Dogs, like many of us, love their routine. Unfortunately, lockdown will bring big changes. Some are good, like having their favourite people around ALL the time. Others will be missed, such as regular walks. At first, they won’t understand and those puppy eyes will tug on our heart strings. Hopefully these suggestions will arm you with a suitable response.
A bored dog is an unhappy dog. Studies have shown that dogs get equally exhausted from mental activity as they do physical activity. Many of the suggestions below are aimed at tiring them out mentally, as we don’t really have a better option for now.
Many of these enrichment activities involve treats. We don’t want to over feed them, particularly as they won’t be burning it off with walks. Ideally, reduce their daily feed in line with the amount of treats you are giving during the day. Please, don’t tell them I suggested this, as they won’t be my friend anymore!
In addition to enrichment activities, get some nice chews. Nothing beats a meaty bone but, be wary of load bearing bones. They can break a tooth – disastrous! Hooves are also a no-no, for splintering. Filled Kongs are amazing. The more prepared you are the easier it will be.
I suggest implementing a 30-minute activity with your furry baby, when your furry baby would normally go for a walk, or to daycare. Add another in the middle of the day and a final one at the end. Alternatively, do one whenever you feel they are going a bit stir crazy. By the end of lockdown you could have the best behaved pooch on the block – or not!
- The sniff game. This should be played when they are a little hungry. Pop your baby where they can’t see you, or, even better, can see you through a glass door but can’t get to you. Take some treats and hide them around the room or the garden. Keep a few treats in your hand. Let them out, show them the treat in your hand and then throw it near to some of the hidden treats. Hopefully they will find them. If they have never done this before, start small by placing treats clearly visible all over the floor. Increase the difficulty from there. Some breeds are born for this and others are not. Don’t despair – there are 10 more activities below.
- Recall. Remember recall from puppy training? Now’s the time to work on it. Quick refresher – make your dog sit and stay (assuming they know how to do that). Have a high value treat in your hand. Let them sniff it, then walk away. Make sure they stay in a sit position. Once in position, call their name excitedly. When they run to you, give them the treat and loads of praise. Build on this and, by the end of lockdown, you could be out of sight before calling them. The idea is to reduce the treats over time. Again, some breeds are naturals and others, not so much. Do not despair!
- Hide and Seek. You are the treat. Get someone to your pup into a room. Go and hide in another room. Let them out to find you. For some dogs, you may have to make a little noise or whisper their name. Warning! Much excitement will be had when they find you, so watch out for those expensive ornaments.
- Make a blanket video. You know those videos that confuse the cr*p out of your dog? Get someone to video. Stand in the doorway with a blanket completely hiding you from your dog. She must know and think you are there. Drop the blanket and jump out of sight quietly. Video the expression on your dog’s face when she thinks you have vanished into mid-air.
- Teach a trick. Exact methods are beyond the scope of this document but there are loads of youtube videos. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could high five, rollover, play dead, weave in and out of your legs, bring your beer, all on command? I’ll set a challenge – to achieve one trick during lockdown. Please send a video, good or bad.
- Massage time. Did you know dogs really benefit from massage? It calms them down, releases endorphins and is a perfect way to strengthen our bond with them. Massage should be gentle – no room for a Swedish massage or they’ll likely run and hide. Have a look on YouTube. I’ve learnt loads there. Make sure not to strain your back. It’s best on a table with a blanket for their comfort. Pop on some relaxing music, spray some diluted geranium, or neem, essential oil on your hands and give them some love. Make sure this is a daily activity. Please note: some essential oils are dangerous for dogs. Please do your research and make sure to dilute essential oils.
- Toilet roll game. You know all those toilet rolls you’ve hoarded? Well, now’s the time they come into their own. Save all the inner rolls until you have 10 or more. Find a ceramic bowl or equivalent. It mustn’t be able to move around. Place all the rolls upright in the container (openings up). Pop treats inside each roll. Make them sit and then release them to dig out the treats.
- Archaeological dig. Setup their very own sandpit in an area where you won’t mind the mess. Hide their favourite, washable, toys in the sand and, hey presto, you will have a very happy pooch.
- Apple bobbing. Get a big basin and pop in a few rubber toys and some apples. I promise they will be kept busy for ages. Make sure you keep doors closed, as this could very easily induce a case of the zoomies.
- Walk to heal. This is a great time to teach, or touch up on, their walking to heal skills. Remember to stop, change direction, go fast and go slow. Rules: they need to walk on your left and should not pull on the lead. Maybe you can get them to walk to heal without their lead.
- Retrieve. This activity doesn’t require loads of space and can be done inside. Choose an appropriate sized ball for their mouth. You don’t want a small ball with a huge dog, or a huge ball with a small dog. Rules: they must bring the ball back and drop it in your hand. Give them a treat when they return the ball to your hand. Clever pup!
Remember, no more than 30 minutes at a time or they will lose interest. Start off with shorter time periods for those activities that require lots of thinking and slowly build up.
We hope they enjoy their Funwork.