We realise that it may be difficult to take your dog out for as many walks as usual at the moment, so we wanted to share some ideas to help keep your dogs entertained at home:
- Toy Feeders
- There are a huge variety of food dispensing toys available to buy from simple Kongs® and snuffle mats to more complicated puzzle feeders.
- Try stuffing a Kong® with food and then freezing it for dogs who are very food motivated.
- You can also make your own toy feeder by just putting some dry food in an empty plastic drink’s bottle or by hiding food under paper or plastic cups.
- You can use your dog’s own food in the toys, or some treats if they need something higher value to be engaged, but make sure that you reduce their daily food rations accordingly. Peanut butter is a popular choice for using in Kongs®, but make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol (a common sweetener which is extremely toxic to dogs) or added salt or sugar, and remember it is quite high in calories so don’t use too much!
- Swap your dog’s normal bowl with a slow feeder bowl to help provide additional mental stimulation.
- Basic Scent Work
- Instead of feeding your dog from their normal bowl, try feeding part of their daily food ration by scattering dry food on the lawn so they have to use their nose to find it.
- Use a food trail to lead to a stuffed Kong® or other high value reward or toy.
- Hide treats around a room: start by hiding them in obvious places, and gradually make it harder by making them more difficult to find and hiding them under objects. You could add a command like ‘find it’ or ‘seek’.
- Play hide and seek with your dog. You’ll need 2 people for this – one to stay with your dog initially and someone to hide for your dog to find. Make sure you have a treat or high value toy to give your dog when they find you. Again, you could add a command to this exercise or just call your dog when you have hidden.
- Teach your dog some new tricks like ‘paw’, ‘high five’ or ‘roll over’. Use lots of positive reinforcement like high value treats or their favourite toy.
- Make your dog a basic obstacle course (appropriate to their physical fitness and health) including things like mini-jumps and things to weave in and out of. Get creative – you don’t need any special equipment, but make sure any obstacles you set up are collapsible in case your dog doesn’t make it through. Also make sure there are no sharp edges that your dog could injure themselves on.
- Play lots of games like tug-of-war with your dog at home.
- Rotate your dog’s toys so that they don’t get bored of them.
Your dog will probably welcome the extra attention that they will get with more members of the family being at home. However, it is really important to also give them time to rest and relax, particularly if children are at home for extended periods. Also remember to adjust their food intake accordingly if they are getting less exercise and take into account any extra treats they may be getting.