The cornerstone of any dog training plan is sufficient off lead exercise. The amount needed will depend on her age, health and breed type. A lead walk on the path will not suffice in most cases. Once your dog has been taught a reliable recall and has a good run off lead every day they will burn off most of their energy.
Beyond that, dogs are intelligent animals and it’s good fun getting their grey matter ticking over. You will be amazed at how quickly it can tire them out. Try some of these fun games: –
Nothing in life is free
This is a training philosophy that I use with all dogs. The premise is that we provide our dogs with the resources that they want and need – Food, attention, treats and toys. With nothing in life is free we only provide those resources if the dog does something for us first. So if going out for a walk I get her to sit before putting her collar on. Then I don’t let her bound out of the door in front of me. She has to wait for me to exit first and she can follow behind. If I give her a treat I get her to sit first.
There are lots of tricks you can teach her. Such as paw, bow, sit, lie down and rollover before she gets the reward. These tricks can be taught via clicker training
Clicker training is a really effective way of teaching your dog new tricks. An inexpensive clicker is used to signal to the dog that they have performed the desired behaviour. It is effective because it acts as a snapshot of that exact moment. For instance if you are teaching her to sit and you use a treat to “shape” the behaviour (Put the treat above her head so she looks up and is compelled to sit down) you can click at the exact moment her bottom touches the floor. Combining this with a treat straight away solidifies in her mind that sitting leads to tasty treats.
There are so many things that can be done with clickers that will be covered in a later article. They are used to train other animals too, from birds to horses.
Hide the biscuits
A simple game for dogs that I like to play is putting her into the kitchen whilst I hide biscuits around the living room. Start off in obvious places scattering them around the room where she can easily locate them. Bring her into the room and get her to sit. Then use the command “find it”. She may be confused the first time you play this. You can help by leading her to the treats. Use lots of praise when she finds them. They soon get the hang of it. Use strong smelling treats. Each time you can up the ante hiding them underneath objects and eventually moving the game outside.
Kong toys are a great way to keep her occupied. The kong filler is expensive so make your own concoctions. Popular ones are yoghurt, jam, peanut butter, cheese and pate. To make them even more challenging put them in the freezer. These are a good distraction too if your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety. Give them a tasty kong as you leave and they’ll look forward to you going out because it means they get their tasty kong back!
Rather than putting your dogs meal down in a bowl for her to consume in a few seconds, put her meal in a dog puzzle feeder. This follows on from the nothing in life is free philosophy. She has to work to get her meal. If you don’t have a puzzle feeder another method is to scatter her meal on the back yard for her to sniff out and eat slowly.
Tug of war
In years gone by tug of war with your dog was thought to encourage her to feel dominant over you if she “won”. However in a controlled manner it can be a great stress reliever and way of tiring her out. The way to do this is to train a command for her to stop and release the toy. The command “drop it” can be used. Once again with nothing in life is free: you instigate the game and you decide when it finishes.
If you have any other mental stimulation games that you enjoy playing with your dog we would love to hear about them. Please add them in the comments section.