience.

Option 2 Snufflemats

Snufflemats have become so popular in the last few years as a wonderful addition to go-to enrichment for many pet owners.

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You can make your own Snufflemat, buy one or re-purpose a bathmat or rug that offers great sniffing challenge for dogs.

If you are crafty and have the time, making a Snufflemat is pretty straight forward. The ones we use at AniEd have been made by one of our amazing trainers, Caterina from Canis Major! There are lots of small businesses making Snufflemats to order.

You need suitable fabric; fleece or microfibre towels work best, but you can use any blanket, denim or firmer material.
And a mat with holes in; door mats and shower mats are best. Choose lighter models as the entire mat can become pretty heavy once all the material is added.

Due to their rising popularity, you can buy commercially manufactured Snufflemats too, like this one.

The easiest and most cost effective approach is to re-purpose a suitable bathmat or rug.

These are usually easily cared for and washed and reasonably priced so if damaged or chewed, they are easy to replace.

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No matter the Snufflemat you choose, the rule is that the more visible the food is, the less of a sniffing challenge it will be. Choose a Snufflemat that is appropriate to your dog’s abilities.
If making a homemade Snufflemat, don’t fill in all the gaps with fabric; add more as your dog gets better and better.

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Snufflemats allow for intense sniffing, no matter the weather or your schedule. They are wonderful for older dogs, or dogs on rest or restricted activity. We will even use them, later in our 100 day project, in training exercises.

Option 3 Alternative Snufflemats

To try to make enrichment as easy and obtainable as possible, for most pet owners, there are some alternatives to Snufflemats that can add a wonderful sniffing challenge to your dog’s meals while not requiring hours of crafting while keeping costs down.

All of these items suggested here I found versions of in homeware and hardware retailers and none of them cost more than €5 (~£4.40 or ~$5.70).

Obviously, be safe whenever using something not meant for dogs. Supervise them closely and know your dog’s tendencies. Don’t use things that you think your dog might chew or ingest, or that might cause him harm.

Some ideas for alternatives include:

  • a car mat with a grid

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  • shower mat with holes (instead of adding fabric to make a Snufflemat)

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  • doormat with holes (instead of adding fabric to make a Snufflemat)

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  • pot holder (lots of different designs)

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  • baking cooling tray or grill/oven shelf

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  • a dish drainer

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Getting your dog sniffing and snuffling has never been easier!

Your challenge

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!

 

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Day 12: Freestyle Friday

Welcome to Day 12 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Freestyle Friday

Now it’s your turn to get creative! Every Friday is Freestyle Friday; we’ll give you the ingredients for a puzzle or enrichment device and you build it.

Rules:

  • you must use all the ingredients
  • you can add anything else you like, or nothing at all
  • whatever you come up with must be enriching

Day 12 Ingredients

You must use the following:

  • eggboxes
  • balls and/or paper cups
  • paper e.g. packing paper, newspaper, kitchen roll, shredded paper (again, play safe and remove staples, clips and so on)

You can add food or toys or anything else appropriate, if you like. Or you can use this as it is.

We can’t wait to see what fun and brain games you and your pet get up to with this one!

Your challenge

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!

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