I thought I'd put together a little blog aimed at getting you and your pooch through social distancing and potential isolation over the coming weeks and months.
Having the tools to create a play zone for your pooch is a great source of enrichment at any time but in the current position we find ourselves in, it can play a really important part in your dog coping with the potential change in their routine.
There are tons of videos, blogs and even groups set up to help owners find ways to entertain their dogs at home. Something which my own dog Poppy really enjoys is when I set up a course of activities for her to explore either in the garden or inside. I have a five and two year old at home fulltime at the moment as well as Poppy and we're 6 days into self isolation right now, so having these ideas at hand makes things feel a lot more manageable as we all battle the barmyness of being at home day and night!
There are a myriad of things that you can choose to put in your play zone, here are some suggestions of both DIY activities and items you can purchase to include.
This is a great starter set with a multitude of additional challenges which you can add on. You can vary the difficulty of the tasks, starting off at the easiest level until your dog gains confidence. The starter set contains a carrier bag with a basic mat and 3 activities: the envelope, the water lily and the cone cloth.
SCATTER AND FIND
Incredibly simple and yet so enjoyable for most dogs once they get the hang of it. Literally take either treats or dry food and scatter for your dog to find. As with any enrichment activity start easy so they understand the game and then increase the difficulty. Scatter the food in grass or over a wider area before letting them into the space to find it. Scattered among your playzone is a super easy addition to your course.
BPA and lead free this treat toy has two compartments for you to fill. Super durable, dishwasher safe and.... it floats in water! So if you have a water loving hound then up the ante and place it in a container of water for them to fish it out of before they get to work on retrieving their reward from inside it!
Not all dogs will be confident with this one so they may need a little encouragement to explore to start with. Scatter some delicious smelling moursels into the tunnel and watch and see how your pooches confidence grows! Or if you're not afraid of looking silly then amp it up and have a crawl through yourself... show Fido how it's done!
A CARDBOARD BOX
Terriers usually adore this one! A cardboard box filled with treats wrapped in smaller bits of paper is a great activity. This one does make a bit of a mess but it's 100% worth it so Poppy tells me!
Stick with me here.... I know this may sound a little strange! But adding different levels and surfaces for your dog to navigate and explore is really beneficial for them.
Proprioceptive exercises can improve your dog's confidence, awareness and mental focus. Your dog may naturally explore the different surfaces you introduce or they may need some treats popped on the apparatus to entice them. Don't push it, keep including the item and let them build in confidence at their own pace.
You pop the treats inside this one and your dog has to spin it to get the food to work it's way through the maze and fall out. Poppy adores this game so much it even has the power to distract her from barking at fireworks. I was astounded to see her in the garden with this, with fireworks going off and no reaction from her whatsoever as she was so focused.
MUFFIN TIN AND BALLS
Super easy to put together and a really fun one to include in your course for any ball lovers! Simply put a treat or some of your dogs food underneath each ball.
Fill a plastic sand pit or paddling pool with balls and scatter some small treats in and let your dog gain confidence exploring the movement sound and feel of this different experience for them. Again, don't rush your dog, some will happily leap right in and some will tentatively sniff and dabble from the safety of outside the pool!
It may occur to you that this seems a lot of food to give your dog, particularly if they're not getting the exercise they usually do. You can absolutely use their breakfast or dinner for this or reduce their portion sizes to accomodate the extra food they've had as part of this activity.
I hope you and your pooch have lots of fun trying out some of these ideas together. I love setting this up in the morning, and then sitting in the garden with my morning coffee watching Poppy enjoying her breakfast experience! Let us know how you get on, don't be afraid to experiment with different items in your play zone and please do share your pics with us!