Category Archives: Agility

Is Your Dog Bored?

Is Your Dog Bored? Enrich Your Dog’s Life!

By Kimberly Archer, Dog Behavior Technician 

 

Have you ever wondered what a day is like through your dog’s eyes? You may wake up, have breakfast, catch up on the news, do work, socialize with coworkers, relax with your partner, eat dinner, watch TV or read a book, and maybe even do some more socializing at a restaurant or bar. How does this compare to the day your dog has? 

Many dogs have very simple lives: they wake up, eat, take a walk, nap, eat again, and sleep again. Though these dogs are still well loved and have a great time with their parents, there are many ways we can enrich the day for them. 

Enrichment is the process of providing your dog with mental and physical outlets which entertain and exercise them to give them a more fulfilling life. Often enrichment mimics activities which dogs would do in the wild to satisfy the needs, instincts, and desires that are not inherently satisfied by domesticated life with humans.

Mealtimedog using nose to push sliding puzzle blocks and find food

The first enrichment opportunity of the day is mealtime. There are many ways to feed your pup other than to just hand them a filled bowl. The options range from simple to challenging, free to costing money, and quick to more time-consuming to set up. These games are not only fun and interesting for your pup, but they also work out their brains: many dogs need to nap after these brain workouts!

 
 

Food Puzzle Toysdog with Kong in mouth

There are tons of fun food puzzle toys that you can put food in, from simple things like Kongs to fancier food puzzles that your pups have to solve. A Kong is a bee-hive shaped rubber toy with a hole inside it. You can fill this hole with food or with healthy snacks like mashed banana, and your pups will spend time slowly licking it like a popsicle. 
There are also “puzzle” games with different moving parts that you put food in. Your dog has to push, roll, and move around different pieces to solve the puzzle and get at the food. These puzzles come in a variety of difficulties so you can use the challenge level that best suits your dog. 

 

Free / DIY Food Puzzles dog with head in paper bag searcing for food

Get creative. Put their food in a cardboard box and encourage them to figure out how to get it out – yes, let them destroy it! Put food in paper towel rolls, inside a crumpled towel, scattered across the floor, in the grass, or in paper bags.

 

Searching Games

Hide their food and let them find it! Have your dog wait in a room or in a stay while you hide their food somewhere in the house, then let them have fun using their nose to find it. 

 

Trick Trainingdog standing tall for a trick

Use their food as trick training rewards! If you can spare a bit of extra time, breakfast is a great time to practice some trick training with your pup. Not only will this work out their brain like all of the other food games, but it will also increase your bond and training skills.

Toys

Many of us are very susceptible to impulse purchases when it comes to pet toys – we see a super cute plush duck that quacks, and we just have to get it for our fur baby. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, we should also make intentional pet toy purchases to ensure our dog has a good variety of toys to choose from. Rather than just considering quantity, we should also consider some other characteristics of the toys.

 

Noise dog with squeaky stuffed animal toy in mouth

Noise is the most obvious characteristic, and many of us already consider it. There are different types of sounds toys can make from simple squeaks to crinkling or animal noises. Listen to the different toys and try to offer your pup different options so they don’t all just sound like the same generic squeaking.

 

Texture dog with textured rope ball toy in mouth

Regardless of whether you have a super chewer, there are different texture and material options to choose from for your pet. Of course, you always want to keep safety in mind and never offer your dog something you know they will consume, but try to offer them a safe variety. Some different texture options are soft, squishy, ribbed, rough, hard, smooth, and flexible.

 

Playstyledog with rope toy in mouth

There are so many playstyle options both in how the toy is designed and in how you use it. Dogs that don’t enjoy balls may enjoy fetching a plushie, and dogs that don’t like ropes may prefer to tug with a squeaky toy. Try a variety of toys and use them in creative ways rather than just how they’re typically advertised. Types of playstyles and activity types include chasing, fetching, jumping, running, pawing, rolling, bouncing, chewing, sucking, licking, ripping, and noise making.

 

Prey Drive Toys

One specific type of toy is a toy that’s intended to cater to a dog’s prey drive. If your dog likes to chase things then they would probably love toys like this. The flirt pole is a great option: it looks like an oversized cat toy that you can spin around and move back and forth so your dog can chase it. One side is a pole that you hold, and the other end has a string with a toy dangling from it.

Sports

Dog sports can be tiring for us, but they’re even more tiring and enriching for your pup. There are many different categories of sports which your dog may enjoy and that don’t necessarily require a commitment: many places like Courteous Canine Inc. offer classes and private sessions where you can learn and play various dog sports, whether you want to compete or just have some fun.

 

Waterdog jumping from dock into swimming pool

Water sports offer everything from dock jumping for length, to retrieving a toy in the air, to getting a toy as quick as possible, or even just swimming. Other places like the beach can be great spots to take your dog, but ensure you discuss water safety with your veterinarian. 

 

Nosework

Similar to finding treats, you can teach your dog to find a certain scent (like birch or clove) and challenge them to find that scent in a room or even outside. There are also tracking trials that mimic a search and rescue. Though this sport is more mental than physical, they’ll surely be exhausted afterward from working out their brain.

 

Lure Coursingthree dogs running to chase a lure

Like the flirt pole but on a large course, in lure coursing a lure (simulating a toy or animal) is quickly moved around a course by pulleys as your dog chases it. This is a great burst of high-speed running that dogs don’t usually have an outlet for.

 

Discdog with a disc (frisbee) toy in mouth

There are many different disc (think frisbee) sports that range from distance to more performative like dancing. With the range of options you’ll be able to find one that suits both your and your dog’s physical ability and skill.

 

Freestyle

If you’re into dancing but not discs, in canine freestyle you choreograph a dance with your dog and together use movement and tricks to finish a dance routine. 

 

Agilitydog running through agility tunnel

Agility has many specially designed obstacles which test certain physical and mental skills of your dog such as balance, speed, strength, and patience. This is a great whole-body workout.

 

Flyballdog jumping over hurdles playing flyball

If your dog is into jumping but nothing else, consider flyball. Flyball is a race for your pup to jump over hurdles to retrieve a ball and quickly bring that ball back to you.

 

Herdingdog herding four sheep

Herding dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are known to try to herd children and bikers, but a safer way to cater to this natural herding instinct is by actually herding! Don’t worry if you don’t own acres of land to house your own sheep, because there are facilities that specifically host herding lessons and trials for this reason.

Other Activities

There are many other activities that can provide enrichment similar to sports, ranging from more mental to more physical. 

 

Nature Trailsdog running on dirt nature trail

Nature offers many different opportunities to hike, run, bike, and explore so try getting in touch with nature with your best furry friend!

 

Sniffing

If your dog tries to sniff on your walks, take them on sniff-walks! Go somewhere or at a time there are fewer people and dogs around, use a longer leash if safe, and walk extra slowly so your dog can sniff everything around you. Bonus points if you bring them somewhere with fun smells like a park or a garden. 

 

Socializingtwo dogs sitting together

Find ways to socialize your pup with other pups so they can have a social life as rich as yours. For safety reasons, we recommend against dog parks, so if you’re not sure what to do instead feel free to read our article Say No to Dog Parks which offers safe socialization alternatives.

Getting Started

We’ve discussed many different options here, so try to consider the types of things your dog already enjoys doing – for example sniffing and chasing – and choose a few options that would best cater to those interests. If you need any help figuring that out or getting started, feel free to email us at CustomerService@CourteousCanine.com, and we’d be happy to help! Or sign up for our Boredom Busters class which offers many more enrichment ideas!

 

AKC Offers a New Agility Program for Newcomers to the Sport

 

AgilityThe American Kennel Club has begun offering a new program that makes agility more accessible to newcomers. According to the AKC’s website (http://www.akc.org/events/agility/act-program/), the ACT will be available in two levels. “ACT1 is designed for the beginning level dog to show beginning sequencing and performance skills. ACT2 requires an increased skill level shown by the additional obstacles to be performed.”

The ACT is not designed to be just another AKC agility trial class. While it can be offered as part of a trial, the courses can be set up in smaller areas, like those that are used for training agility. Agility instructors and others will be able to apply to judge the ACT, so it can work well as part of an agility class “graduation.”

The ACT is more than just an evaluation. “Exhibitors will learn to fill out an AKC entry form, check-in at the ring, taking their dog in and out of ring, handling their dog while being judged and other information that will help them when they move on to AKC agility trials with their dog,” states the AKC website.

What if your dog isn’t AKC registered or isn’t eligible for AKC registration? That’s okay; you can still try the ACT. The only caveat is that the dog must be 15 months old or older.

What more information? Check out the rules here: http://images.akc.org/pdf/events/agility/ACT_Regulations.pdf?ga=1.68584409.954646677.1449504870

Tighten Those Turns

By Brenna Fender

Turbo wrapSeveral dog sports benefit from tight turns. Agility is the most obvious one, but rally and traditional obedience also include about turns that are best done tightly around the handler. Turning tightly is not necessarily a natural behavior because it requires a dog to collect their stride (taking smaller steps) rather than moving in extension, which dogs often do naturally.

Fortunately, there is a fun and easy way to improve your dog’s turns. First, find something that your dog likes that you can throw. If your dog is a ball or disc lover, that’s an easy task. Thrown toys work great as well.

What if your dog doesn’t like to chase thrown objects? If you are training indoors or on closely-cropped grass, you can throw a very visible treat. You may have to experiment to find a treat that your dog likes and that can be thrown several feet. Another option (which can be used more easily outdoors) is to throw a bait bag, small fanny pack, or a specially made treat-holding toy. Leave the bag, pack, or toy’s treat area open so that your dog can get the treats out by himself for maximum impact. You will have to spend a little time showing your dog how to get the goodies before he will be willing to run after the toy.

Now here’s the fun part: cue your dog to turn, and as they complete the turn, throw your toy or treats away from the dog so that the dog is encouraged to turn tightly in pursuit of the object. For example, if you are doing an obedience about turn (where, during heeling, the handler turns to the right and goes back in the direction from which you came), as you turn, release your dog with your release word (a cue that lets him know he can move out of heel position), and throw the toy in the direction that you are now heading. Once your dog catches on, he should pick up the pace as he turns around you in anticipation of fun!

At first, throw the toy simultaneously with the turn so that the dog is “pulled” forward by the toy. Then, complete your turn before throwing and, later, only toss for tight and timely turns. If your dog anticipates to the point of breaking out of the heeling position and running forward without your cue to do so, you might need to remind him to heel as you turn a few times. This is not as much of a problem in agility where running ahead is most often desirable.

Now, go and tighten those turns!