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MORE WAYS TO BEAT VIRUS BLUES

April 13, 2020

At this point, you and your dog have spent A LOT of quality time together and probably are getting sick of the regular quarantine routine.......or maybe just one of you! Either way, we are going to give you some more ideas to add to your collection of fun mental stimulation games! These activities are perfect to challenge your dog and get them thinking, it also keeps them busy for a little bit which can be much needed during this time! 

MEAL DISPENSING TOYS

 There are toys you can purchase that hold your dogs meal and dispense it as they move it around, such as the Kong Wobbler. The Kong Wobbler has sand on the bottom and a twist on top with a small hole in it, you put your dogs food inside and twist the top and bottom together, then your dog moves it around and the food comes out. If you don't want to spend money on yet another toy for your pup, you can take items from around your house. My dog doesn't eat too much so his cup of food fits nicely in a soda bottle, I take off the cap and the plastic ring and let him move it around and get his meal. If your dogs meal is a bit bigger you can use a milk jug (cleaned out), take off the top and plastic ring, poke some holes in it that the kibble can come out of (with it being a different shape than a soda bottle it can be harder), and let your dog go to town. This will not only give them something to do but it will challenge them to figure out how they can get their food. 

TREAT DISPENSING TOYS

Just like toys that dispense your dogs meal, you can get toys that dispense their treats. There are many different toys but the one I use most consistently is the original Kong toy. Again, you can be resourceful and find things to put your dog's treats in around your house; such as a broken tennis ball, you cut a hole in it, put some treats in, and let your pup have fun! 

FOOD SCRAMBLE

For this game, you will simply need an open space and either your dog's food or treats depending on how food motivated they are. This can get messy so be sure to do this in a space you don't mind a little extra food and slobber! Simply take whichever food (kibble or treats) you decided on using and scatter it around the room. Then, let your dog find all the food! You can add more rules to the game (sit while food is scattered, use a command to release them to find food, etc.). You can also increase difficulty by hiding the food versus just scattering it on the floor.


We hope these games can give you and your pups something to do during this time! Have fun!

MINDSET

April 3, 2020

Recently, I was sitting down on the floor and Theodore (my dog) began bringing me toy after toy. He would simply set a toy on the floor next to me and be off again to find another. Once he had gathered all the toys he could find, he came and sat next to me. At this point, I still wasn't paying much attention to what he was doing, I was consumed with my own thoughts. He then did something I had seen him do many times before, he lifted his paw up and set it on my arm as if to tell me he knew I wasn't in the right mindset and that he was there for me. Of course, this brought a smile to my face and all the things that previously occupied my mind seemed to fade. Before I even realized I wasn't at my best, Theo had felt the shift in my mindset and begun helping me. This experience solidified everything I believe about how perceptive dogs truly are to our energy and mindset. A lesson such as this, is one I strive to carry with me every single time I interact with a dog. With that being said, spending every day with your dog is not the same as just seeing them for training purposes, it is not possible to feel your very best every single moment. However, I strongly urge you to put everything else in your life aside when you're interacting with your dog; cuddling on the couch, going for a walk, or doing a training session. You will notice as you leave these thoughts behind you, your mindset and energy will change. Because of those changes with your mindset, you will become more calm and patient when interacting with your dog. That is the version of you they respond to best and most importantly the version of you that they deserve. Sometimes, this shift in mindset can make all the difference in the success of a dogs training as well! 


CRATE TRAINING BASICS

March 27, 2020

For the safety and well being of your dog, it is necessary that you help them understand how they should behave in the kennel. Even if you do not kennel your dog in your home, many other places will; such as vets, groomers and boarding facilities. When they do have to be put in a kennel we want them to be as calm and comfortable as possible. 

Your dogs kennel should be their safe space. Somewhere they go when they feel unsure or even just tired. This DOES NOT mean your dog should be cowering to their kennel when they get scared, it simply means if they do not like what is going on they can calmly wander there. For example, my oldest dog does not really enjoy when people come over anymore (can't say I blame her!). However, when they do she will greet them and then wander downstairs to her kennel. If your dog is struggling with associating their kennel with a calm space these are some things to try. You can absolutely try these things even if your dog does not struggle with their kennel!

Treat Line

Create a line of treats leading into your dogs kennel. Once they get into the kennel give a BIG reward. Make them stay in the kennel until you give the release word for them to come out (you can ask for a sit or down or simply block them from coming out until they quit trying to get through) then reward when they release. Increase the difficulty as they begin to understand the game by opening and shutting the door or leaving them in the crate longer and longer.

Blanket Den

Dogs are den animals, so they feel safer and more protected when they are covered. To help make their kennel more of a den, you can drape blankets over the sides of their kennel. I personally leave the door of the kennel uncovered but you can also cover the door if you find it beneficial for your dog.

Meals In Kennel

For many dogs, the best time of the day is meal time. If their best time of the day is in their kennel they will learn to LOVE going in it! Feeding your dog in their kennel can also be helpful to get them on a regular eating schedule and keep them out of their siblings food dishes. Something to watch out for is accidents in the crate, you need to make sure you know how long your dog can hold their bladder after eating to prevent this. This time can vary depending on the size and age of the dog. Instead of meals you can also give them a toy filled with food in their kennel. The toy I recommend is The Kong. You can put in many different things, which can be found with a simple Google search! 

The biggest thing to remember when crate training your dog is to NEVER use it as punishment or as a time-out. This is a place they should feel safe and comfortable!

Good Luck! 

MENTAL STIMULATION GAMES TO BEAT VIRUS BLUES

March 18, 2020

Due to the current circumstances, many of us are spending a lot more time in or around our homes. We know how challenging this can be for humans and dogs alike; because of this, we want to provide as many safe AND fun things we can! Today, we are going to give you a few mental games to play with your dog (in your home, yard, garage, etc.) these games will not only give your dog something to do, but you as well. We hope one, or all, of these games give you a little distraction and a big smile!

MUFFIN TIN WITH TENNIS BALLS

1. Place food (or treats) on the bottom of muffin tin. Only fill as many spots as you have tennis balls.

2. Place tennis balls on top of food.

3. Invite your dog to find the food!

SHELL GAME

1. Place 3 cups on the floor and have your dog sit in front of them.

2. Place a treat or piece of their food under one of the cups.

3. Move the cups around to switch places.

4 Release your dog and watch them try to find the food!

*You can use bowls in place of cups*

 BOX IN A BOX

1. Gather 3 or 4 different size boxes. Be sure they can all fit inside each other.

2. Place a treat in the smallest box and then put ALL boxes inside of each other, biggest to smallest. 

3. Release your dog and watch them try take apart the boxes!

*THE SMALL PIECES OF THE BOX CAN BE A CHOKING HAZARD! MONITOR YOUR DOG!*


These are just a few games out there, get creative! You can also find so many more with a quick search! We've got more fun things to do in the upcoming weeks!

 


DESENSITIZATION

March 11, 2020

In the past couple months, I have talked to a lot of brand new puppy owners. They typically ask questions about what they may be struggling with (potty training, basic manners, etc.) however, I recently got a question about how to simply set your dog off on the right foot and I thought this was a great question! In my opinion, I think the best thing you can do for your puppy is introduce them to ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING (desensitize them)! Now, to be clear, this is not the only thing that you should do to get the "perfect" pup but it is absolutely something that should not be overlooked! Having your dog comfortable with their surroundings, other people, and other dogs, gives them a better mindset. This mindset will then be transferred to other aspects of their daily life and training. It is much easier to teach a fourteen week old puppy how to be social, than a four year old adult dog who has never seen another dog in his life!


For socializing with people, I recommend you get your dog out to stores that allow dogs and have strangers come and pet him/her. This is where you can practice other aspects of shaping that "perfect" pup; ask that they refrain from petting your pup (as difficult as this may be) until your dog is sitting nicely and is calm. In the long run, this will teach your dog that in order to get the affection/reward they want they must have good manners and a good mindset

 

For socializing your dog with other dogs, I would suggest getting your dog around other dogs who you know will not harm them, but not just their housemate(s). If you do not have access to those kinds of dogs I would recommend looking into different doggy daycare options or even local dog parks, however DO YOUR RESEARCH!! I have heard one too many horror stories from both doggy daycares and dog parks. If I do go to a dog park; I go when I know not many people will be there and I advocate for my dog.... without being a helicopter parent! Some of the interactions are needed to teach your dog how to stand up for themselves and you will also see older dogs tell your pup no that is not polite or no I do not want to play. These are great things for your pup to learn, however if the interaction is too much or they will not stop I intervene and get the other dog away from my dog or simply leave the park. With doggy daycare I would highly recommend you tour the facility and ask questions like; how many dogs are allowed on any given day, how many people are supervising the dogs and see where the dogs will be playing.


For desensitizing your pup to objects, you should go out of your way to get them on different floor textures, carpet, hardwood, concrete, etc. Throw metal bowls around and let them become comfortable with the loud noises, when the Fourth of July roles around you will be very grateful for this! Also, have your dogs smell the mop or the broom your using, even have them walk around with you (on leash) while you are sweeping or vacuuming. There are so many other things to expose your dog to, you can find some other ideas online with a simple Google search or just get creative!

SPRING ADVENTURES

March 3, 2020

 As we leave the brutal winter weather behind us (hopefully!) we can begin to take our pups on more adventures! My dogs and I LOVE to visit local walking/hiking trails, especially after a winter of being cooped up inside! Taking your dogs to these places is a great way to get their daily exercise. It is also an amazing relationship builder for you and your pup, you are working together to navigate the trails and practicing polite manners on leash! 


Here are a few of the trails we love to visit......

  1. High Cliff State Park (many different trails within the park)
  2. Newton Blackmour State Trail
  3. Stone Bridge Trail
  4. Wiouwash State Trail

There are a couple important things to remember when visiting these trails. First, you must pick up after your pup, we want our dogs to continue to have access to these trails and leaving their messes does not leave a good impression. Most importantly, your dog should ALWAYS be on a leash, there is wildlife that your dog could potentially go after, as well as other dogs/people. Some of these trails do run along busy roads and by having your dog on leash you are able to prevent them from wandering on to the road. Following these rules will allow us to keep enjoying the trails with our dogs! 

Happy hiking!