DOGTV Enrichment Week
We are as excited as you are about DOGTV's Enrichment Week, June 21-27!
As you know, we have a lot of thoughts and ideas on canine enrichment and are so grateful to the DOGTV pack for letting us participate in what should be a national holiday.
If you saw our enrichment tips on DOGTV but need some more information about what you saw, here are the games we featured. Should you need more information on how to engage with your dog on these games or have questions about enrichment in general? We would love to help! Contact us: email@example.com
For Senior Dogs:
If you don't use it, you lose it! Just like older people (myself included!), older dogs enjoy mental engagement and appropriate physical stimulation too! We can turn to sudoku, crossword puzzles or online courses to keep our brains sharp but we can help our canine companions stay mentally fit with the following games:
The Kibble Trail:
Take a handful of treats and make a trail through a room in your house or around your yard for your dog to follow. I like to leave about 12 inches in between each treat to encourage dogs to work their sniffer. You can get creative with the design of your trail, make it as long or as short as you like. Surprise your dog by changing up what food or treats you use to make the trail (try shredded cheese!). Play this often! Your senior dog will love this simple nose work activity and it's a great way for you to spend quality time together enjoying your dog being a dog.
Go on a Sniffari!
Sniffing for a dog is like coffee for us. It engages the senses and gets the brain cells going because the outside world is incredibly stimulating! When dogs linger at a street lamp or patch of grass it's like reading a newspaper, gathering information about what is going on locally.
Treat your dog to this activity by going on a "sniffari" together. Take a leisurely walk letting your dog set the pace. Let them sniff and snuffle their way through the neighborhood.
If you are able to, take a "sniffari" through a new neighborhood, a park, forest or patch of farm land to provide new smells, sounds and sensations. Your dog will love you for this and you will have the privilege of watching your dog be a dog.
It is never too early to get started on exploration and engagement! Exposure to unfamiliar objects is crucial for developing your puppy's confidence and will help him adapt to new and strange things in his world. Make these experiences fun and set them up for success on their path to becoming a happy and confident adult dog.
Start by setting several objects on the floor for your puppy to explore and interact with. Look for things that not only look, sound, or feel funny but are also items he is likely to encounter: motorcycle helmets, crutches, vacuum cleaners, trash cans, etc. As your pup wanders around be sure to give positive feedback ("yes!), praise ("good dog!") and treat often to associate novel objects with good stuff!
Do this activity often, changing up the items you use. Holiday decorations and uniforms are great items to add to the mix! Don't forget rolling objects, objects associated with inclement weather, travel, etc.
Always let your puppy proceed at a pace that is comfortable for him. If your puppy seems hesitant to approach certain items, try tossing some high-value treats towards the spooky object to encourage him to explore. You may have to walk around the objects with your puppy if he is very nervous about some of the objects, just keep giving positive feedback and be ready to reward him with each small step.
Help your puppy learn body awareness, improve coordination and become comfortable walking on various surfaces by providing novel textures to walk on.
Seek out items he will likely encounter in real life: metal trays can feel like vet exam tables, bath mats can feel like car seats. Wet grass, sand, textured rugs, plastic sheeting, bunched up towels, etc. are all worth incorporating into this game.
Uneven surfaces can provide another opportunity for exposure, as long as you can keep your puppy safe from falls, slips or any injury.
Always keep it fun, relaxed, let pups proceed at their own pace and provide ample verbal praise and food reward for every brave step, no matter how small!
For Blind Dogs~
Truly the definition of 'handi-capable, blind and deaf dogs have the gift of heightened senses which means heightened fun! They are often the masters of scent work so let the fun and games begin!
Nose work activities are a wonderful way to engage blind dogs or dogs with limited sight. It's easy to be creative and make the challenge easy or difficult based on your dog's skill level.
To get started, take an old towel and place it on the floor near your dog. Drop several smelly treats in the middle of the towel, fold over one edge so it just covers the treat, and encourage your dog to 'find it'!
As your dog builds skill at finding the treats you can fold the towel over multiple times, bunch it up, twist it, roll it up like a burrito, etc. to change the challenge and the skills required to locate the hidden treat.
These nose work activities provide a huge dose of mental stimulation and are a fun way to build focus, confidence and challenge a dog's sniffer!
For Deaf Dogs~
Seek and Find:
Place a treat or piece of kibble in a small cardboard box. Place the box on the ground and let your dog find the treat from inside the box. When he finds the treat, give a hand signal to let him know he did a good job! We like to use a thumbs up.
Add a second box along with a second treat and let your dog find each treat. Add three, then four, then five boxes placing a treat in each; thumbs up with each find.
Now change the challenge by dropping only one treat in one of the five boxes and have your dog figure out what box the treat is in!
Add as many boxes as you like but hide treats in only a few of them to let your dog have fun scavenging and foraging for food!
If you do not have access to multiple cardboard boxes, shallow bowls or soccer markers work just as well.
You can add to the challenge as your dog's skills grow by hiding boxes throughout your house or even outdoors, just remember to signal a 'thumbs up' to let your dog know how awesome he is!
For Dogs with Limited Mobility~
If your dog has limited mobility, has been prescribed crate rest or must reduce his physical exercise due to age, mental work is key to a happy and fulfilled life. You know the saying: 'engage the mind, tire the body!'
The 'Destruction Box':
A 'destruction box' is a fun mental puzzle which will appeal to your dog's foraging instincts.
Start with a large cardboard box or container.
Collect cardboard tubes with treats or food, fold the ends over to seal shut then place them into your box or container. Crumple up treats in packing paper or brown paper bag and place them into the box as well. If you have small boxes or egg cartons, toss some treats or food into these, close the lids and add them into the destruction box.
Give the 'destruction box' to your dog and watch him enjoy!
Your dog will have fun foraging for treats within the box while also developing problem solving and creative thinking skills as he figures out how to retrieve the treats from their containers.
These type of nose work activities are also very tiring for dogs as they fully engage the senses so are a wonderful substitute for physical activity!