These are Special Times…
The Covid 19 crisis has suddenly hit everyone and the guidelines to stay home except for a short time daily have caused those with dogs some challenges. This Blog, whilst very “at this time” focussed actually draws upon guidance and teaching Peaceful Paws has always offered.
From time to time for a variety of reasons we need time out from a daily walk…
- injury, illness and disability- both dogs and us
- reactive behaviours
- being “trggered”
- weather- both too hot and too cold
- bitch in season
- over stimulated from too much household busyness
- Firework season
- special events such as COVID 19 Government instruction
and a variety of other reasons.
IT IS FINE to do something else rather than a traditional walk. Luckily in the past few years alternatives have been springing up and research and behaviourist advice has created a whole new way of helping dogs ” be dogs”, without having to have a lead, a field, and and hour free. At the end of this blog are a list of wonderful online resources to inspire.
Behaviourist and TTouch therapist Janet Finlay (links below) suggests that we consider Deconstructing the way we offer a walk in circumstances above. She explains here: https://www.canineconfidenceacademy.com/blog/the-deconstructed-dog-walk
So how can we offer the alternative?
What is the Purpose of a Walk?
- toileting time
- exercise (body condition)
- having fun
- engaging with their human and other dogs (recommend where possible only family dogs in the Covid crisis, but make a personal decision on your limit of a tiny risk of cross-contamination)
How can we replicate that at home?
Most dogs will toilet in the garden and this is ideal right now, they are likely to have 12-24 hours between access to the outside world which may be too long, particularly for young and older dogs or those with health needs.
Teaching a “go pee” is so helpful. If you dont have it then this is a time to teach. Go in the garden and when they pee/poo have a great reward of fuss and fun and fabulous food if approriate. As they squat say happily “go pee” when they finish have a party ! It wont take long to have them pee on cue. This is a really helpful cue anyway, its certanly been invaluable on freezing nights or vet trips!
If they only go pee out of the garden begin teaching it out on your walk and then try in the garden , it may take a while but persevere.
All the following ideas should be for a maximum of 5 mins at a time and you can mix and match from each category over a day or week.
- Toy fun, ball throwing, but limit to max of 5 mins to save joint strain. Tug.
- Chase a brilliant way to revisit recall! Drop a little bit of their food and as they go to eat it , run away and repeat, change direction, hide, call them, be creative.
- Stretches –be careful not to over stretch, paws up, spins, leg weaves, play bow peekaboo, allstrethc (think Yoga- there is Real Dog Yoga too!)
- Obstacle courses – use household items, indoors or out to create, balance, climbing, jumping experiences ( kitchen steps, toddler stools, brooms, cushions, pillows, towels, plant pots garden canes… use your imagination )
- Confidence courses – similar, but with a range of novel items to challenge problem solving and boost confidence with novelty, move over, through, under, around a range of objects- as above with novel items such as a bottle maze or a maze from plant pots and canes.
- Balance – create a course to walk across to support balance, pillows, or wide “planks” on steps ,
- Tricks that move and stretch the body spins both ways, weave in and out of bottles or chairs, crawl under table or chairs, play bows, head turns from side to side, sit to stand to down (mix it up, only 3-5 a day) paws up , different number of paws in a different (or the same ) object … front paws, back paws, 3 paws, opposite 1 at front and back , run around an object ( table, box, chair) each way.
- Freework A new activity which is used by trainers and therapists at a varity of levels, at its simplest it is the chance for the dog to slow down and just “be”, doggy mindfulness if you like. It gives the chance to stretch and forage and have a calm time. This is Genghis taking time out.
Here is some more information This website is from Sarah Fishers website
Food search/forage/scavenge – this is an important part of all dogs daily engagement in the environment. One that is much overlooked. This is a long activity and might take 20 mins. It is deeply tiring and rewarding. Set it up and stand back and just let them be a dog.
- Food plates – find the favourite or novel foods. Get together 10-12 (safe) foods your dog might enjoy including familiar ones but also others. Offer 2 at a time on separate flat trays or plates. Note the first choice. Do for all foods, then narrow down by offering 2 at a time again, until you have the top choices. Use these to encourage engagement.
- Muffin tins (then add balls or yoghurt pots or plastic cups to cover the spaces)
- Hunting – show dog where a few foods are “hidden” in plain sight, help them to find, do it together. Next step “hide” in plain sight and ask “find it” excitedly. Then with dog out of room/space hide and help find then as before “find it”. Do in the same place until skilled and enjoying, anticipating. Then go to a different room, outside etc.
- Towel – get a small towel or teatowel or soft mat . Put food on it to find and help until they know what to do, then roll a few in and show how to unravel, then make it trickier ! Use in boxes, on trays or roasting tins. Do it at different heights by balancing on a low stool or table.
- Plant pot (yoghurt pot/ plastic cups/cones) search – get 2/3 pots, put food on or around the pots and encourage engagement. Then put on top of pot, then underneath and show how to get them. Then do just one or 2 leaving some empty. Add a few more pots. Repeat process. Play inside and out as a mix up.
- Snuffle mats – sink drainer or object with holes, an old tea shirt or fleece blanket. Thread through the holes and knot. Add foods to find, show as above.
- Holey rollers – balls with holes in, do the same, or just thread rolls of fabric in with food wrapped in.
- Cabbage fun – hide tiny bits of smelly food, between the leaves of a cabbage or lettuce.
- Ball pits– small plastic balls – or tennis balls and a container…. A box, a bag for life, food tin.
- Tent pits , a kids tent contains the balls and the food… use indoors or out.
- Cardboard tube fun – collect tubes, fold end add food, fold other end. Show how to open, then put in boxes (think of honeycomb shape) to search through or just a few offered.
- Recycle the recycling – box with safe recycling, cardboard, plastic bottles, put some food in , incuding inside the bottles and just let them have fun.
- Scatter feed – a handful of kibble thrown on the floor (patio, grass, kitchen floor) or use a novel container: box, toy box , tent, tunnel, tray
- Bring the outside in, collect grass, [ebbles, sticks that have engageed them on a walk and make a snufle tray.
- Problem solving – Nina Otteson and Kong commercial games.
- Developing thinking games- what does your dog like doing? Opening things, shaking things, rolling and fetching.
- digging for fun very rewarding and great physical exercise. Use a low box or kids sandpit for outside. The under bed boxes are good. A little kids sand. Make sure outside boxes have a lid. It can help to have on a plastic sheet, or a yard area. Add some toys and dry food show them where it is as you bury it, then hide and don’t let them know.
- Get the treat from the bottle chase, shake , throw, to get to the treat.
Interacting and learning
- Learn how to use a clicker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvw2bcGcoDk
- Tricks and fun – there are endless tricks to learn from paw giving, spins and turns, crawling under, weaving around, to collecting dropped items or emptying the washing or tidying the toys. The internet has so many videos. Look at you tube for Kikopup (Emily Larlham) or Kyra Sundance . Both are excellent.
- Fun Learning Games – 3 minute games are fabulous for building working relationships, boredom busters and most need little equipment , just their food. Absolute Dogs have a set of free books with games in – this is a great one.
- TTouch is a lovely way to gently connect and relieve stress in your dog and you. This is a free introductory course https://www.canineconfidenceacademy.com/store/bFjpKoEt
- 101 things to do with a box, get them to show you what they can do.
Sarah Ellis is a brilliant trick trainer and has so many on her Facebook page.
We mustn’t underestimate the value and importance of calm at this time. For many of our dogs life has changed considerably. Their quiet routine has changed, there is more noise, more movement, more people. This can be a bit overloading! So time out is essential for them to reset. Anyone homeschooling can really relate to how they are feeling right now! so here is some support for the end of your Deconstructed Walk, the “cool down” .
Relaxing and calming food activities
- Kongs ( you can use yoghurt pots)
- LikiMats – there are commercial ones but a silicon pot stand works. Spread with something soft- cream cheese, goats cheese, yoghurt, veg puree, puree chicken broth, baby food, (no onions) , tinned dog food (Cesar or Lilys kitchen is good) , or fresh . A good rinse and a hot wash or dish-wash cleans them thoroughly.
- Chews (chewing and crunching induces calm hormones) – avoid cheap raw hide , or packaged bones of anything from china, good choices- pigs ears, calf hooves, puzzles, paddywack, chicken feet, dried necks, antlers.
- just time for themselves in a quiet place .
- there is another blog just on this here.
There are myriad of amazing places to go for more fun. This list below is not inclusive at all! but will offer lots of ideas.
If you would like some more information about anything DOG please contact me via this website or go to the Facebook page or join the facebook group. I am hoping to add some virtual minicourses soon as amazing offers.
Some internet links
Louise Burton Online Trainer, highly recommended.
Tricks and fun with Ruby
fun activities with Tilly
Canine Enrichment: https://www.facebook.com/groups/canineenrichment/
Beyond the bowl: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1747279312231501/
ACE connections: https://www.facebook.com/groups/332134427492077/
Kikopup You Tube:
School of canine science on YouTube:
Canine Confidence Academy, free taster courses:
Brilliant Family Dog, free short courses:
Nail maintenance for dogs:
Positive dog husbandry:
Dog Training College, check out their free stuff and facebook page:
Animal Education 100 days of enrichment
Spiritdog, online challenges
Local to Taunton – virtual classroom with Nic Evans