With limited time outdoors to take them for long walks and more time spent in the house with our furry companions, there’s never been a better time to work on training your dog. Plus, WIN a free online training session with Parkview K9.
Many of us will have recently found ourselves spending a prolonged amount of time with our furry best friends, and whilst we have to agree they make excellent substitutes for our usual co-workers, it may also have made you realise that they may not be as perfectly trained as you first thought. Faith Richardson chatted with Adam Wilson, dog trainer at Parkview K9 in Hebburn, (http://parkviewk9.co.uk) to help give you some practical tips to keep your dog mentally and physically active during these long days indoors.
He said: “Following the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve had people contact me to ask what they should be doing with their dogs whilst they’re either working from home or self-isolating. We’ve put a list together working through some helpful ideas and games you can build into your routine to ensure your dogs are receiving the physical and mental stimulation they need.”
Flirt poles are essentially a fishing rod with an elastic cord and a tug or toy attached. They’re great for building prey drive in dogs and enable you to really exercise your dog with limited available space. Use the flirt pole to build frustration with the dog to make them really want to catch it, then when they show real effort to catch it let them win and enjoy playing with it.
Another amazing way to exercise your dog (and you) with limited space is by playing tug with them. It’s a great opportunity to build a relationship with your dog, teach impulse control and work on bite inhibition.
Use your dog’s food to improve their basic obedience training. Work on sit, down, stand, backwards, spin, retrieve, speak and leave – to name just a few. If your dog knows all of these already you can increase the duration they can do it, the distance between you and the dog, and the level of distraction they can do it in.
Place a tea towel or bath towel on the ground, drop a couple of treats across one edge, roll it slightly so the treats are inside, drop a couple treats again, and repeat this until the towel is completely rolled up and full of treats. Let your dog figure out they need to use their nose to unroll the towel and find treats along the way.
Does your dog get over excited at the mere mention of a walk? Use this time to train your dog to wait before going through doorways. Many dogs drag their owners over the thresholds when they know they’re heading out on a walk. Instead, use this time to teach them patience and to wait for a signal before walking through. This is a simple training method that you’ll be thankful you taught them.
How many of you have dogs who bark when the doorbell goes? Dogs quickly build the association between the sound of the door and a visitor arriving, so it’s no wonder they quickly learn that the doorbell signals something exciting or worrying happening, depending on your dog’s temperament. You can desensitise your dog to the sound by knocking on the door or using a doorbell app on your phone and not answering the door or reacting to it all. They’ll quickly learn that doorbell = nothing. Now you’ll be able to get your post without having to fight your dog away every day.
Snuffle mats are essentially feeding mats made of polar fleece that encourage a dog to forage around the fabric, finding little pieces of food that you’ve hidden there as they go. It’s super rewarding for the dog, as the rate of reinforcement is high and its great mental stimulation for them. We make snuffle mats ourselves so if you’d like one just drop us a message and we can make one up for you!
Buy your dog a snuffle mat from Parkview K9 here: (https://www.facebook.com/parkviewk9hebburn/)
Interactive board games for dogs are essentially strategy games that come in various sizes and levels of difficulty. They require the dog to use their nose and paws to interact with a board, revealing pieces of food. Great mental stimulation for dogs, although they can get quite pricey depending on how quickly your dog figures them out!
Take your dog’s favourite food or toy and hide it somewhere in the house. Release your dog to go and find it. Make it really easy at first so they understand the game, then gradually make it more difficult over time. Try starting with hiding something close by, then slowly move it further and further out of the room. Move onto hiding it in another room, then upstairs.
LickiMats are great as an alternative feeder for your dog, requiring them to carefully lick the contents of their food from the patterned design. Simply smear their favourite treats in and allow them to work through it. Licking can help to sooth and calm them and they’re great for keeping your dog entertained.
Recall is essentially less about training than it is structure and perceived value. If you want your dog to have a good recall you need the dog to view you as more valuable than other dogs. You need to be more interesting than anything else around it. Try handing feeding every meal so they learn that food comes from you. It’s also worth stopping any and all interactions with other dogs so they begin to think of you as more interesting than other dogs. You can also work on this by removing toys that are just scattered around and only playing with them when you want to play. This improves your dog’s knowledge of obedience and they learn you are fun and worth coming back to. After that, teaching them to respond to their name in relation to food and fun will ensure your dog always returns to you.
We’re in strange and uncertain times at the moment, and it’s really important that we stay calm and collected for those around us, including our dogs who’re always looking to us for guidance and reassurance.
We hope this list provides you with tools you need to make the most of the unprecedented time at home with your dogs. We will be posting different tips and games on our social media pages, so be sure to follow our page for future updates – you can find us on Facebook and Instagram.”
If you’re interested in further training advice or have a specific problem you’d like help with, Adam is currently running Skype training sessions during lockdown – drop him a message to find out more.
To enter Parkview K9’s competition on Facebook by 10th April to be in with the chance of winning a free training session, enter here.
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