Day 11 Chewing

Welcome to Day 11 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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Chewing

At a glance:

  • chewing is normal, natural and necessary dog behaviour
  • food based and sensory based enrichment
  • providing appropriate chewing outlets is vital for their health and welfare and to protect your dustructables
  • get the family involved in this one – for the most part, the dog will be doing all the chewing but children might like to help choose suitable chewables and prepare pupsicles
  • chew toys come in all shapes and sizes and canine chewing preferences will vary greatly from individual to individual

What do you need?

  • different chews, edible and inedible, that are appropriate and to your dog’s chewing style, size and preferences
  • muffin pans, ice cube trays, pyramid baking pan, lunchbox, freezer or lunch bag
  • food rewards

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Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage chewing behaviour
  • provide outlets for chewing and dissection related behaviour
  • to encourage interaction with their environment and help in the development of behaviours/strategies for manipulating the item, acquiring edible parts or dissecting
  • help dogs learn to chew appropriate items and provide appropriate outlets for that behaviour
  • to provide dogs with a choice of chewables that satisfy different chewing preferences and goals
  • to encourage dogs to choose and introduce choice into their day to day life
  • to help dogs calm themselves and settle themselves

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

Dogs will chew all sorts of items, whether they are good for them or not! Chewing is a feeding related behaviour, but dogs will regularly engage in chewing behaviour where the end goal is not to acquire food.

Chewing fulfills functions in dogs’ lives beyond food. And while providing food based enrichment is important for dogs, appropriate chewing helps dogs experience new levels in their sensory world, with plenty of crossover between categories of enrichment.

Chewing is goal oriented behaviour so providing exposure to positive stress or eustress. All of the challenges through #100daysofenrichment are designed to provide dogs with lots of opportunities for eustress. The more the animal has experience with good stress, the more resilient they become.

Manipulating the chewable facilitates the development of dexterous skills, contributing to cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing it all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding each chewable, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of satisfying the chewing goal.

Offering different types of chewables that require different sorts of manipulation, provides feedback from different textures and materials, and facilitates different feeding related behaviours can contribute to a well rounded sensory experience for dogs.

Chewing encourages pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the item is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

How can we achieve these goals?

  • provide your dog with a safe, comfy space for chewing
  • make a range of chewables available for your dog
  • use stuffables to help encourage chewing
  • enhance the value to chewables and chewing with some of our tips from today’s challenges
  • choose chewables that are safe and appropriate to your dog’s preferences
  • practice chewing sessions when the house is calm and quiet so that chew toys become associated with chilling out
  • make a range of chewables available during and after excitement so that it’s easy for your dog to access chewing and to learn to seek out chewing as a way of self-calming

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of chewing:

Chewing is part of the canid predatory sequence meaning that all dogs come with a tendency to chew, in-built. Dogs are built to chew. Dogs must get to chew!

There are times during the dog’s life when chewing might be more intense for many individuals.

Chewing will generally increase in intensity from about four months of age, in puppies, as their adult teeth begin to move. For most dogs, their adult teeth will be down by 6 or 7 months of age.

At about 11-13 months of age, lots of dogs will go through what seems like a secondary teething period when their adult teeth bed in as their skull matures.

Chewing appears to provide relief to teething dogs and they may chew quite intensively to ease their discomfort and because their jaws are maturing and their adult teeth are stronger, they become much more effective chewers!

In general, adolescent dogs will chew quite intensively as they continue to experience the world through their mouths and to aid in reducing stress, something that teenagers are quite sensitive to.

Intensive chewing will often be seen in dogs who might not have appropriate outlets for their energy and behaviour, and when they are experiencing high levels of distress. This chewing often becomes a problem for people as the dogs seek out chewing items that may not be meant for them.

But, normal chewing is seen in normal dogs. Dogs must chew.

Chewing behaviour may provide dogs with a range of outlets including opportunities to exercise and hone their jaw muscles, improve manipulation and dissection skills and to get food to ingest.
All of this is important to practice if you are to be a hunter/scavenger, which is what our dogs’ bodies tell them to prepare for.

As companion animals, dogs rarely get to eat foods that truly satisfy all their chewing needs. Even when bones and fresh foods are fed, other chewing outlets are likely required. And if dogs are fed a commercial diet, they probably don’t do much chewing at all to get their food.
That’s why stuffables, that encourage chewing, are so important – dogs are made to chew to get to their food. The types of behaviours and behavioural goals we are satisfying, or attempting to satisfy, are important to consider in enrichment.

Making sure dogs’ behavioural needs are met is an important stress buster, but chewing in and of itself supports the dog’s psychological health. Chewing activates the gastrointestinal system, leading to the production of serotonin, a neurochemical associated with improved recovery from stress and self-calming. Chewing is literally a stress-buster.

It’s no surprise that dogs who are alone, distressed or bored resort to chewing. It’s often labelled ‘destructive’ behaviour because it becomes a behaviour problem for us. But it might indicate that the dog doesn’t have sufficient, appropriate chewing outlets and that’s he seeking comfort and relief from stress.

Stress can be good and bad and dogs will need help to recover from both types; to bring them back down a little and help their body recover. This is important even after good stress, excitement and happy activities, such as play.
Take a chewing break during and after physically or mentally exerting activities.

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Rory had a brief bout of puppy-zoomies after arriving for a PlayDate early, before anyone else.

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Once he got that out of his system, we calmed everything down with a Nylabone dipped in a tiny taste of pate and he worked out the rest:

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Providing access to both chewing and sniffing is a wonderful way of helping your dog calm himself. While chewing helps the release of serotonin, dopamine activates the SEEKING or dopamine systems, which is the brain’s reward system. Chewing and serotonin and sniffing and dopamine helps dogs feel better about their world.

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Enrichment Options

What your dog chews will depend on many individual factors, including:

  • size – choose chewables that look too big for your dog for safety
  • jam edible chews firmly down through a suitably sized stuffable toy, such as a Kong toy.
    When your dog chews down to the part of the chew jammed in the toy, you can easily see that it’s become too small and may not be safe for your dog to have any longer.
    Generally, when the chew becomes so small that it’s difficult for the dog to manipulate and hold in their paws, they might try to chew it up in their mouths for swallowing.
    This may be risky if the chew is small enough to be swallowed but not small enough to pass through the digestive system.
  • you gotta know your dog’s chewing style and intensity – are they likely to ingest? are they likely to break off large parts to eat? how hard do they work at chewing?
  • carefully note the density and hardness of chews – most veterinary dentists will recommend not giving your dog something to chew that is harder than their teeth. They see lots and lots and lots of tooth fractures, that will abscess, and result in pain and often in-depth treatment.
    This is especially important if you have an intense chewer – that dog will likely work harder at chewing and be more likely to hurt himself. It always comes down to knowing your dog!
  • bones as chews are controversial in dog care, with lots of polarised and opposing views. I most certainly do not want to get into a discussion about feeding approaches here and our entire program is designed to be adapted by each individual pet owner for their individual pet, so we won’t be getting religious about food and feeding for dogs (or anything else, for that matter)!
    But, weight bearing bones are very hard and may cause tooth fractures in intense chewers, and when bones are presented, especially if meaty, dogs will often chew intensively.
    First off, no feeding cooked bones. Ever. Cooked bones will shard and splinter and may cause injuries to the mouth, and perforations to the gastrointestinal system.
    Many pet suppliers sell cooked bones and air dried bones. I am concerned about splintering and swallowing pieces of these bones.
    Lots of bone in the diet and the digestive system will lead to constipation.
    If you must do bone, choose raw non-weight bearing bones or raw bones suitable to your individual dog and their chewing style.
  • Lots of pet suppliers produce dried “natural” chews that are often semi-moist or dried organs, skin and other body parts.
    Semi-moist treats, such as dried skin of fowl like chicken and duck, will come in packaging that contains little packets of silicone to absorb moisture during storage. These little packets will obviously smell yummy but highly dangerous should a dog ingest them. Take great care in disposing of the little silicone packet as soon as you open the treats, making sure your pet can’t get to it, and store unopened treats carefully. Remember, dogs will chew through plastic packaging to get to even dangerous items.
    Care must also be taken when adding such edible chews to the diet and an understanding of the effects on the dog’s diet.
    For example, skin based chews, even if dried, may be very high in calories.
    For example, dried liver will have high levels of vitamins A and D and this may contribute to unbalancing the dog’s diet.
    For example, feeding dried gullets, trachea etc. has been associated with increased risk of dietary induced hyperthyroidism. If thyroid tissue remains it and thyroxine may be ingested. Thyroxine will not be broken down during digestion and can be absorbed and used by the body. (Broome et al, 2015)

Be careful adding lots of novel proteins to your dog’s diet – it’s pretty trendy right now for all sorts of proteins to be available in foods and treats. It’s a good idea to hold back on feeding a couple of readily available novel proteins so that if your dog does develop a dietary sensitivity, which will likely be to protein content, you will have some novel proteins that you can try instead.

  • rawhide gets lots of attention on social media and although there are probably lots of dodgy products available, these popular treats can be chosen carefully by going for products that have been produced in the EU (or the US) and choosing a chew that’s made from one continuous sheet of hide. These good quality products can be difficult to find, though.
    Rawhide softens quickly in saliva and your dog will be able to bite off chunks. These will not be so easily digested and may cause impactions.
    Lots of rawhide will also lead to flatulence!

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Option 1 Choose Chewables for Chewing

What your dog chews will depend on your dog. Know your dog. Consider safety and some of the factors above.

Here are some of our favourite chewables for dogs, but they won’t work for every dog. Check these out as examples so that you can find other brands or types of toys with similar qualities.
The links here are just for illustrative purposes – you may need to source chews from local or more appropriate suppliers.

Tough Enough for Charlie is run by one of our CBTT trainers and is a newly developed Irish company, so we love to support them. Check them out as they stock lots of our recommendations!

  • Stuffables and many other toys in related ranges such as Kong toys, K9 Connectables, Westpaw Zogoflex
    By adding food to stuffable toys, the dog will be encouraged to chew and engage with the toys, making the dog more likely to seek them out to get their chewing jollies.
  • Nylabones and similar chews
  • GoughNuts are pretty tough toys for tough chewers and some models have a colourised safety system so you can quickly identify when chews need to be replaced.
  • Some of the Busy Buddy range make for durable chew toys.
  • Lots of the Orbee range are tough chews
  • Playology offer lots of tough chew toys that are scented to increase engagement.
  • Lots of dogs like to chew on rope toys but for some, these can be risky in terms of ingesting large chunks of rope strands.
    Recently, I have found a more ribbon type rope toy (below left) in many pet shops and suppliers. This material looks to be less likely to thread and may be less risky for dogs who like to chew ropes.

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Some times dogs might need some encouragement to chew; try taking a plain inedible chew and dipping it in your dog’s favourite spreadable. Freeze for a couple of hours. This will often perk their interest and they will get stuck in.
Rotate chews (and other toys) as dogs are often attracted to novelty.

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  • Coffeewood, Chew Roots and filled roots are widely available and apparently sustainable. These can also be suitable for dogs who have dietary sensitivities as they don’t contain animal protein, which are often the allergen culprit.
  • Antlers, filled antlers and half antlers – please be careful with the density of these chews. They are sized in terms of density, rather than length. Generally, the further from the body the antler grew, the less dense and safer they are as a chew.
    Half antlers may present a safer option.
  • Horns – I prefer bull horns that grew further from the head as, when chewed, they soften readily and become more fingernail like.
  • Hoofs and filled hoofs – again watch for how tough they are and their size with them sometimes being tricky to hold while chewing for lots of dogs.
  • “Natural” chews come in many shapes, and sizes, and are usually dried, such as: pizzles, dried scalp, tendons, ears from different species e.g. cows, pigs, rabbits, and with or without fur, offal and meats like liver, lung, stomach/tripe, skin and hearts, gullets and fowl necks, oxtails, fish skins and dried fowl feet.
  • Many long lasting edible chews may also be available such as Greenies, Yakers and some of the Nylabone or similar ranges.

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“But, he destroys EVERYTHING!”

Pet owners often lament that they can’t get anything for their dog, because he destroys toys and chews so quickly.

When we are looking to see what sorts of activities a dog finds rewarding, we first look to what the dog is currently doing. If the dog is destroying things, that might very well be what he needs to do. He’s simply getting his jollies.

Human rules and expectations are so often arbitrary to dogs – minding a toy or not destroying an expensive chew is beyond the cares or concerns of dogs. The point of his interactions with the toy were probably to dissect and destroy!

Dogs need a range of chewing outlets so I don’t just buy the toughest of the tough for Decker. He clearly needs to dissect and chew up, so I get toys that allow him to do that. And boy, does he do it; I have yet to find a toy that this dog can’t and won’t chew up.

Option 2 Pupsicles

Frozen food and treats can provide great chewing outlets for some dogs who enjoy that.

Use any freezable containers, such as :

  • lunchboxes or bowls

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  • freezer or lunch bags

pupsicle

  • upturned non-slip dog bowls

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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

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  • 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

Pupsicles ideas:

  • 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.

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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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Week 3 Equipment List

Week 2 is almost halfway done and I have been asked to post the list on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays so we’ll see how this goes; hopefully nobody gets too confused!

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 3 you will need:

  • small plastic tub, with lid, such as a cream cheese tub, vegetable tubs, take away plastic tubs or similar; ideally with lids but not essential

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  • eggboxes
  • balls (a safe size for your pet)
  • paper cups
  • paper, packing paper, wrapping paper, newspaper, kitchen roll
  • a range of food rewards
  • Stuffables
  • a stool or similar surface that your dog could easily and comfortably get their front feet on to
  • a stool or chair that has a seat at about your dog’s chin height
  • blanket, towel, hand towel, face cloth
  • spatula, wooden spoon, plastic fly swatter
  • post-it notes
  • your dog’s walking equipment, e.g. collar, harness, lead

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

  • paper e.g. packing paper, newspaper, kitchen roll, shredded paper (again, play safe and remove staples, clips and so on), cardboard

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

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Day 10 Choice & Choosing – beds and bedding

Welcome to Day 10 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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Beds & Bedding

At a glance:

  • providing dogs with a choice of resting places based on their preferences
  • habitat and sensory based enrichment
  • functional spaces are a basic requirement for dogs, contributing to their welfare
  • get the family involved in this one – while a lot of this enrichment challenge is observation based, there are some simple training exercises that children might enjoy participating in
  • sit back, do some observation; move some beds about or engage in some simple training exercises…most of which require you to just sit about!

What do you need?

  • different beds and bedding
  • a range of foods that can be used as food rewards
  • a mat, blanket or towel

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Enrichment Goals:

  • to provide a choice in resting places and bedding types
  • to encourage dogs to choose and introduce choice into their day to day life
  • to provide dogs with functional spaces – this means that the has safe access to different areas that are defined by different activities
  • to teach dogs to move to a specific location when asked and remain there, even in the face of distractions
  • to help dogs calm themselves and settle themselves
  • 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 build that bond between dog and human
  • 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 lie down on a bed) 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).

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Choice & Choosing

Throughout their day, dogs must make choices about which behaviours to demonstrate. For the most part, dogs would choose behaviours that we would probably not like so we ‘train’ in the hope that the dog will choose behaviours we prefer. This is why #100daysofenrichment is so important for dogs.

No matter what approach or attitude to teaching your dog you take, we are training the dog to choose our preference rather than theirs. We teach dogs to be less dog, so we can live with them. Getting to be more dog is the central tenet of #100daysofenrichment!

Reinforcing behaviours makes them happen more often so the dog is more likely to choose behaviours with a good reinforcement history. Punishing behaviours makes them happen less often so dogs learn to avoid choosing those behaviours.

Our dogs are learning to train their environment, including us humans. How easily trained are you?
Does your dog know how to get you to provide things he likes? Do you make it really easy for him to do that? He chooses behaviours that get you producing reinforcers.

Why we want to maximise reinforcement based approaches is so that our dog isn’t learning to avoid situations that produce punishers because them might include avoiding us.
I want dogs to enjoy choosing behaviours I like…it’s the least I can do, given they might actually prefer to do something else.

Life can’t offer free or even abundant choice; too much choice isn’t beneficial at all! But, where we can, I believe we owe it to dogs, who get so little choice about everything in their lives, to allow them to make some choices, learn that their behaviour makes a difference, and get to be more dog.

We have many more Choice & Choosing challenges over the 100 days so this will be a theme we revisit.

I have battled with and rambled on about choice in dog training before and continue to investigate the best ways to empower pets and other animals with whom we are in contact.
Susan Friedman has been talking about choice in animal teaching forever; choice is a primary reinforcer, she teaches, and that means that animals will naturally seek out situations where choice is available. If it’s evolved as a primary reinforcer (nature selects for this tendency) it’s pretty vitally important to animals, just as food, water, shelter and sex are.

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

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How can we achieve these goals?

  • think about the sorts of decisions your dog has to make in living in the human world; what are they basing those decisions on (what’s reinforcing the chosen option, what’s punishing the rejected options?)
  • observe the decisions your pet makes about resting locations – where? when? what heights? what substrate? how do they settle? do they ‘make a “nest”‘?
  • based on those observations, how can we provide them with better choices for bedtimes?
  • practice the training exercise components of today’s challenges when your dog is already calm and work in conditions that he might choose to settle in
  • use food rewards that don’t get the dog too excited
  • use stuffables to facilitate settling and calming, especially stuffables that encourage lapping

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of choice in resting:

Being able to rest comfortably and safely is no luxury, it’s vital for health and well-being.

Today’s challenge goes beyond that. As important as having a safe and comfy resting place is, considering and providing choice for your dog has wide-reaching, positive implications.

Dogs who know their choices count, can use behaviour to ask for relief, then can ask for things they need.
They don’t need to badger and they don’t need to aggress. Choices allow dogs to navigate the human world with confidence because they can control what happens to them.

It might seem like we are starting small but these little moves toward offering more choice can have a big effect.
You will providing comfy, safe resting places, improved recovery from stress, plus a little bit more predictability and controlability. That’s what appropriate choice does – it busts stress and boosts confidence.

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Enrichment Options

We often presume that our pets experience a good standard of welfare because they live a life similar to ours, in the human world. This is especially the case for pet dogs.

But, what would our dogs choose, if they had the choice?

Are they just resting in a place because we have reinforced that behaviour, because it largely suits us?
Are they choosing to settle in a particular spot because it’s close to us, rather than providing them with their preferences?
Are ‘dog beds’ designed to appeal to dogs or humans?

Although often used to describe dogs, they are not den animals. We can look to free living dogs for ideas about what dogs might choose, if they are not completely burdened by human life and living. Free-living dogs might have young puppies hidden in a den, but the adult dogs don’t really spend much time there.

While looking at species typical tendencies gives us some clues, we must also look at the individual’s preferences for answers. And to do that, we must ask the dog.

I have no doubt, if you are joining in on our project, you are doing a wonderful job at providing the best dog-life for your dog.
We can’t possibly offer our dogs all the choices, or indeed many options they would prefer, despite our best intentions. But we can certainly offer them better choices – two crappy options are no better than no choice at all.

So, today, our mission is to find our dogs better choices by asking them. Giving them the option to choose, and making sure their choices are meaningful. Their behaviour matters. Today, we ask the dog.

Option 1: Beds & bedding

We are going to arrange and rearrange our dog’s environment, their beds/resting places/begging, to see what options they choose and which ones they prefer.

You might already have formed conclusions about your dog’s resting preferences. Test those interpretations by offering other choices to really ask them what they prefer.

  • where?
    Where does your dog choose to rest?
    Is he only resting there because he’s beside you? What happens if you move?
    Is he only resting there because that’s where you have put his bed? What happens if the bed is moved?
    Is he only resting there because he can keep an eye on the goings on or because he can avoid the chaos?
  • Add other beds, rather than moving the existing beds, to provide other options.

 

Decker, as always, choosing to rest in the most convenient of places!

  • when?
    When does your dog rest?
    When you are busy or occupied?
    When you’re not available?
    After or before particular activities or occurrences?
  • Keep a log. What just happened? Where does your dog rest in response?
    Can we provide preferred beds in preferred places at particular times?

 

Just because it doesn’t look comfortable to us, doesn’t mean it’s not the dog’s choice!

  • how does your dog rest?
    Check out the positions in which your dog rests – sphinx, on his side, frog legs, curled up, on his back…?
  • Does your dog prepare to settled? He might turn and then lie down, he might dig at his bed before lying down, maybe he just plonks down and falls asleep!
    When and where does he do what he does?
  • Does your dog make a nest? He might turn and dig at his bed, he might rearrange bedding or attempt to.

Decker is a nest builder. He will manipulate his bedding to form a pillow and a little hollow, in which he can curl up.

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To allow him this option, I make sure he has a variety of beds and bedding to choose from. If he wishes to make a nest, he needs loose bedding. In this clip, he has a rug on the floor for insulation and he will also roll in it, he has a cushion type dog bed and a loose blanket. He will manipulate the blanket to form a pillow and will move about the dog bed and then curl up on it, leaving against part of it, under it or behind it.

This invariably happens when he is settling for a proper sleep, rather than just resting. Decker is a big fan of sleeping! And comfort!

 

  • ambient conditions
    Try providing bedding options in different ambient conditions. Maybe one part of the room or space is warmer or cooler at different times of the day.
    Can the dog access a suitable resting place when hot and when cold?

 

Decker is a heat seeker!

  • environmental conditions
    Provide bedding to see how much the dog wishes to rest amidst the action and so they can choose to remove themselves for a break.
    Dogs often like to keep an eye on their humans, on entrance and exit points, on cooking and eating and they might like to avoid the hoover or other situations they don’t like.

 

Decker will rest where ever I am!

  • social sleeping
    Dogs often prefer to sleep close to their nearest and dearest. This is safer and is important for group bonding. Dogs don’t necessarily need touching or petting, just getting to sleep or rest up next to a bonded individual seems to be their thing. Maybe they just like to be in the same room so that they can rest with company or maybe they want full on body contact.

 

 

  • have you tried different types of beds and bedding?
    Maybe your dog would prefer a bed with a lip on it or one without. Maybe they would prefer a flat mat or something more cushioned. Maybe they like to have different bedding types in different places.
    Like Decker, maybe they like a combination of bedding. Perhaps providing that will encourage them to make their own bed or choose the one they prefer.

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  • have you explored height?
    It is very common for dogs to like resting on a raised surface. Piling up the dog beds might be chosen. Putting their bed onto a chair, a tub or on another upturned dog bed, on a crate or up on a step. Perhaps this is provide a better vantage point, perhaps it’s associated with them preferring to be up off the ground.
    There are also a number of commercially available raised beds that many dogs love.

 

  • human furniture
    Whether you like or want your dog on your furniture is up to you. There is no great social significance to your dog being up on your bed or sofa – this will not lead to them attempting a take-over.

But valued resting places may be guarded, and dogs might prefer not to be approached, touched, manipulated when in these spots, often because there has been a history of moving the dog from these locations. Losing out on access to resources may lead lots of dogs to resource guard. Humans approaching means they are about to lose out, so they might signal that they want humans to go away with freezing, whale-eye, growling, snarling, snapping and even biting. If this is happening, get help.
Teach your dog to get off furniture on cue. Lure them or encourage them off, rather then grabbing them or attempting to intimidate them. Don’t give them a reason to guard.

Dogs probably choose human furniture because it’s comfortable (that’s what it’s supposed to be!) and because you’re there and you spend time there. It might be the height, it might be that it allows them to sleep next to you (something dogs often love, just being), maybe it’s the best option for them.

If up on the furniture is not for you, or your dog, sit with them on the floor. Layout a bed or bedding and sit on it. See does your dog choose to rest with you. Maybe it’s not about being on the sofa, maybe it’s about being with you.

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Today, make observations and test your interpretations. Today, we ask the dog.

Option 2: Park your Pup

This simple exercise has some really helpful applications and is great for bringing your dog places and helping your dog learn to settle and occupy themselves when the humans are busy or trying to relax too.

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For practicing this exercise, you need:

  • a mat or bed for your dog
  • their lead and collar
  • a stuffable and some food rewards – make sure the stuffable is filled with something that encourages lapping to aid settling
  • a chair for yourself

Parking involves securing our dog, via their lead, under one foot and a stuffable for them to work on, under the foot. This keeps the dog and the stuffable in one place and their lapping behaviour rewards their settling.

This is a great exercise for puppies or young dogs to help them to learn how to chill when the family are relaxing in the evening time. And it’s the perfect exercise to practice to help prepare your dog for resting quietly beside you at a cafe or some event.

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Start with this bit so that you and your get used to the procedure. Reward with some food rewards and then give your dog a stuffable so they can relax, while you sit back and relax. Lazy dog training for the win!

Practice Parking exercises lots and lots, even for just a few minutes at a time, during the day in different rooms and when you are engaged in different activities.

Practice Parking during your walks; about halfway through your walk with your dog, stop and take a break for a stuffable. Park your dog, relax and just be.

When you bring your dog to a place that is helped by Parking, sit with your dog positioned inside of you so they are not being approached all the time, so they have their own space and so that they can just chill, without social pressure. They just want to relax and enjoy their stuffable. Make it possible.

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We teach Parking in all our classes, as well as using it as a way of safely managing puppy and dog behaviour in the distracting class environment, and we use it at seminars or workshops, and when our dogs must attend events.

Parking is also a wonderful tool to help your dog calm after excitement; after walks, after training and play, after excitement and arousal.

By helping establish stuffables as a calming aid, and adding Parking, you relaxing and sitting down becomes a cue for your dog to chill. Lots of practice to get there so start Parking your Pup today!

Option 3: Matwork

Matwork is one of my favourite life skills to work on with pet dogs. It’s one of the first things I work on with new dogs and it’s something that I will continue to work on throughout that dog’s time with me.

 

Baby Decker’s second day home and his first matwork session!

Matwork teaches your dog to stick to their mat. We build value in being on the mat by making it the most rewarding place to be. Think of all the mischief your dog can’t get up to if lying quietly on their mat…!

Matwork helps at a number of different levels:

  •  your dog has a place to go that’s safe and theirs
  • their mat is a pleasant place to be as that’s where rewards happen
  • allows you to manage dog behaviour; if your dog is exhibiting behaviour you don’t like, instead of thinking how to stop that unwanted behaviour, instead ask: “what would I prefer my dog to do?” Lying quietly on their mat ticks a lot of boxes and solves a lot of problems!
  • teaches your dog to make more polite choices
  • helps with polite greetings behaviour, when the doorbell sounds, when the doors are open, when there’s activity, when you’re eating or working and becomes a mobile signal to settle and relax

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This clip shows a real-time session with me introducing down and matwork to a rescue dog, Gracie, just before she goes to her new home. 

Practice matwork in short sessions of a few minutes at a time. If your dog is fidgety or finding it difficult to settle, work for shorter periods and practice more Parking to help them build some duration first.

It’s often better to use less exciting food rewards for matwork so that your dog isn’t too wound up by the anticipation of yummy food.

Beginners: teaching down

Start by teaching your dog to lie down on their mat.

Use the same mat for this work and tidy it away when you’re not training. Initially, we want the mat to be associated with rewards so if it’s just lying there at other times, it starts to use some value.

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If you want to progress to teaching your dog to lying down on a verbal cue, this clip will bring your through the stages.

To help your dog relax, teach them to lie down in a more relaxed position. What happens on the outside of the body can help affect what’s happening on the inside; more relaxed behaviour can help the dog feel more relaxed.

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Beginners: the mat is the place to be

Once your dog can lie down on the mat, we can begin to establish lying on the mat as the place to be. Note that we don’t need to ask the dog to lie down on their mat; we want the mat to be the signal to lie down there.

Practice some shaping exercises. Shaping is an approach to teaching that breaks the big, goal behaviour down into small achievable steps. We’ve given your dog a headstart as we have already taught them to lie on the mat. Now we are going to let them work it out a little.

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Intermediate: mat down, lie down

Now that the dog can find their mat and lie on it, we can begin to further establish that idea by practicing this exercise. Take the mat up between each trial when you toss the treat away for the dog to get. When they return, lay out the may again so they can practice lying on it immediately.

If they can’t quite do that, just go back to practicing easier exercises. Your dog is giving you information that they need more practice and more support.

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Intermediate: building duration

Your dog can lie on their mat and they know that lying on their mat is the place to be…now let’s make lying on the mat for longer and longer durations more and more rewarding.

We will use a technique referred to as 300 Peck to build duration. This is a reward-system that helps us build duration in behaviours by always working within the dog’s abilities.

Start with your dog lying happily on their mat. Start every session with five rewards, one after another, delivered on the mat. Instead of tossing a reward off the mat to reset, start our counting game:

Count 1, reward on the mat
Count 1, 2, reward on the mat
Count 1, 2, 3, reward on the mat
Count 1, 2, 3, 4, reward on the mat

And so on…

If your dog gets up, go back and start at one again. But instead of getting into a cycle of breaking, just practice up to five using 300 Peck. And then work on sessions up to ten, then up to 20 and so on.

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Your dog is learning lots, just with these simple exercises: they are learning that the mat is the place good things happen, they are learning that them just lying there makes rewards happen, they are learning to lie on the mat for longer and longer, and we are thinning out the number of rewards so they are learning to lie on their may for longer durations between rewards.

Intermediate: building distance

In class, we tend to approach this exercise a little more formally and apply 300 Peck to the number of steps taken away from the dog.

This clip shows how gradually we begin with this exercise with some young puppies; just standing up straight is the first stage of adding distance!

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By using 300 Peck, you build distance in half steps or one step at a time:

Stand up straight, reward
Rock back, reward
Half a step back, return, reward
One step back, return reward
One and a half steps back, return, reward
Two steps back, return, reward

And so on.

But, at home, you can work a little less formally. You can move about the room in a more real-life fashion, always returning to reward and rewarding very regularly, every couple of seconds or so at the beginning.

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Practice in short sessions of 5-10 rewards. Place the mat where you are working – step away and back in mock-up real-life situations, such as going to the counter and coming back, sitting at the table, putting something away.

If your dog is breaking more than once, you’ve pushed too much. Make it easier by staying closer and rewarding more often.

Advanced: Doing Nothing

With mat behaviour established, we can begin to help our dogs become better and better at just lying on their mat, calm and relaxed.

We do two exercises to help with this: capturing calmness and thinning ROR (rate of reward).

Start by thinning ROR – this simply means that we reward less.

  • set the timer on your phone for 30 seconds
  • line up ten rewards and deliver these over the 30 seconds
  • each successive round, use one less reward until you just have one to deliver
  • now set the timer for 60 seconds with ten rewards and repeat

Vary the time, vary the rewards. Keep it calm and quiet.

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Now you are effectively capturing calmness. Sit back and catch your dog doing nothing. Culturally, we are programmed to catch a learner in the act, getting it wrong, making a mistake. In our program, we catch the dog doing the right thing!

Looking calmer, being quiet, lying on their mat, doing nothing. These behaviours earn calm praise, the quiet delivery of a piece of kibble, quietly sitting beside them, providing a calming massage (if that’s what they’re into).

Doing nothing is an advanced skill that doesn’t come naturally to most dogs. Work your way through, take your time, make it achievable for your dog every step of the way.

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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Decker warms up his brain on his mat, in the sun!

 

Day 9 Busy Boxes

Welcome to Day 9 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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Busy Boxes don’t always need to be food puzzles…empty boxes keep Decker plenty busy!

Busy Boxes

At a glance:

  • smaller boxes with fun and puzzles inside
  • food based enrichment
  • add food, add packing, add a teaser, add a busy box, add a stuffable
  • 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 busy boxes for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Busy box prep will probably take you about five minutes – having a collection of Busy Box stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!

 

 

What do you need?

  • cardboard boxes, smaller boxes are better for today’s challenges or smaller plastic tubs may also work

 

 

  • paper e.g. packing paper, kitchen roll, newspaper etc.
  • eggboxes
  • balls
  • paper cups
  • plastic tray inserts from sweets, biscuits etc.
  • cardboard cup holders

cupholder

 

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 Busy Box 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 empty get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the boxes 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.

Busy boxes 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 Busy Box 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 Busy Boxes 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 Busy Boxes:

I love using Busy Boxes to keep dogs occupied as they offer different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively.

Truth be told, Decker doesn’t even require any food in the box at all; he’s happy with a box, just to manipulate, wrestle and destroy!

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Busy Boxes also are truly adaptable – there really is no limit to how they can be adapted to suit different puzzling levels.

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What I tend to see, though, when Busy Boxes are given to dogs, is that well-meaning owners 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 Busy Box 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.

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Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in Busy Boxes, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, Busy Boxes may not work or you might try using a plastic tub and supervise them closely. They will still eat plastic, 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 Busy Box 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?

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Option 1: Have Box. Add food. 

This is your starting point and it’s pretty simple…just get your box and add some food.

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

Beginners:

  • open the box and leave it open
  • you can tear off the lid if needed, especially if it bothers or worries the dog
  • toss the food in there and give it to the dog
  • the shape of the box might alter the challenge, with a wider, lower side, open box being easier to access

 

Intermediate:

  • add the food and close over lid but not tightly

Advanced:

  • add the food and close the lid

 

Option 2: Pack it!

Beginners:

  • add paper loosely and scatter food into the box
  • mix it around to encourage lots of foraging
  • packing paper from deliveries or torn up paper bags are great for this, but newspaper or kitchen roll works well too

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Boxes with openings, like Easter Egg boxes are great for Busy Boxes stuffed with packing paper!

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Intermediate: Treat Parcels – paper

  • wrap treats in individual treat parcels and add to the box

 

  • you can add more loose paper to the box to increase the challenge

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Advanced: Treat Parcels – tubes & cups

  • make treat parcels from toilet roll tubes or paper cups – just fold the cardboard over the treat
  • add to the box alone or with loose paper
  • combine with paper treat parcels to make it interesting

 

Option 3: Have box. Add Stuffable.

Stuffables are a great way of adding challenge to Busy Boxes, and Busy Boxes are a great way to add challenge to stuffables!

Check out Day 1 for Stuffables ideas!

Beginners & Intermediate:

  • add varying challenge by increasing or decreasing the difficulty of the stuffable
  • pop the stuffable in the box
  • add loose packing paper to present a real foraging challenge

stuffable in box

Advanced:

  • make a stuffed tube or tubes and add to the box
  • alternatively you can use paper cups
  • stuff a paper treat parcel into the tube or cup and add to the box
  • you can add several and/or add loose packing paper too

 

Option 4: Add a Teaser!

Teasers are puzzles where the dog must move one thing to reveal their treat. We most often use balls, paper cups and toilet rolls in muffin pans, plastic trays from chocolates or similar and cardboard cup holders.

For this challenge, we are going to use those left over plastic insert trays from boxes of sweets, chocolates or biscuits. If you don’t have one, use a cardboard cup holder.

Getting into the box is only the start of the challenge…

Beginners:

  • place food rewards into each space in the insert and add to the box

 

Intermediate:

  • make a teaser using the tray and food rewards
  • add balls, that are a safe size for your dog. over each treat
  • all into the box

 

  • add paper treat parcels to each space in the tray and stick that in the box

add packing to tray to box

  • use toilet rolls wedged into suitably sized spaces in the tray, over each treat
  • add to the box

tube teaser

  • pop food rewards into each tray space and wedge paper cups over each treat

 

Advanced:

  • add food rewards to each space in the tray and then stack the trays
  • you can make this a little easier by adding food, then some packing paper to each space and then stacking another tray on top

 

  • don’t worry if you don’t have a tray, you can use paper cups instead
  • lay treats in the box and wedge paper cups over them, covering them
  • wedge paper or even toilet roll tubes around the cups to keep them in place if required

 

Option 5: Busy Box in a Box

The difficulty level lies in how challenging you make the Busy Box in a Box. Start with Beginner’s level challenges and increase the difficulty as your pet improves and their behavioural repertoire broadens.

Take any of the simple or more complex Busy Boxes described here (or invented) and add to another box!

 

Eggboxes and tissue boxes can be stuffed with food and packing and jammed into a box for a quite Busy Box in a Box.

Simply add a packed Busy Box, with some other loose paper to a box for a simple Busy Box in a Box:

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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!

mess
You just need to clean up the mess!

 

Day 8: Body Awareness – cavaletti

Welcome to Day 8 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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Cavaletti

At a glance:

  • borrowed from the horse world, cavaletti are small jumps for stepping or trotting over, rather than leaping (for the most part)
  • cognitive and sensory based enrichment
  • often used in training for sports dogs and for rehab after injury, trauma or surgery
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love setting up challenges like this for their pets. It’s probably better than an adult to help the dog move over the obstacles though as this requires a level of care and coordination, particularly at the beginning.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • practice in very short sessions of 2-5 minutes at a time – this can be very tiring, both mentally and physically so it’s important that you work for very short sessions

 

What do you need?

  • eggboxes – you can stack them for more height, but is generally a suitable height for starting out

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  • drinks cans (empty) – crush them to adjust their height; just squeeze in the middle so that the ends provide stability

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  • broom or mop handles
  • walk sticks, crutches
  • bamboo or similar light poles
  • flat lying ladder

 

 

  • food rewards – it’s better to use soft food rewards for this one so that they don’t roll on the floor too much, which is important for these challenges

We are talking homemade cavaletti here, but you can go all out on this one, if you have any of the following:

  • PVC pipes, cut to size
  • pool noodles

 

  • sports cones – the collapsible types are ideal (lower right) for safety and because they have lots of holes in them allowing for adjustments and movement

 

Some resources will show upturned laundry baskets being used, but we need to take care. We want what ever the poles are suspended into be easily moved should the dog bang off it or tumble over a pole.

You will see that we have used all sorts of things as cavaletti including chairs, cones of different types, plastic tubs and hula hoops. You can keep this as simple as you need to though!

Enrichment Goals:

  • to help dogs develop awareness of how their body moves, where their limbs are and how to adjust and shift their weight to compensate during physical challenge
  • to provide physical and mental challenge to pet dogs
  • to encourage dogs to interact with novel or weird things in their environment
  • to help dogs develop confidence through enhanced body awareness
  • to help dogs slow down and think about how they move and physically interact with their environment
  • to help prevent injury, improve fitness, lengthen stride, increase back and core strength

Cavaletti are used in the dog-world most often to improve an individual’s propioception. This refers to helping the animal develop better awareness of where their body is in space.

This might not sound like a terribly challenging concept, but I can assure you that many dogs have difficulty with this, and if dogs are to train or compete in sports, especially those that require repetitive activities, and dogs recovering from injury or surgery, these exercises can be very beneficial.

While this challenge is certainly cognitive, the dogs are also experiencing sensory challenge and we are adding enrichment to their environment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Cavaletti can be especially helpful for puppies, whose brains are forming resulting in improving coordination as the relevant brain areas mature, and for older dogs whose cognitive abilities and coordination may be disimproving as they age.

Shy puppies can be particularly helped and given a big confidence boost with cavaletti work. They are learning to interact with their environment, being exposed to novel stimuli and sensory experiences, and engaging their cognitive and sensory systems…literally growing puppy brains!

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

How can we achieve these goals?

  • take your time with this one and listen carefully to your pet
  • some dogs will be reluctant to pass over the poles on the floor or ground so leave out the cavaletti arrangement and just allow them to check it out in their own time, without you using food to lure them or encouraging them too much
  • setting up cavaletti on grass or on a non-slip rug or runner, bath mat or yoga mat can help improve the dog’s comfort and increase their willingness and confidence; this is also safer
  • this is not a race – the goal here is to help the dog move slowly over each pole so that they need to think about placing each foot, weight shifting and compensating for different heights and strides
  • work with your dog on lead if required to help them move a little slower but don’t use lead pressure, otherwise they will need to further compensate
  • walk through the cavaletti with your dog and place a treat in each space so that your dog stops and steps over each pole individually and slowly
  • don’t lure your pet, with food in your hand; drop a treat in each space so that your dog has to get it

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Cavaletti:

Cavaletti, in the horse, world are used to improve balance, fitness and stride. In dog sports and rehab, it’s applied for pretty similar benefits.

But, this work really can help in other, ‘everyday’ ways too.

My favourite application of cavaletti and other body awareness exercises is with dogs who can have difficulty coping with the ups and downs of the world; dogs who exhibit behaviour associated with cautiousness, shyness or fear, dogs who may show behaviours associated with excitability, frenetic movements, and who have a hard time calming after getting wound up.

Although these dogs’ responses may seem very different, their behaviour may be associated with having difficulty coping with swings in stress, having a hard time recovering and losing control fast.

Getting them thinking about their movement helps them to think rather than react and boosts their confidence on a number of levels.

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Enrichment Options

Option 1: Cavaletti foundations

Start by using similar poles in a course of at least four obstacles.

Roughly measure the distance from the floor to your dog’s elbow; that’s the distance between each pole. The dog should be able to complete one stride or step between two poles.
For short legged/long backed dog like Dachsies, this needs to be a greater distance. These dogs will complete two strides or steps between two poles.

You might have to experiment a little for your dog’s comfort.

Have each pole at a similar height and the same distance apart.
This helps the dog get the game – they build their confidence because all they need to think about is stepping over the poles and they don’t need to worry about adjusting to varying heights or strides, yet.

Beginners:

  • set up a cavaletti course of four obstacles
  • work on a non-slip surface or on a yoga mat or similar
  • you will step sideways through the course (carefully!) alongside your dog
  • as you step, drop one treat into the space between the pole – try to get just ahead of your dog so there is continuous but slow and steady movement
  • while your dog eats a treat, you step ahead and drop the next one – it might take some practice to get into a rhythm so don’t give up!

Intermediate:

  • set up exactly the same
  • this time, drop one treat between the middle poles and one treat after the last pole
  • only begin to reduce the number of treats between each pole when your dog gets the game
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back to the Beginners stage and continue to practice

Advanced:

  • set up as you have done before
  • have treats in a little bowl after the last pole only
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back a stage

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With your dog progressing, they will begin to move a little faster through the obstacles. Speeding up to a trotting gait is fine, but they shouldn’t move any faster than that. If they do speed up, go back to feeding between poles.
Remember, the point here is to encourage them to think about each body movement, each step. The faster they go, the less they think.

Option 2: Mix it up

It’s important that your dog gets the cavaletti game before starting with this option. There’s no hurry here – progress according to you and your dog’s abilities. Take your time – really invest in building the dog’s confidence with this set-up.

As before, a course of four cavalettis is fine. But this time, we will be mixing it up a little; have poles that are at differing heights and vary the distance between them. This will engage your dog’s sensory and cognitive systems even more.

Beginners:

  • set up a cavaletti course of four obstacles
  • work on a non-slip surface or on a yoga mat or similar
  • you will step sideways through the course (carefully!) alongside your dog
  • as you step, drop one treat into the space between the pole – try to get just ahead of your dog so there is continuous but slow and steady movement
  • while your dog eats a treat, you step ahead and drop the next one – it might take some practice to get into a rhythm so don’t give up!

Intermediate:

  • set up exactly the same
  • this time, drop one treat between the middle poles and one treat after the last pole
  • only begin to reduce the number of treats between each pole when your dog gets the game
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back to the Beginners stage and continue to practice

Advanced:

  • set up as you have done before
  • have treats in a little bowl after the last pole only
  • if your dog jumps, knocks poles or moves too quickly, go back a stage

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Body awareness work is very tiring for dogs because it is such exerting physical and mental exercise. Just like a good Sniffathon, you might be surprised just how tiring your dog will find these exercises.

Practice in short sessions of just a few minutes at a time. As you notice your dog becoming more clumsy, that’s a good indication that they are tiring, mentally and physically. The dog might knock poles, might attempt to jump or rush poles, or might show reluctance to engage with the obstacles.

Listen to your dog and let them go at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race!

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 7 Sunday Funday

Welcome to Day 7 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 1

Tuesday Day 2

Wednesday Day 3

Thursday Day 4

Friday Day 5

Saturday Day 6

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 6: Sniffing Saturday

Welcome to Day 6 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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Sniffathon

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

What makes a dog a dog?

When you think of behaviours that are synonymous with dog…what are those behaviours?

Most people who seek my help with their pets are concerned about pretty normal behaviours. Often, when these behaviours are demonstrated in the human world though, they become a problem for the humans. We call them “behaviour problems”, more so because they become a problem for us.

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Dogs come with sets of behaviour installed. Behaviours that dogs must do.
Selective breeding to produce different types and breeds of dogs has exaggerated or inhibited some behaviour sets so we have differences at that level. Different breeds and types of dogs will exhibit differences in these behaviours.
Continued selection, rearing environment and lifestyle will combine to dictate whether these behaviours become problems for pets and people.

To live with people, dogs must inhibit their very doggieness for much of the day. That’s what #100daysofenrichment is all about; making sure dogs get to be dogs and forget about human rules for a little bit!

Not many things more joyful than a dog having a good roll in that perfect spot:

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Making dog walks more dog

Although on Sniffing Saturdays we are emphasising sniffing, today on our Sniffathon, we want to facilitate all sorts of dog behaviours, even the ones that we might find abhorrent.

Behaviours like sniffing (obviously!), marking and toileting, eating poop, rolling in smelly things, jumping, digging, splashing, watching the goings-on, barking, chewing, exploring, investigating, sniffing and more sniffing are all on the agenda today.

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Go for a sniff, instead of a walk

Today we aim to maximise the amount of sniffing, in as natural a situation as possible, our dogs get up to.

  • take your dog to a place that allows for tons of sniffing
  • pick places that allow your dog to get lost in their noses so without many other distractions; Deck and I have a couple of sniffy places like here and here.
  • have them on lead or a long line for safety, if necessary
  • ideally, bring them to a place where the dog is able to relax a little and sniff systematically, rather than move frantically
  • your dog might need help slowing down (this clip and this clip show examples of helping dogs do this) so that they can take the time to sniff, rather than be vigilant – the location you choose will help with this
  • try not to use toys or food to encourage them to sniff – let them interact with the environment as they see fit
  • try not to cue the dog or encourage them along – stand behind them, walk slowly, be patient
  • don’t get hung up on how long you are out for or how much distance you have covered…today is about quality rather than quantity
    We are measuring quality in how much sniffing happens!

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Sniffathon Challenges

There are no rules other than to let your dog sniff, without interference. Don’t hurry them along and don’t even suggest that they must stop sniffing.

Enrichment Options

If you can’t get your dog out and about today, that’s ok.

  • bring the sniffathon in if the dog can’t go out

Collect vegetation, grasses, sticks and branches and other natural smelly things from a local green area.

Gather small amounts of your collection in fabric shopping bags and hang at sniffing height, rather than on the ground.

This not only makes it easier to clean up but is convenient for the dog and may reduce disease spread, if that’s a concern.

  • bring the dog out for limited exposure

If you have an unvaccinated puppy, for example, exposing them to the outside world carefully is an important tool in shaping their behavioural development.

Bring puppy in your arms or in the car. Sit with the door or window open, puppy in your arms, and allow them to air-sniff. Sit with them on a bench or a quiet spot.

When bringing puppy out in your arms, it’s best not to allow others to pet or approach your puppy. When they are restrained, they have little choice in how they interact and that can be overwhelming, especially for young puppies. Make it about air sniffing and observing instead.

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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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Developing the next generation of animal care, training and beahviour specialists in Ireland.