Finding fun stuff for dogs to do during lockdown is essential. Bored dogs become depressed and destructive so keeping them physically and mentally stimulated will go a long way to saving your furniture, and your sanity.
A dog’s nose is an excellent place to start. Because his sense of smell is way more developed than ours, this is an excellent ‘tool’ to use when devising fun games. Sniffing all sorts of scents during a walk is really important to dogs, and very stimulating, mentally. Reading ‘pee-mail’ for them is really important when they go for walks so don’t tug on the lead and pull them away; let them sniff to their heart’s content.
Finding fun in food
One of the easiest ways to create a fun food game at home is to pack away your dog’s food bowl and replace with scatter feeding.
• Take the correct measure of kibble that you normally would feed per day, and scatter it on a smallish patch of lawn.
• Allow normal sniffing and innate foraging behaviour to happen with every meal.
• Your dog will love sniffing around to find his kibble. As he gets used to the idea, scatter the kibble over a wider area
• For a fun option, and as an additional treat to encourage him, throw in a few tiny pieces of meat, vienna sausage or biltong.
Many dogs enjoy tearing up newspaper and boxes but if your dog needs a bit of encouragement to ‘hunt’ start this exercise gradually until he gets the hang of it.
• Save newspaper, cardboard toilet roll tubes, and boxes of all sizes e.g. toothpaste, all the way to wine boxes.
• Take a handful of kibble, biscuits or treats, pop onto a piece of newspaper, scrunch up into a ball and offer it to your dog. He’ll have great fun tearing open the newspaper to get to the treats inside.
• Now put a biscuit/treat inside an empty toilet roll tube or a small box, crunch the sides closed, and let your dog figure out how to get to the treat inside.
• Once he has this game figured out, start making it gradually more and more challenging, by putting a treat-stuffed ball of newspaper inside a small box, and letting him work that out.
• As he get better at this exercise make it more challenging, for example: a biscuit inside a toilet roll tube inside a toothpaste box (with a treat alongside) and then put this inside a bigger box, possibly with a few newspaper balls too. Put a treat or 2 into every layer, so he’ll be encouraged to keep on trying.
• For dogs that get really good at this game, you can seal the big box once it is filled, which will keep him busy that much longer.
As long as the scent of food and treats is in every layer, he will keep on working to get them out!
This is brilliant mental enrichment, leaving you with a very happy, tired dog. Finding fun things for your dog to do is easy (and it’s fun for you too) .