We all have days when we can’t get our dog out for a good run. Sometimes we’re recovering from an injury, sometimes the dog is recovering from an injury. Sometimes the weather is just too cold and miserable for even the most dedicated human or canine athlete. It’s hard on an injured youngster of any species to lie around and rest up, but rest is mandatory for full recovery from any injury. A lot of the time, keeping a dog mentally stimulated with games will help the dog to manage to get by with less exercise. Here are some ideas that might help to keep your dog relatively sane while he recuperates.
Make feeding game by putting at least some of his meals in a toy such as a Kong wobbler, Buster Cube, or one of the many other toys that are designed for this purpose. If your dog is on a raw diet, stuff his meals into rubber Kong toys, or bones that have no marrow left in them and freeze them solid. This trick also works for dogs on kibble diets, but you change the stuffing technique slightly:
What You Need to Stuff a Kong:
A kong appropriate for your dog- red is for average chewers and black is for strong chewers
Some canned dog food
a bit of garlic sausage, or pepperoni (get the version meant for humans, not the mystery meat kind sold for dogs)
Start at the tiny hole in the end by stuffing a little sausage into it. Now turn the kong over and put a acorn sized bit of sausage int the Kong. Next put a tablespoon or two of canned food, add a handful of kibble. Add another layer of canned dog food and then some more kibble. Continue like this to the top 1/2 inch and finish with canned food. Then stick the whole business into the freezer for a few hours until it is frozen solid.
Some Fun Games:
Do this exercise in an environment with no distractions.
Start with your dog in the sit or down position.
Say “Stay” like you mean it. Use a hand signal like this one to help your dog learn a visual cue.
Step back from the dog about two feet. Wait about 3 seconds. Reward with a “Good Stay” and give him a handful of yummy pea sized treats. If he gets up, simply and quietly put him back into the position he was in when you started and try again, this time for a shorter period of time (always go back to the last success, and work your way up from there)
Work your way up to a longer stay in increments of seconds, and then minutes.
I like Emily Lartham’s take on teaching stay. It’s highly effective and fun for the dog and human too. Here is one of her videos on the subject.
Find it is a starter for a lot of searching and retrieving “work”. Not all dogs will excel at it, but it’s worth a try, especially if your dog is a hunting, hound, or working type of dog or just a Jane of All Trades type like Esta and Alice. Start with just finding the hot dog treat, and then work up to finding it under clothing or objects. Once he’s good at finding hotdogs anywhere, anytime, under objects, then just find the objects and get the hot dog as a reward.
I like to use good quality (i.e. with less crap in them) hot dogs to train this. Dry treats won’t do the job at all. Cut the hotdog into half inch pieces. Start with your dog in a stay position in a non distracting environment. Rub the hot dog on the palm of your hand. Put the hot dog on the floor or ground about ten feet away from him. Release him but hang onto him or otherwise briefly keep him from going to get the treat. Gently cup the hot dog scented hand close to the dog’s nose and say “Find it”. Now release him to go and “find” the hot dog. Help him if he needs it. Celebrate when he finds it like he found you a stack of gold bars. Do this about 6 times.
When your dog can find the hot dog in a super easy situation, you are ready to up the ante a little and add some challenge. Put the hot dog bit on the end of a stick, or tie a string around it. With your dog in the stay, drag the hotdog along the floor, and hide it to some easy hiding spot behind an object like an open door, or a couch or chair. Be sure to take any stick or string off the hot dog so your dog doesn’t accidentally eat it. Make sure the hiding place is not too difficult. Now release him and give him the “Find It” command with the cupped, scented hand again. Show him where the “trail” starts and help him find the stashed hot dog piece. Repeat this until he easily finds it. Gradually make the “trail” longer and the hot dog a little harder to find each time. I will write more on advancing this skill to retrieving object when I get back to this.
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