The Brain Is A Muscle, Too.
Exercising your dog’s mind is just as important and beneficial as physical exercise. Keep Fido from getting bored by making him think. Any kind of training will accomplish this. Even reviewing commands they already know can be a brain workout and a refresher for them. It may be hard to believe, but dogs love learning commands. It is not just the treats; dogs like to make their owners happy, and they enjoy knowing what their owner is asking of them. Training is also entertaining because it is a game.
You can also challenge you dog with puzzle toys. These are toys that require the dog to find the treat or find the way to release a treat. Some brands to look for are the IQ Treat Ball, Outward Hound and Nina Ottosson. Make sure you start off with an easier puzzle and work your dog up to the harder ones. If they cannot figure the toy out they may become disinterested.
While you were away…
We all work and have lives outside of the home. There will be times when our companions must be left at home. If you are having issues with your dog chewing, digging and getting into trouble while you are out, here are a few things to try. If you do not already, try crating your dog or confining them to a dog proofed room. Give them a safe place to relax that also acts as a place to keep them out of trouble while you are away.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety and is being destructive because of this, this is not the route to go. Separation anxiety usually exhibits as chewing on entry ways, window, carpet, and in general trying to escape.
Whether you crate, confine or let you dog loose in the home, try some safe toys to keep them busy. The most well-known toy is the Kong. A Kong filled with peanut butter or pumpkin (you can get it canned at the grocery, but make sure it is pure pumpkin) is a great distraction from boredom when you are gone for a little while. The Kong is made to make the dog work to get the delicacy from the inside. This treat will last for a while, especially if you freeze it. Be sure to check the Kong to make sure your dog is not able to chew off small pieces they could swallow. If you see any damage or missing pieces to the Kong, replace the Kong and continue to use it only when you are able to supervise the dog. If your dog is loose in the home, you can also try hiding their kibble or treats for them to hunt down while you are away.
We all get busy or just need a break from our pets. When you want to keep your dog occupied in a positive way, try one of the following:
- Kong – See above.
- Frozen Toy- This is best done with rubber or plastic toys, and preferably a favorite toy. In a container slightly bigger than the chosen toy, place the toy inside and fill it with water. Freeze the toy submerged in water. Once frozen, let your pup work through the ice to get to their toy.
- Pupsicle - There are many variations on this treat. Basically it is frozen treat for your dog. You can freeze chicken broth/stock (plain only - garlic, onion, and other common spices are poisonous to dogs) with a small treat thrown it. Insert a rawhide “popsicle stick”. You can use yogurt (without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners) with a small amount of apples (no seeds.), green beans or carrots. Have fun and make your own recipe. Just make sure all of your items are dog safe. See our What Is for Dinner handout for more information on dog safe food.
- Kibble Hunt- This game is a great way to keep your dog occupied mentally and physically. Hide your dog’s kibble around the house or in the yard. Your dog will have a blast trying to hunt down their dinner. You can also do these with treats between feeding times. This is also a great option to feed a dog that needs to lose a few pounds. Make them work for their dinner. Start off by hiding the treats so they are easy to find. As your dog starts to understand the game, make the hiding spots harder. You can also teach them a command to go with this game. Before letting your dog loose to find their prize say “find it” or something similar. Make sure to say this every time and praise your dog when they find their treat, and eventually they will learn the command and expect to play this game whenever you use the command “find it.” Once they have the hang of it, you can change it up so they have to find their toys or even you.
- Make it a game. Most people see obedience training as tedious and hard work. But most commands can be taught in a way that is fun for you and your pup. This way you keep your buddy’s mind busy while also teaching him/her their manners. See our handout Make It a Game to learn more.
For more on crate training, separation anxiety or any other questions, call the Kentucky Humane Society's free Pet Help Line 502-509-4PET (4738).