Enjoying Extra Time At Home With Your Pup
Against your will, you've been trapped indefinitely in cramped quarters, have completely lost track of the passage of time, and are constantly in need of mental stimulation. Sound familiar? No, we're not describing your current situation--we're talking about your dog. Now you're at home too, and all your pup wants to do is play!
While it might feel like enough of a bonding activity to simply spend more time than usual hanging out with your pup during these troubled times, your pet is likely to need more than ambient social interaction to remain well. However, we know that caring for your dog can be both a great source of comfort and frustration during times of high stress.
We're here to take the pressure off you and your pooch with plenty of tips for surviving quarantine and beyond.
Exercise versus Playtime
By now you're familiar with the fact that dogs need plenty of exercise, which is why you take them on regular walks. But have you ever noticed how this only seems to tucker them out for short periods of time?
Though walks are an essential part of a dog's daily routine, they don't provide enough mental stimulation to make your dog feel restful. If you don't engage your pet's mind, they're likely to develop a host of undesirable behaviors.
Recognizing An Under-Stimulated Dog
While there's always a chance your dog will misbehave in ways unique to them and their environment, there are some common tics to look out for. These may include:
Excessive chewing on themselves, toys, or even furniture
Circling and pacing
Escape from an enclosure
What to Do
The good news is you can use any of the five senses to stimulate a dog. Playing classical music, for example, has been known to relax them and promote sleep. Rotating out toys in which your dog has lost interest in favor of new, exciting items is another method you can use.
Of course, if you're looking for more hands-on activities since you and your dog are both stuck at home anyway, you'll want to try something more in the neighborhood of setting up puzzles for your dog to solve.
Common Enrichment Activities
Thankfully, there are plenty of simple games and toys out there that facilitate canine mental stimulation. These are often referred to as enrichment activities. Some of the most common activities to try indoors include:
Playtime with Kongs
Nose Work Games
DIY Obstacle Courses
What to Do
This common toy is one of the easiest things you can use to stimulate your dog. Filling them with peanut butter, various fruits, vegetables, or other treats and then giving them to your dog can lead to 20 or 30 minutes of engagement. Freezing them can help extend the playtime too!
Most models are dishwasher safe, too, making them easy to clean. If you're looking for recommendations, you can't go wrong with the classic Kong.
Nose Work Games
This category of activity, broadly conceived, is about engaging your dog's sense of smell. The two most common games, which also happen to be easy to play around the house, are Which Hand and Hide and Seek.
Have you ever played the game where someone hides a ball under one of three cups, rotates them around a bunch, and then asks you to pick which cup you think is concealing the ball? The Which Hand game employs the same concept, with the intent of getting your dog to sniff out a treat instead of a ball.
All you need to do is conceal a treat in one hand, hold both closed fists out to your dog, and let them choose which hand they believe has the treat.
As your dog gets better at this game, you can always switch to hiding a treat underneath some cups and shuffle them around. Your dog will appreciate the challenge.
Hide and Seek
Another way to engage your dog's sense of smell is to hide treats around your house and set your dog off to go find them. Start off with simpler hiding places until your dog has mastered the concept behind the game. Then you can start getting a bit more creative with where you conceal the treats.
This game also works with toys, especially those designed to hold treats.
If you don't have the time to sit down with your dog and play Which Hand or Hide and Seek, you can invest in a snuffle mat to do the heavy lifting for you. These toys conceal treats in textured strips of fabric, giving your dog a pleasant environment to root around in until they find the food.
Speaking of toys you can use to engage your dog, flirt poles are at the top of the list. They're specifically designed to allow a dog to exert a lot of energy in a small space by having them chase the lure at the end of the string.
DIY Obstacle Courses
If you have the time and the space to make sure no one gets hurt, you can get really creative designing an obstacle course in your home. This can be as simple as setting a curtain rod out to balance on two short stacks of books and getting your dog to jump over it a couple times.
You can also use little orange cones, if you have them at your disposal, to set up an agility weave or cut up cardboard boxes you have no use for and set them together to create a tunnel. Experiment with what your dog enjoys, but always remember to prioritize safety.
Another tip: don't forget to clear any valuable or fragile items out of the room before you get going.
When Playtime's Finished
Equally important to engaging your dog is teaching them to respect quiet time. If you've crate trained your dog, they'll know that going inside the crate means it's time to relax for a bit.
To learn more about the benefits of crate training or to get help choosing the right crate for your dog, click here.