Tag Archives: Fun Scent Games

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: The ABCs of Tracking and Other Games

dog noseTampa Dog Trainer Brenna Fender

The ABCs of Tracking and Other Games

By Brenna Fender

American Kennel Club (AKC) is probably the most well-known organization in the United States to sanction tracking. You can read the AKC tracking regulations and get other info at http://www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/tracking/.

Beginning tracking dogs learn on short, straight tracks with their handlers close by.

Cross-tracks are found in some tracking tests (the AKC TDX test is one). A cross-track occurs when someone other than the tracklayer walks across the track. In an AKC TDX test, cross-tracks are made by two people who walk side-by-side about four feet apart at a 90 degree angle to the track. Cross-tracks add an additional challenge for tracking dogs. There are many specific instructions on how a cross-track should be laid, and those details can be found in the AKC tracking regulations, Chapter 4, Section 4.

Dogs of any breed can enjoy tracking. Although hounds are well known for their tracking prowess, even toy breeds like Papillons have proven themselves to be talented trackers! Some organizations, like the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registration (AMBOR), allow mixed breeds to title in tracking.

Equipment needed for tracking includes a non-restrictive harness, long tracking leash, flags, gloves, and other articles. You will also need a large, grassy area free of obstacles. Other items may be used in training, like treats or toys.

Flags are placed when a track is mapped in order to tell the tracklayer where to walk. In an AKC Tracking dog test, all but the first two flags are removed before the dog begins to track. In Tracking Dog Excellent tests, only the first flag and flags indicating cross tracks remain, and in Variable Surface Tracking tests, only the start flags remain. Flags help orient the handler and give him or her a visual clue about wind direction and strength.

Gloves are frequently used as the articles found at the end of an AKC Tracking Dog test track. Wallets are also allowed.

Handlers must stay 20 feet behind their dogs in AKC tracking tests, except in Variable Surface Tracking tests, in which the required distance is 10 feet. Leashes used for tracking should be 20-40 feet long.

Items dropped along a track by the tracklayer are called “articles.” These smell like the tracklayer and are deliberately placed for dogs to indicate as part of a tracking competition.

Just straight lines? No way! Tracking tests incorporate a minimum of three turns, which can be tricky for dogs to follow.

Know the rules before you enter. Different sanctioning organizations may use slightly different rules, so be sure you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing at any competition.

Levels of difficulty and titling in AKC tracking include Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). Dogs that have earned a TD may go on to the TDX or VST levels next. Dogs that earn all three titles become Champion Trackers and earn the letters CT before their AKC registered name. There are more tracking titles being added as the sport continues to develop.

Maintain your own fitness (and your dog’s) because tracking is an outdoor sport performed over varied terrain over long distances. An AKC Tracking Dog test is a minimum of 440 yards long, and the TDX and VST tests are longer, up to 1000 yards for the TDX.

Novice tracking dogs (with no previous tracking titles with the AKC) must obtain a certification before entering an AKC test. According to the AKC tracking regulations, “A written statement must accompany each entry for a licensed or member tracking test for any dog that has not previously passed an AKC TD test.” This letter must be signed by a person approved to judge tracking tests, and it must certify that the dog has successfully completed a certification test, which should be equivalent in complexity and conditions to a TD test. Other tracking organizations may also require certification.

Other organizations in the United States that sanction tracking include the Australian Shepherd Club of America (asca.org/programs/tracking), the America Mixed Breed Obedience Registration (ambor.us), and Schutzhund clubs like the United Schutzhund Clubs of America for the German Shepherd Dog (germanshepherddog.com).

Praise and petting are allowed in an AKC tracking test when a dog finds the articles on a track. Competitors can’t use the articles to play with their dogs, though.

Quenching a dog’s thirst while tracking is fine in an AKC tracking test, but use of anything other than water or ice is prohibited. Be sure to bring water when you are training for tracking since you don’t want your dog to overheat, or have his ability to scent the track diminished because of a dry nose and mouth.

Reinforcement in the form of small treats is often left along the track during the early stages of training. In fact, some training techniques involve placing food in every footstep! Other training methods leave treats in various spots, called food drops.

Speed is not necessary for tracking. There is no maximum test time in AKC tracking tests. But if a dog is not working, he may fail the test, so don’t expect unlimited time for a dog that is fooling around.

The sport of tracking involves a dog following a human scent over a track laid previously by a person (the “tracklayer”) who walks in a pattern designed by a judge. Tracking is not the same as man trailing or search and rescue, where dogs are encouraged to scent both ground and air to find a human who is missing, hiding, injured, or deceased.

Unfortunately, scavengers and insects can be attracted to treats left in food drops. Be very careful using food on the track in places where fire ants may infest your treats. A tracking dog that gets a mouthful of ants may be put off of the sport for a long time.

Variable Surface Tracking tests are different than TD and TDX tests, which generally take place in open fields. VST tests show a dog’s ability to work on a “non-vegetated surface.” According to the AKC tracking regulations, “The track will have a minimum of three (3) different surfaces, which will include vegetation and two (2) areas devoid of vegetation, such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, sand, hard pan, or mulch. The areas devoid of vegetation will comprise at least one-third (1/3) but not more than two-thirds (2/3) of the total length of the track.”

Wind plays an important role in tracking. The scent will drift off the track so dogs may track downwind. When training, it can be useful to know where the wind is blowing the scent so that you can be aware when your dog appears to be off track, but may be following the scent after all.

X is added to the letters TD when an AKC competitor earns the Tracking Dog Excellent title. The TDX test is longer, with more turns, and four different articles to be found on the track. It also has cross-tracks and various obstacles like roads, ditches, and woods.

You want to try tracking? To find an AKC training club in your area, go to the AKC website’s club search (akc.org/clubs/search/index.cfm), but be aware that not all of these clubs offer tracking classes or training sessions. To find an ASCA-affiliated club in your area, visit asca.org/ascainformation/affiliateclubs. For Schutzhund, one option is to visit dvgamerica.com and click on “Clubs and Officers by State.”

Zebras on the track? No problem! The appearance of animals or vehicles in the tracking area or crossing a track is considered to be part of the testing environment and the dog will continue to work the track.

Tracking has practical applications for those who want to help others you could learn how to teach your dog to track lost animals, and of course search and rescue focusing on finding people is also a form of tracking.  

A fun version of teaching your dog to find something is Fun Scent Games which centers around your dog finding treats which are hidden in harder and harder to find places.  This game starts with boxes but builds up to a dog searching an entire room or area. Most dogs learn this game very quickly and it can be a great way for with issues to learn to focus and to tune out the environment.  Come join the fun and sign up for a Fun Scent Games class group or private instruction today by visiting www.CourteousCanine.com. 

A version of this article first appeared in DogSport Magazine and is shared with permission.

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 and dock jumping. Courteous Canine, Inc. is a full service dog school that offers doggie day care, pet sitting, group classes and boarding!