Tag 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!

 

Tampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What is UpDog?

4 Way Play Frizgility 10361263_1512780378945583_2448123466868105570_nTampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender: What’s UpDog?

UpDog is a brand new dog sport organization created by Kat and Jack Fahle, Andrea and Jason Rigler, and Babz Mahony. These dedicated disc doggers wanted to expand their favorite sport to include a wider variety of dogs – and people – than seen at typical disc dog events. Traditionally, while many people enjoy games with discs in their yards, only athletic dogs of certain body types and handlers with great disc throwing distance and skills are very successful at disc dog competitions. UpDog organizers wanted to change that. “We feel that everyone should be able to participate in the game of disc. It’s one of the most fundamental things people do with their dog – play fetch. As such, we’ve created games that allow all levels of people and dogs to play. We’ve helped make the sport more beginner friendly by creating games that incorporate short tosses, by allowing the use of soft discs, rollers [discs that are rolled on their sides rather than thrown in the air], and, in many games – multiple discs,” says Kat Fahle. UpDog’s website says, “UpDog is dedicated to expanding the awareness and participation of people and dogs in athletic endeavors. We want more people and more dogs having fun, playing together. So we designed some fun games built around the opportunity for every dog and human to work towards their own personal bests. You will have fun (Play), you will earn achievements (Achieve), and you and your dog will learn and grow (Expand).”

UpDog offers a variety of games that incorporate elements of agility and flying disc. But extensive training in either sport is not required. If your dog can catch a thrown or rolled disc and/or can do agility jumps and tunnels, you can have a great time at UpDog events. The games offered through this venue are fun in and of themselves, but they also provide a stepping stone to other dog sports. Fahle says, “Not only is it easier to get started in disc via UpDog, the other great thing is that as you play our games you are building foundation skills needed to play Freestyle should the day come you want to try that out. So you and your dog are learning while playing!”

Everything about UpDog is “beginner friendly,” as Fahle says. “If your dog is at the point in his training where he will only return a disc if you have another disc, we have some games that allow multiple discs. Say you can’t throw more than six feet; we have games where short tosses are all that are needed and then once you build your skill set there are more games and more levels to explore. We also allow you to roll the disc, which may allow for a new person to get more distance at first while they learn better throwing mechanics.  For dogs not yet used to hard discs; we allow soft discs!  Say you have a physical limitation that doesn’t allow you to ever throw farther than 6-10 feet; you can stay in level 1 for as long as you need. Simply because you earn enough Ups [qualifications] to move to level 2 doesn’t mean you have to move to level 2.  Conversely, the games and levels offer challenges for even the most skilled disc dog teams as well.  In UpDog, there is something for everyone at every level of play,” says Fahle.

Unlike most disc events, you don’t have to place in your class to “win.” Fahle says, “We’ve built in a system of achievements and UPs so that every person who earns even just one point while playing is rewarded. Each game has achievements that can be earned. Starting this fall, when a team joins UpDog, their achievements will show on their digital profile, which can be shared via social media, linked to on websites, et cetera. Then, as they accumulate achievements, those count towards UPs. These are physical rewards somewhat like dog tags that participants can earn and collect. The earning of UPs also allows teams to move up from one level to the next somewhat like titles in agility.”

UpDog has been very well received in the disc dog community, and it is beginning to make waves among dog sport enthusiasts of all kinds. Even though the first UpDog classes were offered just this spring, the upcoming UpDog event, planned for August 9th in Plant City, filled up all available competition spots in just 13 hours (spectators are welcome). The UpDog team traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently to present the sport at the United Kennel Club’s national event, the Premier, and it was very well received. The fall will bring UpDog competitions to Illinois, New Hampshire, and Canada. Pretty great for a brand new organization born right here in central Florida!

For more information on UpDog, visit their website at http://updogchallenge.com/ or find them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UpDogChallenge.

Courteous Canine, Inc. offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball, Fun Scent Games, disc dog sports and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer: Dog Travel Safety

dog traveling

Dog Travel Safety is an important concern

Tampa Dog Trainer: Dog Travel Safety

By Brenna Fender

Dog owners often travel with their pets to competitions, on vacation, or just about town while on errands, but they may not realize that the way they travel can mean the difference between life and death.

Do you drive with Fido loose in the back seat or running around your RV?  Do you pile your gear on the passenger seat?  Things like these can make a big difference in the event of an accident.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association states that a 60-pound dog riding in a car traveling at 30 miles per hour becomes a projectile which can hit the windshield – or the driver – with the force of 1,200 pounds. While 82% of Americans wear their seatbelts, only a fraction secure their dog during car travel, which means that, in an accident, a canine companion can become a deadly missile. This endangers your dog, your passengers, and you.

Owners can travel much more safely by securing their dogs (and other loose objects) in their vehicle. One way to do this is by purchasing a crate. The safest crates are made of either hard plastic or metal.  There are pros and cons to each – plastic might be less strong, but metal wires may bend and injure a dog. Noted conformation handler, breeder, and American Kennel Club judge Pat Hastings says, “I believe that a quality fiberglass (plastic) crate is the safest way to travel with dogs. We have stopped at two accidents where the dogs were in wire crates and the impact of the accident broke the wires at the welds. Some of the dogs were killed by the wires and some were just injured but it was very difficult to remove the dogs as the wires were bent inward.” Ruff Tuff Kennels are the latest innovation in travel crate safety, designed specifically with car travel (and accidents) in mind. (Learn more at http://www.rufftoughkennels.com/)  Fabric crates, while better than nothing, provide far less protection than a solid crate.

Placing a crate in your vehicle isn’t enough to make your dog safe – that crate must be secured so that it doesn’t become a projectile in a crash. While the gold standard used to be to use bungee cords, ratchet straps and other methods are now considered to be better suited to assure that a crate will remain stationary.  Do not place loose objects in a crate during travel because these can strike the dog during an accident.

Another way to keep your dog safe is by using a specially-made seatbelt. A properly fitted belt will allow your dog to change positions but will keep animals from being thrown during an accident. Proponents of seatbelts believe that these are safer than crates because animals can impact the wall of a crate during rapid deceleration. However, seatbelts will not shelter a dog from projectiles like a crate will. If you’re purchasing a seatbelt, make sure it is crash-tested and guaranteed.  Recent tests have shown that many seatbelts are useless or downright dangerous in an accident (http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2013/10/28/the-best-seat-belts-for-your-dog/). The new crash-tested car seat might be a better bet for small dogs, but the product is very new. (http://www.mightymitedoggear.com/dog-supplies/crash-tested-dog-car-seats-pupsaver)  Other crash tested options can be found here: http://www.mightymitedoggear.com/mighty-mite/dog-care-travel-gear/car-accessories/safety-harnesses-dog-seat-belts. Be sure that dogs in vehicles are not seatbelted near airbags, which are dangerous for animals and small children.

Many of the crash-tested crates and seatbelts are very expensive and owners may think that there is no use trying to keep their dog safe if they can’t afford these options. But securing your dog in some way is very important to the safety of all involved, even if you have to do so with a garden-variety crate.

Don’t forget to secure your gear as well.  Collapsible chairs, spare crates, training bags, luggage, children’s toys, and other items can all be dangerous if an accident occurs.  Use straps to keep items stationary or pack them in stow away areas within the vehicle.

Other tips for safe travel involve keeping your dog’s head inside the vehicle, never allowing an animal to ride loose in the open bed of a truck, and never leaving any pet in a parked car. These situations are all documented risks to animal safety, with the potential for injury or death.

Many dogs are part of the family. When traveling, treat them like you would treat a family member. Make sure that your dogs are safe and secure.

A version of this article first appeared on USDAA.com.

Courteous Canine, Inc. offers dog training, puppy training, working with aggressive dogs and rehabilitating fearful and shy dogs.  In addition we offer cat training, agility, pushball and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!

Tampa Dog Trainer: Brenna Fender – Is Humility at Odds with Success?

clickerclassIs Humility at Odds with Success?

By Brenna Fender, Tampa Dog Trainer

When you walk off an agility course, out of an obedience or rally ring, or away from your dog training class, do you dwell on your shortcomings? Do you gloss over your successes and focus on your failures?

Do you think only about what went wrong and rarely about what went right?

I am guilty of behaving this way and, thanks to my interest in sports psychology, I’m wondering why. The bottom line is this: I was raised to believe that humility is proper, and that bragging should generally be avoided.

As children, we take pride in our accomplishments and believe we have enough skill and talent to take on any task. And that’s a good thing, because children learn and grow by trying out a wide variety of experiences.

But life takes its toll on us and we learn that we can’t do everything we think we can. Self-doubt depletes our confidence. As we continue to grow, our social skills develop. We learn that it’s best to be humble, to understate our skills, to avoid making others feel “less” because we, in some areas, are “more.” It’s polite, right?

Sport psychology gurus offer a different take. This don’t-brag-about-yourself, don’t-think-too-much-of-yourself, really-you’re-no-better-than-anyone-else behavior that many of us have grown into appears to be in direct conflict with having a winning mindset.

This is a problem.

Many successful athletes, actors, and others don’t worry about always sounding humble. They speak openly about their successes, talents, and skills. They do not often point out their shortcomings, and if they do, they don’t apologize for them. Does that kind of talk make you uncomfortable? Does it feel too much like bragging?

It may seem that these people have let success go to their heads, thinking they are better than others because of what they have achieved. But perhaps they have always believed in themselves. Maybe they have always felt that they could achieve what they set out to do. Perhaps that’s part of what has led to their success. What if they are good at certain things because they believe they will succeed, rather than being successful because they are good?

I believe that I have certain skills and talents. Could I be good at those things because I believe I am, rather than the other way around? It’s mind boggling to think about!

The dilemma is, can I allow myself to think I’m good at new things, like the sports I do with my dog? Can I speak highly of my own performance rather than be self-deprecating under the guise of modesty and humility?

Maybe I need to spend some time changing my own thoughts when I hear people make successful statements about themselves. Perhaps I need to brand it as confidence that leads to success rather than boasting that comes from it.

 

Brenna Fender is a dog sport journalist who writes for Clean Run Dog Agility Magazine, USDAA’s website and many other high profile dog publications.  Courteous Canine, Inc. offers agility, pushball and dock jumping instruction. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boutique boarding! Angelica Steinker the owner of Courteous Canine, Inc. is the author of Agility Success a book addressing the mental training aspects of agility training grab your copy at www.CleanRun.com.