No Bored Dogs (continued)
For a start, throwing a ball or Frisbee is excellent exercise for both of you. Where you can, give a command to SIT and STAY first and then throw the ball as a reward. As your dog learns the rules, get it to ‘LEAVE’ the ball alone in mid flight, to wait for a few seconds, and then to ‘FETCH’ it again. Don’t forget the poochy praise.
The best ‘ball’ I have seen is a Kong Jumbler ball. This ball is shaped like the Michelin Man without arms and legs. It is a rounded, three level pyramid that bounces unpredictably. This adds to the fun of the game.
Back Yard Agility Tasks
Jumping hurdles is fun. Put some light timber between pine uprights and teach your dog to jump ‘OVER’ the hurdles. Increase the height as you progress. Jumping over the swings in a child’s play set or sliding down the slippery slide is fun for some dogs.
Get some old tyres and fix them together so they form a tunnel. Now train your dog to climb through the tunnel or to jump over the tunnel. This is also good for the kids!
The SEEK command is a useful. Train your dog to ‘seek’ titbits of food. Initially, put your dog in a SIT/STAY position, and then place the food about one metre in front of the dog. Now encourage it to eat the food using the word ‘SEEK’.
Now progress by moving the food further away from your dog. When doing this, drag the food along the ground to leave a ‘scent trail’ for your dog to follow. Eventually, place the food out of sight, such as under a rock or brick in a garden bed. The next step is to hide titbits of food around the garden in various areas that your pooch must locate.
If you have children, you can involve them by getting your dog to ‘seek’ the children as they hide. If they have a food reward, they can use this to further reinforce the dogýs interest when it succeeds.
‘Home Alone’ Boredom Blasters
With some creativity, you can develop all kinds of ‘delayed action’ rewards that have an effect some time after you leave for work. Try the following brainstorms.
The Stuffed Kong
Kong Toys can have a delayed action. Fill a Kong with a good brand of canned dog food or with fresh meat chunks, perhaps laced with pieces of Kabana and freeze it! Give this to your dog as you leave for work and, while it will be boring initially, as it defrosts some time later it will become an island of joy for your pooch in the middle of the day.
Get some tetra packs of lactose free pet milk from the pet shelf in your supermarket. Put them all in the freezer. Each day open a pack and put the frozen milk in a bowl for your dog (or cat). The milk will defrost gradually giving your pet a slow-release reward.
The same effect can be used with soup. Make up a nutritious broth for your dog, or simply dissolve some vegemite or a stock cube in warm water. Add chunks of meat and a few vegetables. Freeze it in a plastic lunch box or butter container and place it in a bowl for your dog before you leave.
This is a neat trick. Start with a 250 ml plastic cup and a length of nylon twine about 20 cm long. Fill the cup with water and place the ends of the twine in the water so that a loop of string hangs out. Now freeze the whole lot.
When frozen, the ice acts like a frozen knot joining the string together. When the ice melts, the knot ‘releases’.
In the morning, remove the ice timer from its plastic cup and hook the string up high over a nail, on your washing line or wherever else you can secure it.
Now place whatever you would like to give to your pooch later in the day, in the hole created by the loop of string and the ice.
When the ice melts, the object will be delivered to your pooch!!
Try securing the following inside the hole: –
- A stuffed, frozen Kong
- A safe bone or pig’s ear
- Your pooch’s favourite toy
- A tin can with your dog’s dry food in it, secured by another length of string so that it falls to the ground with a CLANG
Note that you can make a dozen of these timers using a plastic ice cube tray. Each will last about an hour. A 250 ml cup is likely to last about two hours and a two litre ice cream container – who knows???
Not all the treats delivered need to be food.
The Cat Mate Feeder
In a similar manner to the Ice Timer, a commercially available Cat Mate Automatic Feeder is available. This is basically a food bowl with a lid. It includes a battery operated timer that enables you to deliver a food reward, such some dry dog food, at a specific time after you leave. Mount this upside down so that the food drops from the feeder onto the ground. Have a rubber door mat (the type with large holes in it) below the feeder to trap the biscuits. Your dog engage in a search and slurp mission to find and eat the biscuits.
The Leaking Milk Bottle
Put a slit or hole in the bottom of the carton. Fill the carton with water. The water will slowly leak out over time, the length of which is determined by the amount of water you use. Now place length of wood high up on a ledge with the leaking bottle to balance it. Place the food can on the other end. The milk bottle balances the weight of the ruler and the can. When enough water has leaked out, the ruler and food will clang to the ground and give a sudden food treat for your dog.
Clam Shell Sand Pits
A clam shell sand pit, commonly used for children, is wonderful for dogs that dig. Fill one half of the shell with water and the other half with sand. Burry the dog’s toys under the sand or place them in the water. Vary the toys each day so that as your dog explores, it will discover new joys.
Many dog owners ask me if getting a companion for their pets will be useful. A second dog often provides a play mate but this doesn’t always work. The dog wants your company, not necessarily the company of another dog and I have seen many dogs with companions that have another dog as a companion.
Sometimes a ‘non dog’ companion works well. A pen of chooks is often useful and, for the right dog, having a pair of free ranging chooks provides ‘dog TV’. Naturally you need to be certain your dog will not chase or hurt the chooks. If you get the chicks as day old chickens, they imprint well on humans, make good pets and even seem to enjoy the dog’s interest.
If you think your dog is bored or worse still, has a separation anxiety, ring me on (07) 3341 9153.
Also find out in a Carton of Magic how a milk carton and similar items can enrich your dog’s lifestyle.