Hide and treat - and other lockdown games for your dogs
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Keep your dog - and you - fit, happy and healthy during lockdown with our expert tips to indoor play
It’s been a difficult year and it looks as though we still have some tricky days ahead. If you’re stuck in due to lockdown or are shielding, getting out with your dog can be a bit tricky, but keeping a dog mentally stimulated is really important – if a dog feels boredom creeping in, that’s when your brand new pair of shoes start to look like a very attractive chew toy!
So here are another few handy tips on how to keep your dog busy if you can’t get out for your daily constitutional.
Watch the world go by
If you walk past our house on a regular basis then you are likely to be met by a little grey waggly tail, because Laika, like many other dogs, loves nothing more than sitting in the window and saying hello through the glass, especially to the postman. If you have a ground floor window, see if you can push a seat or similar safe surface over to it so that your dog can look out and greet passers by; be aware however that dogs can become a bit territorial so make sure to supervise your dog if this is a new activity!
Tune in to dog TV or music
Did you know there are now channels, stations and programmes dedicated to dogs? Check out radio stations, your tv provider or online for videos of squirrels, birds, other dogs and classical music.
Olfactory sense is so important to dogs - it’s how they navigate the world. Think about all the different things they will smell whilst on a walk – it keeps their minds busy and satisfies the curiosity in them. So offering them new and different smells can be a fun game for them. You could pick up some different herbs from the supermarket, or non-toxic plants from your garden, or even some different spices or foods that your dog may not have smelt before. Make sure you only select things that are safe for your dog and if he does not seem to be enjoying himself, don’t push him, dogs noses are a lot more sensitive than ours so they may not enjoy every smell
Hide and treat
Last lockdown I mentioned playing a game of Hide and Treat where you hide little treats around your house and let your dog find them, but fewer or shorter walks and extra treats can lead to unwanted weight gain, so you could substitute the treats for toys. This would be the perfect opportunity to teach your dog toy names. Select a toy such as a ball or soft toy. Place the toy on the floor and tell your dog to retrieve it, using the toys name, ie. ‘Get the ball’. When your dog retrieves the toy, praise and use the name again ‘Good girl for getting your ball’. Repeat this and then test by laying out a few toys and telling your dog to get the ball. As your dog grows in confidence, try hiding the ball and watching your dog enjoy hunting for it.
Years ago I used to work in a zoo, training animals such as lemurs and nothing had more success than a clicker. Clicker training is a great way to build a bond with your dog and is a positive way of encouraging good behaviour. Starting is really simple. You can purchase a clicker from your local toy shop or online. Show it to your dog and let them become comfortable with it. Hold out your fist to your dog a little way from it’s face. The dogs natural instinct will be to come up and pop their nose to your fist. As soon as their nose makes contact with your fist, click your clicker and immediately reward your dog with a toy, treat or praise. When your dog performs a behaviour you are trying to encourage, click and reward. You have to be super fast though; a dog can perform multiple behaviours without you realising. They may approach your fist, look up, touch their nose to your hand and lick you, so clicking and rewarding at the exact behaviour is really important! Film yourself and watch it back to ensure you are getting it right.
Grooming or massage
Trips to the spa or salon have been limited in the last 12 months, not just for us but for our pets too. Sitting down with a brush in your hand to gently groom your dog can help keep their coat healthy as well as strengthening your bond. If grooming isn’t an option, then a little massage can help reduce stress and relax your dog. You can find great videos online, but gentle rubbing your dog's ears, head, back and legs can do wonders to give your dog a little serotonin boost.
If you’re shielding it restricted due to medical issues, why not consider a dog walker? Do your research and ask friends for recommendations – make sure your walker is insured and has experience. Some will have training experience, others be certified in canine first aid, so ask yourself what’s important to you. Let the walker meet your dog and spend some time with them in your home to ensure you’re happy and set the ground rules - don’t want them off the lead? Want them walked alone? You know what is best for your dog and agree your stipulations beforehand.
The most important thing to remember is that your dogs favourite thing in the world is you, so if you are struggling to get your dog their regular exercise, time spent one on one with you can really help to mentally stimulate them. Chat to them, play with them and stroke them to keep them happy and healthy.