Keep your dog entertained indoors and out with these paw-fect ideas

PUBLISHED: 13:38 10 June 2020

Small Springer spaniel Puppy jumping tree

Small Springer spaniel Puppy jumping tree

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Dog-friendly ideas for play and exercise at home and in your garden

Keeping cool in an old paddling poolKeeping cool in an old paddling pool

There are plenty of reasons why your dog may not be able to go outside for its regular walks; injury to yourself or your dog, poor weather (some dogs can be picky!) or even the recent lockdown we have all experienced. We all know that mental stimulation is just as important for your dog as physical and a lack of mental stimulation can lead to behavioural issues. So, what can you do if walks are off the menu? Here are a few ideas on how to keep your dog entertained at home or in the garden:

New tricks: With extra time on your hands, why not have a go at teaching your dog something that will be useful for you both? You can use treats, your dog’s regular mealtimes or a toy as a reward. As well as the usual ‘sit’, ‘lay down’ and ‘roll over’ commands, you could learn a whole plethora of new games. You could teach your dog to weave around your legs or get them to stick tightly by your side as you move around. You could always practice gestures that the vet may need in the future, like getting your dog to allow you to look in their ears, or pretending to put drops in by gesturing over their eyes, or looking inside their mouth. How about teaching them to extend their wait, or even get the whole family involved and see if your dog can “find” a certain relative by name!

Extra play: Time spent with you is what your dog likely treasures most in the world, so how about spending some quality one on one time? If you have a safe space, then tug of war is a brilliant game you can enjoy together. If you don’t have a suitable toy, tying old or odd socks together can create a fun, new object for your dog to love. Hide and seek is another game that Laika loves in our house, which can sometimes mean one of us humans hiding under a duvet or in a cupboard and the other asking ‘Where is X?’ as she goes on a mad search to discover where they have disappeared to. Dogs often really enjoy play fighting; it is what they would do with each other in the wild and it can help to strengthen your relationship. Keep play fighting sessions together short to prevent it getting it out of hand, and if your dog displays any aggressive or unwanted behaviour, cease play immediately to teach your dog limits. Discourage play fighting between your dog and children, as this could lead to accidents.

Toys: There are some fantastic toys on the market that make feeding time more exciting. Puzzles that requires pushing with paws or noses to reveal small treats are an option, slow feeders can help gobblers eat at a more leisurely pace or you could use that old faithful Kong toy. Put wet food or a small amount of peanut butter into the toy and then stick it in the freezer ready for dinner time, meaning your dog has to work a bit harder for its meal.

Hide and Treat: We play this game regularly at home with Laika and it is one of her favourites. Prepare a few small, dry treats, preferably ones with a strong smell, and hide the around a room inside your home in places that are safe for your dog to reach. We make Laika wait in the kitchen whilst we hide a few treats in places such as the corner of the stairs, under cushions on the sofa. Laika then goes to find them, keeping her senses stimulated and her brain busy!

Box Puzzle: If you don’t feel your house is safe enough for this, then boxes can make a great alternative. Get some empty cardboard boxes and arrange them on the floor, hiding treats in some of them. Then get your dog to sniff out where the treats are. Once all have been found you can repeat the process with a different box arrangement. If you only have one box, why not fill it with shredded or crumpled paper so your dog must search for its reward? If you’re worried about too many treats, use different smells to keep your dog entertained. Try essential oils, a rag rubbed on a friend’s pet or items from the garden. Dogs noses can be sensitive, so don’t use anything too overpowering.

Cooling off: For many Cornish dogs, the beach is the ultimate trip out. If you’re stuck at home with no possibility of cooling off by the coast, then a paddling pool or damp sand pit can be a great alternative. Hiding a toy in the sand can encourage a dogs’ natural desire to dig. If you have access to a pool of water, then why not pop a (robust) treat at the bottom? Your dog will enjoy ducking and diving down to retrieve it and cool off.

Agility: if you have the space, preferably on grass, then agility can be a fantastic way to keep your dog entertained and strengthen the bond between you. Agility sets can be bought online or from pet shops and can include items such as tunnels, small jumps (ensure you do not ask your dog to take on anything too large as this can cause physical problems), weaving sticks and hoops. If you can’t buy anything, improvise: lay sticks on the floor to jump over or push into the ground to create weaves. If you have never done agility before, watch some videos online for basic instructions; use treats or a toy as encouragement and a reward. Dogs can become mentally tired so don’t spend too long on each activity as your dog will lose interest; sessions should last around half an hour.

Get inventive! At the end of the day, this is a great time for you to be creative and to spend some quality time with your dog. Providing you ensure that you and your dog are safe and you supervise all activities, there are lots of things you can do to keep your dog entertained. The most important thing to remember is keep it fun! Don’t push your dog or get cross if it hasn’t picked up something right away, it should be enjoyable for both of you.

Alexandra Pearce-Broomhead is a coluumnist for Cornwall Life

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