Now you’re home in quarantine, this is a great time to do things with your dogs. I keep my dog, Geo, busy with walks, fetch, and scent and training games. My favorite saying is, “A tired dog is a good dog!” And these cover his need for exercise and brain stimulation. I’m going to give you suggestions and overviews along with links to “how to” videos. (See Resources below)
I have taught Geo to play fetch. It is a great way to tire your dogs if you only have 10 minute break from your “stay-at-home” job. The best way to start teaching fetch is to toss the toy your dog is most likely to go after only a couple feet away. When your dog picks it up, step backwards or turn to run a couple steps, acting very excited, to draw your dog to come towards you. He might drop the toy, that’s ok, try again. Your dog should get the hang of how the game’s played in time. It’s supposed to be a fun, goofy, sloppy game. (See Fetch)
I’m sure many of you are getting out and about with your dogs. I recommend you use a 6 foot leash and never a flexi-leash. I like a shorter leash because I have a better control of my dog and with everyone on high alert, I don’t want my dog running up to people. If you do have time to take your dog on 12 walks a day, let your dogs sniff things on some of those walks. A dog’s olfactory organ is highly developed. (See How Dogs See with Their Noses) If you want to take a power walk and your dog is a dedicated sniffer, I recommend you take the exercise walk for yourself, leaving your dog home, and then take another “sniffing walk” with your dog. Spending a little time away from home and your dog may help your dog to ease back into those times that you are absent when you return to your regular work schedule.
If fetch, hiking or walking isn’t your dog’s thing, there are many indoor scent games to play. I like playing object recognition games. I put out a favorite toy, when my dog puts his paw or his nose on the toy, I say “yes” or use the clicker to mark that I like what he did. Then I give him a tiny treat as a reward. Once he had touched the toy 10 times in a row, I hold a different toy and wait for him to touch his original favorite toy before rewarding. (See Target) Another fun game is the shell game. I put a treat under three plastic cups. When my dog touches his nose on the correct cup, I lift it up so he can get his treat. (See Shell game) It’s always fun to teach tricks like Spin. I found the easiest way is to lure my dog by holding a treat at his nose and slowly moving my hand around in a circle, then fading out the treat but use my hand in the same circle to lure them around. (See Spin)
Your dog might have a behavior that you would like to see improved. Now would be a great time to work on the basics: sit, down, stay, and come when called. Pick one and work on it 3-5 minutes a day. I like to incorporate games into learning. On our walks, I let my dog get a big 10-30 second snootful of smells as a reward every so often for walking with me.
Teaching my dog “fetch” helps with getting him to want to come when called. It has all the components to a successful recall, he is away from me, he comes to me, and he is rewarded with my attention and it is all fun. I use the clicker when teaching specific behaviors. (See How To
I’m sure your dog loves having you home and this is a great time to spend “quality” with him. I sure have enjoyed spending more time with Geo.
Fetch: Zac George
How Dogs see with their noses: Alexandra Horowitz
Targeting: Ken Ramirez
Shell game: Kyra Sundance
Spin: Kyra Sundance
How to clicker train: Donna Hill
How to clicker train: Karen Pryor Academy, Take a Bow Wow
20 Tricks: Kikopup