Shirin Merchant is India’s pioneering Canine Behaviourist and Trainer. For the past 25 years, she has worked hard to ensure that dogs in India are trained using humane, reward-based methods.
Being stuck at home due to the rains or the pandemic, with all its social restrictions, is as much a bummer for you as it is for your pup. When you’re stuck at home, your dog is likely to get less exercise than usual. But did you know that despite being confined inside the house, you can still engage in meaningful activities with your dog that can stimulate them mentally and physically? There’s lots of things you can do inside the home to tire your dog out. When dogs are bored, they tend to look for entertainment elsewhere and this can have undesirable consequences (chewed up items sound familiar?). Playing with your dog a few times through the day will deter them from making up their ‘own games’, taking away their focus from other possibly destructive habits. And what’s more – it will be loads of fun for you and your family too!
Try out these games and activities to keep your canine companion on their toes. Puppies are simple souls and small things in life can make them happy. Here are a few effortless and fun ideas that will help put a wag in your pet’s tail!
Get Down And Just Play: A pup wants no more from its best friend than a good romp on the floor. Get down on the floor, bring out your pup’s favourite toys and have a lovely game. Make sure you praise and pet your pup for playing well.
DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Agility Course: All pets love to play around on agility equipment. Now you can put your own little agility course up at home without investing in expensive agility equipment. Line up three chairs, then teach you pup to weave around them. Borrow a kiddie tunnel and teach your dog to run through it. You can also line up a couple of kiddie shoe boxes and encourage your pup to jump over them. Once your pup can tackle all three obstacles, link them up to form your very own miniature agility course. Keep it creative, but not too industrious. Remember to keep things simple and avoid asking your pet to jump too high or too frequently. Agility encourages your pet to use its mind to negotiate its way through the obstacles and is a great way to teach it to develop eye-paw coordination.
Cuddle Up: Your pooch, especially a pup, will love spending time with you. So, cuddle up on a sofa or bean bag and watch your favourite soap opera with your little best friend snuggled up on your lap.
Sniff It Out: Your pet will absolutely love this game. Hide a treat in one of your hands; then close your fist. Present both fists to your dog and ask, “which hand?” Most dogs are bound to nose the hand that contains the food. When your dog does that, immediately praise him, open the fist and let him have the treat. If he noses the wrong hand, show him the correct hand, but do not give the treat. Encourage him to try again. In no time, at all, your pet will be able to indicate the correct hand without an effort!
Play Shuffle-The-Cups: You could also have your dog watch as you place a treat under one of three inverted cups. Shuffle these cups around for 10-15 seconds, while encouraging them to “find the treat!” This game gives your dog plenty of mental stimulation and supports their ability to problem solve.
Play Hide and Find Treats: Nose work games are great in honing your dog’s natural gift of scent. Grab their favourite treat and have them watch you place it around the room. Next, give them the go-ahead to “find the treat,” and encourage them to find them all. Always lavish your pet with praise when they find one. When you think your dog has grasped the meaning of “find the treats,” level up the game by having them stay in another room while you hide the treats, even in spots that will really challenge your dog’s smelly senses, like under a rug.
Ensure To Give Them A ‘Window Seat’: Let your pet stay entertained by setting them up in a comfortable spot where they can look outside the window. Open the blinds or curtains and let them watch what’s going on.
Turn On Your TV! YouTube for Dogs or Animal Planet are popular ways to keep pets busy while at home. The sounds and sights of other animals can be calming or interesting for all pets alike.
Schedule A Play-date: You could connect with a fellow pet-parent neighbour or friend and have your pets hang out together in one or the other’s home. This brings in a burst of excitement for pets who are friendly with other animals.
Give A Doggy Massage, Keep Them Calm: We pet our dogs daily – so why not level it up and make it a real massage! A nice massage soothes both – you and your pooch. It also helps with circulation and releasing muscle tension and anxiety. Dogs know that these are super special pats filled with extra love and care. There are plenty of great resources online demonstrating how you could massage your pet safely (YouTube search for dog massage). If your pet is on edge or experiences anxiety, in addition to massaging your pet, you can also add essential oils, diffusers, calming chew toys, calming collars to calm them.