Rainy Day Fun!
In general, dogs need a daily walk that lasts 30 minutes, depending on age, health, breed, etc. This can be pretty difficult here in Southwest Louisiana during the spring months, however. Without a daily walk, dogs get bored, and/or anxious. When this happens, he will find something to do to curb the boredom and anxiety, like chew our shoes, lick his paws incessantly, destroy furniture, etc. So what to do when it’s raining cats and dogs during this time of year?
Interactive dogs toys are amazing for boredom and anxiety! If you’ve read any of my previous articles you know how much I LOVE interactive dog toys! Balls, ropes, and plush toys can be pretty boring to dogs when you are no longer engaging in play. However, with interactive toys (aka puzzle toys) your dog can spend an hour or more entertaining herself.
You may be familiar with Kong toys. These are some of my favorites. The original Kong can be stuffed with all-natural peanut butter, all-natural plain yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, Easy Cheese/Cheez Wiz, canned dog food, applesauce, and/or baby food (no grapes, cherries, raisins, avocado, onions, garlic, or xylitol, as they’re all toxic to dogs).
Once the Kong is stuffed with yummy goodies, you can freeze the entire toy so that the contents solidify, thus providing your dog with a fun-filled (literally) form of entertainment. These toys are great because they can be used during meals, in between meals, when guests arrive to deter dogs from jumping on them, and some can even be used in the kennel (check label on toy).
Another toy that I absolutely love is called a Kong Wobbler. It is very similar in shape to the original Kong; however, it is larger, made of plastic rather than rubber, unscrews to insert food, and is weighted at the bottom. You can feed your dog her whole meal out of it instead of using a bowl! Simply unscrew the Kong, fill with the correct amount of kibble, screw back together, and place on the floor. Rather than eating directly from a bowl, your dog will now have to work for her food. Her problem-solving skills will improve as she figures out the best strategies to get it.
By the time she is finished eating, she will have been mentally, and physically stimulated, AND she will have a full belly. A dog that’s full and tired is a happy dog–not a bored, destructive dog! There are MANY other interactive toys on the market other than the Kong brand. Just search for “interactive dog toys” on Amazon, or shop at any pet store, and you will easily find several different designs.
I recommend changing out the toys every few days to make it more fun and exciting for your dogs. In fact, you don’t have to purchase anything. An empty water or soda bottle filled with treats, and/or food is a great DIY interactive toy (be sure to supervise, and remove plastic ring from bottle).
Filling a cardboard box with vertically-arranged paper towel rolls and/or toilet paper rolls is also a great puzzle. Just fill some rolls with treats or food and let Fideaux figure out where the food is hidden–it’s really fun to watch them using their noses and figuring it out, too.
Another great idea is to use a muffin tin and tennis balls. Fill some of the muffin compartments with food, and then cover all of them with tennis balls. Now, your dog has to figure out where the food is located.
Last, you can hide their kibble or treats in various places in a room or several rooms, and then let them find the food. I do this often with my dogs. I’ll have them in a “stay position” while I hide their kibble throughout the living room. When I release them from the “stay position,” and say, “Go find it!” they’re on the hunt–and then they nap for quite a while.
Other than providing interactive toys, there are a few other things you can do that will give them their daily stimulation. Bully sticks, antlers, hooves, bull or ram horns are also great chews that usually last quite a while. Just be sure to supervise with any chew.
If you have a long hallway and your dog likes to fetch, practice throwing the ball down the hallway and have her retrieve it.
Some dogs don’t like to play fetch, so maybe try a game of tug-o-war. Don’t worry–it’s a myth that this game will make your dog aggressive or “dominant.”
Practice leash walking IN your home. Yes, that’s correct. Dogs learn better with little to no distractions initially, and then you gradually add distractions. If Fideaux doesn’t do so well on leash walks, start practicing on focus and not pulling indoors first. You can teach “focus/watch me” simply by showing your dog a treat and bringing the treat to the middle of your eyes while saying “focus” or “watch me.” When she looks at the treat or at your eyes, praise and reward with the treat. As she gets better, start increasing the distance between you and her, and the duration that she focuses on you. Knowing this cue can really be helpful on walks.
Last, teach your dog new cues or tricks! Sit, down, stay, leave it, take it, drop it, come when called, loose-leash walking, watch me, off, on your place, and wait are the basic cues that all dogs should know. Sign up for a positive, science-based, force-free dog training class to learn how to properly train your dog. Then, you’ll have new homework/material to work on each week. Zak George, Kevin Duggan, and Kikopup all have a GREAT YouTube channels with great videos on how to train your dog using modern force-free methods–same methods I use.
So now, you and Fideaux are out of excuses when it comes to these rainy days! Happy training!
Britney Blanchette Pitre, CPDT-KA
BONS CHIENS Dog Training, LLC.