Tag Archives: play

Weekly Woof from the Web

Another busy week with lots of goodies from around the web…

Always worth a share, far and wide: Doggone Safe educational images

And start prepping for dogs and babies before baby comes home, with these great tips!

Eric Brad looks at how to Stay Interesting to your Dog and More Ways to Stay Interesting to your Dog

Lovely clear resource on rabbit behaviour (yes, rabbits – we’re not just dogs, dogs, dogs) from the RSPCA.

Teach your dog better self-control by gradually increasing the challenge to build his patience as shown in this lovely clip.

Science + dogs matters, here’s why!

Life is short, go play with your dog! Here’s 4 tips for engaging your new rescue dog in play, and not just for new dogs or rescue dogs!

The canine face of patience and tolerance:

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This is a pretty good list: 6 books every dog owner should read

More awesome dogs, these ones protecting elephants!

Shed a tear for Dayko, a search and rescue dog, who has died after rescuing people after an earthquake in Equador – rest easy Dayko

Two minutes of lovlieness: The Dog & The Butcher

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Weekly Woof from the Web

Baby on the way? Or even potentially on the way? Get preparing and to start you off here is an excellent piece from Family Paws: Carry a doll? Should we practice?

Such a simple but great way of providing enrichment for cats, and I am certain that some dogs would enjoy this too, maybe with bigger and even stiffer bristles:

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All dogs growl, it’s normal dog behaviour! Here are 5 steps to deal with dog growling

Dogs may growl in situations where they experience anxiety, distress or fright: Is your dog stressed? Watch for these signs.

Recent work suggests that dogs may be able to see a broader spectrum of light than previous thought: Can dogs see in UV?

Dog vision with uv rev

Time for a treat? Biscotti for your puppy!

Playing with your dog is incredibly important in terms of developing and maintaining your relationship and there has been a little bit of work looking at dog-human play; here’s a covering of recent work in this area highlighting some of the best ways to play!

There are lots of challenges when it comes to training dogs, staying interesting to your dog goes a long way to helping.

Food puzzles are not just for dogs but some dogs will benefit from some of the ideas here too: Food Puzzles for Cats

BATDOG Vs SUPERDOG:

Think Outside the Food Bowl!

Part 1: We Really Don’t Like Food Bowls

Feeding time is an exciting and important part of your dog’s daily routine but just because it’s routine doesn’t mean it needs to be boring.

The key is enrichment; protocols that you can put in place, simply, to provide your dog more appropriate outlets for natural, doggie behaviour.

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Why enrichment for pet dogs?

‘Natural’ behaviour

The “wild”, that idyllic place that’s considered the model we should mimic even though in actuality it is a dangerous, dog-eat-dog place, has nonetheless caused the evolution of a wide range of feeding behaviours that take up plenty of an animal’s energy and keep them busy.

Animals will naturally work for their food, with or without your help (or knowledge!):

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Contrafreeloading

Animals  are compelled to carry out behaviours, even if the goal of those behaviours e.g. food, is freely available.

This is referred to as contrafreeloading – animals often prefer to work for access to food, even when food is freely available.

Sounds counter-productive, but perhaps not!

Check out this smart pup, passing by a bowl of free food to activate a food dispenser:

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Natural Puzzlers

Dogs also appear to experience that ‘eureka’ feeling when working on challenges – working on a puzzle is rewarding to dogs, even if they don’t solve the puzzle successfully (i.e. get the tangible reward such as a food treat).

Dogs are natural-born-puzzle-addicts!

Ian & Irene work on puzzles for the first time, in puppy class; they work harder relative to the value of the food reward – they are in it just for the fun:

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“Problem” Behaviours

When animals don’t get the opportunity to engage in enrichment and are lacking outlets of natural behaviour, they can develop all sorts of difficulties.

At the very least, those behaviours that dogs are compelled to carry out will become a problem for us – dogs need to chew, dogs need to chase, dogs need to sniff and track.
And you might not like the outlets they choose for those behaviours.

All the puppies learn to settle themselves in a busy class with the help of a food puzzle and lapping & chewing, which helps dogs to chill:

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Think of all the things your pup can’t do if he is chilling out, working on a food toy?!

Dogs that are unemployed, become self-employed…

With all that free time on his paws, your dog may also engage in other behaviours that become a problem for you such as barking, digging, escaping, jumping up, being obnoxious.

It is not easy to live with a self-employed dog because the jobs they choose for themselves are usually not particularly preferred by humans…

First step, ditch the food bowls.

Why do we HATE food bowls?

  • food bowls do very little to encourage interaction between dog and owner
  • food bowls do little to teach the dog that good things come through their owner
  • feeding from a food bowl wastes hundreds of reward opportunities by presenting them for free all in one go
  • your dog would probably prefer to work for his food than get it for free
  • modern pet feeding practices encourage a sedentary way of life for our pets
  • there is a limited range of behaviours demonstrated so dogs will need to display them in other ways (which may cause problems for people)
  • chasing, chewing, tracking and using their brains are important for dogs and modern feeding practices often don’t encourage any or much of that

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Food bowls are human convenience devices – toss food in bowl, leave on floor, dog eats….dog is fed and my job is done.

But feeding your pet can be soooo much more…

Dogs come with  predatory behaviour, built-in

Dave Mech, the wolf guru, outlines canid predatory behaviour in a sequence of behaviours called, not-surprisingly, a predatory sequence. These are behaviours that are innate in all dogs and to greater or lesser extents in different types of dogs and individuals.

The dog predatory sequence might look something like this:

track – stalk – chase – grab – hold – bite – chew – dissect

These are the behaviours that your predatory pet needs to do – provide acceptable outlets otherwise he will find his own, and you might not like that.

Watching dogs play with pals gives you an insight into just how relevant these behaviours are for even modern, pet dogs. A good proportion of normal play behaviour will be feeding related with games of stalking, chasing, take downs, neck biting, and of course enjoying being chased too!

You will see your dog practicing these behaviours in other non-real-life scenarios too – give your dog a tissue or soft toy and watch him chew and dissect it, throw a tennis ball or play tug and flip the switch, turning on those in-built behaviours.

But feeding behaviour isn’t just about feeding…

Dogs engage in all sorts of feeding related behaviour, and many activities revolve around feeding.

Dogs enjoy actively scavenging for food and, let’s face it, non-food items – they will devote plenty of time to this sort of activity and often learn to do it when their owners are not watching…!

Although dogs prefer their own space when eating (not big on sharing!) they have evolved plenty of behaviour for negotiating social contact around food.
For the most part, this can cause trouble for us living with modern dogs, but it can be easily managed, with the right guidance.

Competitive interactions, that may lead to resource guarding and even social facilitation have been shaped over millions of years and generations, and despite a few hundred years of pretty intense selective breeding modern dogs still show these behaviours strongly today.

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Digging/burying and hoarding behaviour may be employed by many dogs, often much to their owner’s disgust (especially the green-fingered owners). Some dogs appear really bothered when they get something quite special, carrying it from place to place, vocalising, difficulty settling…
This may be frustration related at not having a safe place to work on their treat or indeed at not being able to stash it away for a rainy day.

Grass and plant eating can cause concern for many owners. But for the most part where this behaviour isn’t excessive or too intense, it’s probably nothing to worry about and a normal part of canine behaviour.
However, where dogs do this a lot, or try to, and/or where there has been any changes to this behaviour have a chat with your vet as soon as possible.
Intense eating of grass, plants or other non-food items (behaviour called pica) may be linked with gastrointestinal upset and stress.

And you thought feeding was just about putting- food-in-a-bowl…

 

In Part 2 we will be looking at things to get started enriching your dog’s life!

Weekly Woof from the Web

Still catching up on all the great dog stuff from around the web!

It’s pretty cold out there right now and although many dogs don’t enjoy the cold weather, dogs have actually developed many adaptations to become pretty efficient in colder temperatures: Dogs and Cold Weather

Don’t worry about trying to analyse dog behaviour too much; if you are relying on popular understanding of dog behaviour, it’s probably mythic anyway: Dog Myths About Rank & Dominance

IAABC have started a Dog Park Project with the production of some really nice posters, with cute Lili Chin illustrations here. We are not a fan of dog parks, certainly the sort of facilities provided here in Ireland, but these posters are relevant to anywhere you take your dog, where he meets other dogs.
Here are some tips for dog-dog introductions.

Crates are one of our most favourite tools for managing dog behaviour, once the dog is confinement trained properly. Free time is for trained dogs, so when can I start leaving my dog out of the crate?

Nobody signs up for a project dog – it’s hard living with a dog whose behaviour you must constantly monitor, whose environment you must constantly manage – it’s tiring. If you are living with a dog who may not be living up your original expectations of life-with-dog, maybe this piece will resonate with you: My life with an aggressive dog

Life is short, go play with your dog…but learn how to do it best first: It’s not you, it’s me

Not only is passive smoking dangerous for humans, but for pets too: Pets at more risk from passive smoking than humans

Hmmmm, it’s a bit of a mystery, alright…Who got into the trash?

Now, this will put a smile on your face: Cute dog having fun in a water fountain

Just be

What ever happened to doing nothing?

I can’t remember what I used to do when there was any sort of lull in the action before I had a smartphone.
Anything other than constant stimulation and I am reaching for my iPhone…

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The movie Bolt struck a cord when I saw it a few years ago.

It’s about a canine star of a TV show, Bolt, who plays a dog with super-powers saving his person Penny from the Green Eyed Man, week in, week out.
Except, that nobody told Bolt it was just a work of fiction and that he isn’t really a super-dog.

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When the cameras stop rolling Bolt is kept in a permanent state of readiness, to fend off attacks by his enemies.

What about pet dogs? 

We certainly invest lots in teaching them to do lots of stuff, to increase their responsiveness, to build their love of learning and interaction.
And we put lots of energy into keeping them active, getting them moving, in the hope that a tired dog is a good dog (but is it?).

When do they get to just be?

‘Just being’ doesn’t necessarily come easily

Pretty much every type of dog was developed for some sort of job and in modern pet-dom most dogs are unemployed.

Our efforts in guiding dogs from wild to pet, whether intentional or not, selected for characteristics such as wariness, reactivity, inquisitiveness, attachment and activity.

Our pets’ lives, just like our’s, continue to become more and more sedentary with us substituting real-life pursuits for those that are easier to participate from a seated position – even sport is a less serious outlet for pretty serious behaviour.

Without outlets for our behaviour, it is channelled somewhere else – I have a Smartphone but what do our dogs have?

Would we know a dog ‘just being’ if we saw one?

It can be tricky to spot a calm, chilled out dog.

With great access to knowledge you might think we have a better handle on canine signalling, but unfortunately our awareness (or lack thereof) is affected by popular media’s interpretation of “calmness”.

Shutdown is not the same as calmness

A dog who is overwhelmed by a situation and can’t use behaviour to escape something they find unpleasant, will often show signs of ‘shutting down’.

This happens because the dog is unable to escape and his requests for relief have gone unheard/unanswered. This is typified by a very still dog – the absence of behaviour is not calmness.

Shut down dogs interact minimally with their environment, their body may be still and tense, if they are moving their posture may be low slung, they will often be frozen, you may see them yawn, lick their lips, and squint and blink (outside of normal contexts for these behaviours).

Eileen Anderson’s clip gives you a run down of some examples, mistaken for calmness:

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Calmness myths and mistakes:

  • The absence of behaviour is not calmness (nor ideal)
  • Stillness because there’s no way out, ain’t calmness
  • Stillness through restraint ain’t calmness
  • Lying down through uncomfortable handling or contact ain’t calmness
  • Compliance because they can’t escape ain’t calmness
  • Compliance due to the application of training equipment or techniques (that the individual finds aversive) ain’t calmness
  • “Settling” due to exhaustion, ain’t calmness (is a tired dog, a good dog?)
  • Less behaviour is not necessarily better than more behaviour
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If you want less behaviour, maybe the one in the middle ain’t for you…

What does a ‘just being’ dog look like?

A chilled dog is loose, breathing deeply, he may still be monitoring the environment but not really on his tip-toes, he may still be responsive but not in an overly enthusiastic way – but the biggest difference?

The chilled out, calm, ‘just being’ dog is choosing to chill, be calm and be.

Back to Eileen Anderson for her ying to the yang clip:

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Teaching a dog to just be

Start by helping your dog to learn that settling, and being calm is excellent!
Check out Week 2 training games from our Train Your Dog Month here.

From ‘excited-by-everything’ to just-be

This dog needs help coming down from the highs, and to better control his swings from up to down.

  • play games with rules:

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  • make play training and training play

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  • play jazz up/settle down

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From ‘let’s go go go’ to just-be

This dog needs help learning that they don’t need to be ‘on’ all the time – good things happen when you’re doing nothing too.

Both in training sessions, and in life, mark and reward doing nothing – even if it’s only a split second – the more you reinforce nothing, the less frantic behaviour you will see.

  • make sure to put behaviours on stimulus control – this means that the dog learns to offer behaviours when you cue them only, rather than as soon as he thinks there might be a reward or he thinks it might be time to work

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  • teach calm-focus exercises rather than laser-focus-on-the-task activities

Week 4 of our Train Your Dog Month program

  • make doing-nothing your new job

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  • take a break/breath

https://aniedireland.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/training-game-2-5/

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Hanging out

When we might only have limited time with a dog, whether that be because we are visiting, working long hours or the dog is in a rescue/kennel environment, of course we want to make the most of our time together.

But, a dog who hasn’t been getting too much human attention will be pretty wound up and anticipatory waiting for it. Sometimes, it’s better just to hang out with them – this gives them the opportunity to calm down, bond and be.

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Just be…a dog

Don’t forget, that before the dog can just be, he must have an outlet to just be a dog too.

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The Joy of Boring Rewards

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Do you, your dog and your training a favour and teach your dog to work for, to love and to get excited about more boring rewards.

Many pet owners describe how they ask their dog to wait for their food, before putting the bowl on the floor.
Take that a step further – don’t be uncomfortable with the idea of having your dog offer desired behaviours for each piece of that food rather than the whole meal in one go.

One major benefit to teaching your dog to work for their food, is that their regular food takes on extra significance and extra value.

When it’s harder to get, all of a sudden we want it more…just like these dogs:

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This means that your dog is learning to use behaviours to get things that he wants, even though this stuff may not be steak or roast chicken.

Now transfer that to when you want and need behaviours from your dog, when you need your dog to reign it in, when you need your dog to pay attention, you want to teach him a new behaviour  or you just want to divert your dog for a couple of minutes.

If we use our big guns for the most mundane situations, what happens when we really need better ammo?

Here’s Decker and I playing with kibble when out and about – in the first bit there are other dogs, walkers, joggers around us in the park and in the second bit we are walking near the wild deer – not too close because I don’t want them to approach us either!

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The most boring of boring kibble is what has his attention here – it’s fun to hang out with me and cardboard-kibble!

Catching and searching are favourite games – by pairing this fun with kibble, the kibble gains more value.

If I wanted to do something really special or tricky or use food to help Decker better cope with a fear or concern I have lots of bigger and better guns in my arsenal such as cheese, chicken, salami, tug toys or tennis balls.

Before you reach for the big guns…

…make boring rewards more fun:
  • make a training mix

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Don’t worry if you don’t feed kibble; lots of ideas for other foods here too. 

  • get rid of those food bowls (you knew we were going to say that, right?!)

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  • play with your food

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  • turn sniffing out food into a brilliant game

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  • teach your dog to sniff out food on cue

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  • use sniffing games as a reward

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  • pair other more valuable rewards with lower value rewards

This works by teaching your dog that every time they accept a boring reward, something they love even more is coming. With enough pairings, in the right sequence, the more boring reward takes on greater value to your dog.

Here Lottie learns that eating kibble makes a tug game happen:

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  • check your dog’s stress or worry levels

Dogs who are feeling under pressure, are concerned about something in the environment or are exposed to stressors will be less likely to eat. They may not even want higher value rewards.

Here’s a great outline of signs that your dog may be experiencing some stress and may be overwhelmed, from 4PawsU.

If it’s all too much for your dog, take them somewhere else, bring them away from the hustle and bustle and just let them be – remove the social pressure.

Pain is a major stressor so always be sure to check in with your vet if you are concerned about your dog’s stress levels.

  • check how much food your dog really needs

Something that’s so easy to forget is that dogs are incredibly efficient when it comes to using and taking in energy.

That means that they probably need much less food than they would have you believe.

Check your dog’s body condition:

Pet-Body-Condition-Score

And have a look at the body condition scoring system and weight management here.

Have a chat with your vet if you have any concerns about your pet’s weight or body condition.

Boring Rewards ROCK!

Soon you will have a dog who is working hard to earn even the most boring rewards, while you still have some ammo in your arsenal for the real training challenges.

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Up & Down – pacifying and energising activities for dogs

To really benefit from enrichment and entertainment, dogs need both pacifying and energising activities – if we bring them up (energising) we also need to bring them down (pacifying) again.

This can be applied in real life too, and not just in games. If your dog gets particularly excited by something such as the doorbell or seeing another dog, make sure to give him the opportunity to engage in a pacifying activity afterwards to help him calm again.

Use your dog’s regular food for pacifying and energising activities in fun kibble games:

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Today’s Games

We have a training challenge for you today (and tomorrow)!

Time Allowance: 

Each game will take 30 seconds to 10 minutes depending on which games you choose.
Your dog will be doing lots of the work!

Family Participation:

Children will enjoy preparing some of these games but please take care – it’s not recommended that your dog associate high activity and excitement with children so best choose games that the kids can participate in carefully.
Just ask us if you need help!

Thursday’s Games:

Today choose at least one energising activity and one pacifying activity that you and your dog will enjoy.

Play with your dog:

  • 1-2 minute pacifying activity

followed by…

  • 30 second energising activity

followed by…

  • 1-2 minute pacifying activity

Have a few rounds of that sequence today (always beginning and ending with pacifying activities) – be creative, mix and match activities and time it so that pacifying activities coincide with your natural settling routines e.g. family dinner time, watching TV.

Friday’s Games:

Beginner Level ideas:

  • repeat Thursday’s game (I play this one with my dog every day!)
  • bring a yummy lined (frozen) Kong toy or chew on your walk today and give to your dog about halfway through in a calm and low-distraction place; settle for about ten minutes (check your phone, bring a book…) – take a break!
    It’s a good idea to provide your dog with a pacifying activity after your walk too.

Advanced Level ideas:

  • teach your dog to start and stop your favourite game on cue – have an obedience break of at least two behaviours
  • play jazz up/settle down:
    Get your dog all excited and wound up for a five count.
    Ask your dog to lie down or settle and be quiet.
    Once your dog is quiet, get him all wound up again.
    Have an assistant (the kids might love this job!) time how long it takes for the dog to settle.
    Repeat – record your improving times.

Pacifying

When working on pacifying activities use your dog’s regular food to avoid too much excitement.

Lapping & chewing
are calming for dogs and a great (and more acceptable) outlet for destructive behaviours.

Providing your dog with a stuffed or lined chew toy can encourage him to settle, lap and chew so helping him to relax too.
Of course we are big fans of Kong toys!

Simply lining a Kong toy with something yummy and freezing it can be a great way of keeping your dog busy and chilled, easily.

Make a homemade pacifier for your dog; and it makes a great summer treat too:

  • line a lunchbox with a plastic bag or film
  • add some food, treats, chews to the lunchbox
  • add water or low-salt stock
  • freeze
  • turn it out but don’t give to your dog if he is already hot or cold

 

Choose chews for your dog carefully and know your dog’s chewing style. Your dog chewing anything may be potentially harmful in a particular situation so be aware of ways to reduce the risks.

It’s never a good idea to give your dog cooked bones or very hard bone (e.g. weight bearing bone, heavy antlers etc.) as these can cause damage either when ingested or during chewing to teeth.

Natural chews are generally best but always check and monitor their condition. Look for signs of splitting or splintering, and keep an eye on their size appropriate to your dog.
Chews such as gullets, ‘pizzles’ and scalp have become more widely available.

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Cheaper rawhide type chews can be dangerous if swallowed so if choosing rawhide look for chews that are constructed from one piece of hide, that are not bleached or coloured and keep a close eye on your dog as he chews them.

If in doubt, ask your qualified veterinary healthcare team before allowing your pet to chew!

Settle exercises will help to teach our dogs to take up a more relaxed position on cue, so as to help him chill out while you relax too.
Don’t worry, we will be working on settling and calming exercises during our program so you will have lots of practice.

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Self-control exercises help to boost your dog’s frustration tolerance and patience. Asking your dog to think first before acting will help him to calm himself in exciting situations.
We will be working on lots of these exercises during our program too.

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Energising

These are the easy ones – dogs are very good at getting excited! That means we have to work harder at teaching our dogs calming behaviours.
So, we will use these energising activities to help teach our dogs to calm too.

Chasing and catching food rewards is a great way of getting your dog activated and is perfect for rainy days when outdoor exercise may be limited.

Always work within your dog’s physical capabilities and take care of the sorts of surfaces you ask your dog to run, jump and turn on.

Games like Chase the Kibble, Catch the Kibble or Goalkeeping are simple and require very little activity on your part so are perfect if you are feeling under the weather.

If you have a fit dog, having them chase kibble or food rewards up and down the stairs can tire them quickly.

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Energising Food Dispensing Toys such as Kong Wobblers are some of our favourites.

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You can get lots of different variations too and most pet shops stock them.

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You can make your own too!

Cut a couple of holes in a Pringles container (or Bisto gravy granules or similar), add kibble or treats and tape on the lid.

Add kibble to a plastic bottle and seal up the lid. Cut a couple of holes along the body of the bottle.

Allow your dog to roll their puzzle to release the yummies.

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Practicing training exercises such as tricks and manners in short sessions each day gets valuable practice in while providing both physical and mental challenges.

And of course you will get lots of practice during this program!

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Toy play:

You can also introduce energising activities with toys. Games such as tug and fetch are great fun for both dogs and humans BUT if we are going to play games, there must be rules.

Rules help prevent some of the problems that can be associated with too much high-arousal, repetitive activity (see Tuesday’s post).

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Teach your dog the rules of these games first, so that the fun stays fun:

  • the game starts on cue only

Use a cue word or action that lets your dog know the game is going to start.
Rules that may be in place in ‘real life’ may not be in play during a game and other rules may be enforced so letting your dog know it’s time to play will reduce confusion.
This can also help to prevent your dog being frustrated or nagging at you to play.

  • the game ends on cue

Teach your dog to give up his toy on cue and end the game so life can go back to normal. This is a good time to provide your dog with a pacifying activity to reward him for ending the game and to help bring him back down from his excitement.

Teaching a ball-addict to give up a ball on cue can require some training:

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  • have lots of obedience breaks

When you first start teaching the rules of the game, have an obedience break after every ball-throw or 3-5 – count of tug.
Ask your dog for two or three obedience behaviours and then reward him with the opportunity to play again.

Teaching Tug (with rules) is an excellent way of improving your dog’s self control, responsiveness and having fun!

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  • dog touches human = game over

Define your rules in terms of what you find acceptable and then make sure to consistently have those rules in play during the game.

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Because play is exciting dogs can lose a little control so may grab at clothing or your hands, for example, they may jump up more than usual or bump into their human companion.
To keep excitement under control as much as possible it’s a good idea to be pretty strict early on and relax as appropriate as your dog improves.

Generally, it’s a good idea to end the game if your dog’s mouth catches your clothing or skin. Just stop playing, put the toy away and be very boring and still. Wait for your dog to calm a little, ask them for an obedience break and then start the game again.

Play for a shorter time and keep the action a little more low-key this time to help prevent your dog losing control again. As you practice more games-with-rules you will be able to increase the length of the fun part!

Remember, you are always training your dog – even when playing:

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Yay!

Today’s training games are certainly a little more challenging and you and your dog have done great!

Well done – the last plan of the week is coming on Saturday so be sure to let us know how you are getting on 🙂