Measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus are affecting hounds as well as humans – our Senior Behaviour Support Adviser, Rachel Cartwright, has come up with some DIY dog entertainment ideas!
DIY Dog Entertainment
If your dog is used to getting more than one walk per day, you might be finding they have some excess energy to burn off (and 40mph laps of the lounge might not be the most helpful outlet if you’re trying to work from home!).
Luckily, mental stimulation can be just as satisfying and tiring for our canine companions as physical exercise. Whilst there are a lot of toys and products designed specifically to keep your hound busy, you don’t need to rush out to the shop! We’ve put together a list of activities that you can easily set up using everyday items which you can find at home.
Ban the bowl!
Every mealtime is a chance to challenge your dog’s brain and give them an energy outlet. Rather than feeding from a bowl, mix things up and let your dog work for their food!
Try hiding food inside a cardboard box for your dog to rip open, wrap it up in newspaper or pop it inside an empty loo roll tube with the ends folded over.
You could also put kibble inside an empty plastic bottle, so your dog has to roll it around to release the food (make sure you cut a small hole in the bottle, so it can’t create a vacuum around your dog’s tongue). Another fun way to feed is to scatter some of your dog’s food round the garden, and let them use their nose to forage for it – make it easy for them at first so that they get the idea, before becoming more fiendish with your hiding places!
Dogs absolutely love using their noses – after all it is their most powerful sense! For this game you’ll be setting up an obstacle course of interesting scents and novel objects for your dog to investigate.
All you need to do is find some novel scents, and apply them to items such as tea towels, blankets, soft toys etc. Try rubbing a very small amount of kitchen spices such as cinnamon, mint or other herbs (nothing spicy please!), scents from outside like different plants or other animals, herbal teabags, or really anything which your dog doesn’t usually get to smell (as long as it isn’t going to be harmful).
Remember, since your dog is such an expert sniffer, you only need to rub the items or apply a very tiny amount – not enough for them to eat! Gather up some household objects which your dog doesn’t normally interact with – again you can use your imagination, anything which isn’t dangerous for them to sniff and investigate will do! Place all these items in a course around the garden or inside the house.
You can make things more interesting by adding things for your dog to step over or stand on while investigating (such as raised beds, footstools etc) and hiding some treats throughout the course.
Release your dog and let them use their super sniffing skills!
Hide and seek
It’s an oldie but a goodie! Basically you just need to hide something and let your dog find it – this could be food, a favourite toy, or even a person! Anything your dog is motivated to seek out.
You can play inside the house or in the garden, and hide items either around the environment itself, under boxes / blankets / plant pots / bowls or all! Start with easy hiding places and ramp up the challenge as your dog starts to become an expert seeker.
Many dogs love to dig (usually in your flower beds) and most love foraging for hidden food. For this game you need a suitably large container. Something like a big cardboard box, a laundry basket or a plastic dog bed works well.
Fill the container with treats or toys, hidden amongst shredded or scrunched up paper, empty plastic bottles, blankets, or anything which your dog will have to rummage through in order to find the prizes! If you’re playing this game outside you could also use sand, earth or lawn clippings.
Doggie ice lollies
Now that the sun is finally our, why not treat your dog to an ice lolly? Make a dilute gravy or broth, pour into a bowl, sprinkle in some tasty treats and pop in the freezer. These will keep your dog busy for hours and stop them getting too hot.
Since you may have limited options to go for a dog walk, let’s make the most of them! Rather than aiming for distance, try slowing down and allowing your dog to sniff and investigate the route at his leisure. You can even let your dog pick the route, if it’s safe to do so.
Regularly toss treats into the grass for your dog to forage for, and encourage sniffing. You may not walk as far as usual, but a slow, sniffy walk which engages your dog’s brain is often more satisfying and tiring than a long march.
When it comes to DIY doggie games your imagination is really the only limit! Think about your dog’s natural motivations, such as digging, foraging, sniffing, chewing, ripping, licking, chasing and so on. How can you give them new and interesting outlets for those behaviours?