Friday, February 12, 2010

Cabin Fever.

So it's been cold out and we have made history, literally, with this snow! But what do you all do with your dogs when they get bored and can't go out to play or go on their regular walks? I thought I'd give several things you can do with your dog while indoors to alleviate boredom as well as expel some mental energy!

These are in no order, just listed as they came to my brain.

(1) Practice your recalls. Who needs the outdoors for any obedience when you can do them indoors?! You can use "Hide & Seek" to teach your dog recalls (coming when called). You may need a partner for this. Someone takes some really good food -- like chicken or hot dogs or cheese and puts it in a little tupperware dish with a lid. Have the handler hold on to Fido. You take the dish to Fido and crack open the lid in front of their nose -- ahhhh, get a whif of that! Now take off into another room. Once you get there call Fido and have the handler release him. "Fido! Come!" As he darts about the house he'll actually be air scenting the food aroma from the dish. When he finds you praise like crazy, "Goooood boy!! Goood boy!" and open the dish and hand him at least 5 pieces of the food. Close the dish and have the handler come and get him. Don't talk to him or look at him after you have closed the dish. You will be in "off" mode. Handler takes the dog back (and this should be done without "telling" the dog to go back to the handler, just physically have the handler take the dog) to the other room and repeat as you move to different areas of the house.
*If you are alone then you can do this by putting your dog in a sit-stay and following the same procedures. However, you need a dog with a very solid sit-stay for this!

(2) Teach self-control. Put your dog in a down. Have a piece of low-value treat (dog food or a dog biscuit). Start to place the food on top of your dog's paw. The second he brings his nose down to sniff/grab for it, take the treat away. The important part of this is that you do not say a word. Don't say "NO!" or "Leave it" just simply pull the treat back into your closed hand. Repeat until you can get the food on your dog's paw and pull your hand away without him going for it. Once he's looking at you say, "Take it!". This teaches very good self-control, plus it's a cool trick to show off to others!

(3) Teach jumps. You can start your dog's agility career in your living room! No, you don't need space. You need a pressure-mounted shower rod and a doorway. Place the shower rod in the doorway where your dog can't go under it but where it's high enough to do a simple step over the bar. Don't have your dog jump it yet, this freaks some dogs out. Put your dog on one side of the bar and you go on the opposite side. Have some really good food. Lure your dog over. As soon as he makes one step over put it on command, "Over!" and as soon as he's over praise with about 3 pieces of the food and repeat. Slowly raise the bar higher and higher. For those sneaky dogs that do want to go under the bar you can use two bars or put a pile of books or boxes under the bar to block him.

(4) Teach left & right. Most dogs are walked on the left side and are used to walking on that side and feel awkward if walked on the opposite side. If you want to venture out to do agility or anything other than just obedience you will want your dog to be able to go to both sides. Take a treat and have your dog sit directly in front of you. Lure him to one side. As he gets to that side say, "Left" or "Right" or even "Side" and "Place". Just make them very different. Do the same for each side. This is also a good gateway to get your dog to learn to go around you on command.

(5) Play the IQ game. This is used in supposed "IQ" tests for dogs. I just find it fun. Get 3 cups and turn them over. Have Fido sitting in front of the cups and let him watch you place a treat under one of the cups. Now tell him to find it. See if he gets it right. Then switch it up. You can play this game forever by being as creative as you wish!

Happy snow day!

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