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Your Weekly Training Tip

Feb 14, 2010


Winter Games for Dogs!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Go to Canine Behavior Services home pageFor those of us feeling the brunt of this excessively wintry winter, one noticeable side effect has been the onset of "cabin fever" - not just for ourselves, but for our dogs, too! We can't get outside as much, or as easily, for walks and runs. Our dogs are spending less time outdoors playing and exercising. Opportunities for socialization and training are fewer and farther between. Overall, our dogs deal with this seasonal complaint pretty well, but it's not uncommon to see an increase in behaviors related to too little exercise and too much boredom. These can range from sudden increased chewing, digging, and destructiveness, to irritability with (or constant pestering of) human or animal family members, to "bouncing off the walls" energy, and even to behaviors such as dogs obsessively licking and chewing themselves. If your dog is feeling cooped up, due to the weather, or an injury, your schedule, or old age, the following are some suggestions for relieving the symptoms of canine "cabin fever". Take your choice, or even better, do several this week!

Go somewhere new. Any and all walks are great, but going new places offers the excitement and mental stimulation of new sights and smells, in addition to good ol' exercise. Find a new neighborhood to walk, a new park to explore, or visit a pet supply store you haven't been to lately.

Teach something new. Did you know that mental exercise tires a dog more quickly and thoroughly than physical exercise? It's true! Teach your dog something new this week. Can your dog balance a treat on his nose? Shake a paw? Roll over? Crawl along the floor? Jump over your legs while you sit on the floor? Jump through a hoop? Play dead? Retrieve your slippers? Take a bow? If not, pick something that sounds fun, and start training!

Do something old with a new twist. Do you usually practice your dog's obedience exercises with treat rewards? How about doing something different? Does your dog love to play ball, or enjoy retrieving toys? Turn it into a fun training game! For every throw of the toy, ask for some obedience behavior or trick as you hold the toy. As soon as your dog "performs", whoop some praise, then send your dog after his toy. Dogs adore this game, once they understand how it works. For working breeds (herding, hunting, and guarding breeds), it also gives them a fun, satisfying outlet for their built-in drive to work with you.

Arrange a play-date. Dogs benefit greatly from social interaction outside their "family unit". If your dog gets along well with other dogs, find some time to get together with a friend or relative and their dog. This is a sure way to come home with a tired, satisfied hound!

Give your dog a bone. Chewing is a natural and healthy activity for dogs. Dogs not only chew for entertainment, but to relieve stress, as well. Besides the old stand-by raw or smoked bone, there are many dog toys (such as Kongs and Busy Buddies) that are made to be filled with food and treats. As your dog works to extract the treats, he not only gets a fun snack, he gets the "satisfaction of the hunt", too! This is great mental stimulation and boredom relief.

Have fun with this. And until next week, enjoy your dogs, and Happy Training!

Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Canine Behavior Services



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Weekly Training Tips are Copyright 2010, Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC, Canine Behavior Services. All rights reserved.