9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Entertained During Quarantine

While the world is going through a difficult time right now, there’s one group that is LOVING this “new normal.” You guessed it… the dogs! Extra walks + extra snuggles + extra play time = happy pups.
Of course, you may have to work from home, and you can’t entertain your dog ALL the time (despite what they may tell you).  So, what’s a work-from-home puppy parent to do?
In order for you to stick to your new work schedule, you’ll need to set a routine designed to offer enrichment, prevent boredom, teach your dog to settle and provide opportunity to learn new behaviors.
Finding ways to provide structure to your dog’s daily routine will take some planning and creativity.  And, while it may be easy to enjoy time with your senior dog, it’s important to work in enrichment time for her, and both enrichment and chill time for your young, energetic dog too.
Here are a nine activities that provide learning, enrichment and exploration to mentally stimulate your pup and free up your time so you can get some work accomplished.
  • 1. Feeding and Puzzle Games (Think Outside the Bowl)

    Provide enrichment, problem solving, and mental and physical stimulation by having your dog work for her food.  Just make sure to measure out the meal portion you ordinarily feed and supervise feeding so your dog is not ingesting items she should not.

    WITH ITEMS YOU ALREADY HAVE AT HOME

        • Bottle Puzzle– put kibble in disposable recyclable plastic bottle (water, milk, etc…) and have her figure out how to roll it, paw it and toss it to get kibble out.
        • Towel Burrito– scatter kibble on a towel, roll it up and let your dog sniff it out and unroll it.
        • Nose Work– put kibble in cardboard or plastic boxes throughout the house and have your dog go on a scavenger hunt.  You can continue refilling boxes until your dog has finished her breakfast portion. Pick up the boxes when they are no longer in use.
        • Hansel and Gretel– set a long trail of kibble throughout various rooms in your house and have your pup start from the beginning.
        • Cardboard Packaging – put kibble in various cubby holes in packaging and have your dog use her nose to find and eat her treats.
        • Used Toilet Paper Rolls – put kibble in various rolls and bend both ends and have your dog figure out how to open rolls to get food.
        • Muffin Pan Game – put kibble in some of the slots in a muffin pan and put tennis balls in all openings. Have your dog use her nose to push balls out of pan and find treats.
    WITH ITEMS YOU BUY
      • Easter Egg Hunt – put kibble inside half of your batch of Easter eggs and have your dog find the ones with treats in them.
      • Puzzle Toys– hide kibble in puzzle toys and have your dog use her nose to uncover kibble.
      • Snuffle Mat– hide kibble in mat and your dog has to sniff it. Level of complexity will vary based on size of the mat and length of the strands.  Kibble can also be crushed to increase challenge. (You can find these at the Hearts Alive Village Pet Supply Store.)

      • LickiMat– spread canned food, pumpkin, or yogurt on mat and have your dog lick it off.  Once your dog gets good at this, freeze LickiMat to increase challenge.
      • Kong– start by making it easy for your dog to lick peanut butter, yogurt, canned food  or pumpkin from a Kong.  Once your dog learns how to do this, you can make it more challenging by stuffing and freezing Kong.
      • Kong Wobbler– place kibble inside Wobbler and your dog will have to push the toy with her nose or paw to let the food out.

    • 2. Take your Dog on a SNIFFari

      At Home

      Create a multisensory journey of exploration for your pup. Go into your garage or storage area and find items that your dog doesn’t ordinarily get to sniff, such as gardening or camping supplies, tents, chairs, luggage, toolboxes, coolers and more. Look for items that will stimulate your dog’s olfaction, have movement, make sounds and/or have interesting textures. Set them up in an open area, where your dog can move freely and let your pup explore.

      At the Park

      Find a grassy, woodsy area, away from people, dogs and cars. Put your dog on a harness and long leash (15 feet is ideal or 2 regular sized leashes tied together will work) and let her take you on your walk. A SNIFFari is an unstructured walk and an opportunity for your dog to take in good sniffs and track the scents she wants to. Unlike your regular walk, where you choose the path and practice polite walking and waiting at the curb, a SNIFFari is meant to be uninterrupted for your dog.

    • 3. Clicker Train!

      Learn a FUN Way to Communicate with your Dog. To start, polish up on and refine your dog’s manners and life skills using “clicker” training.  A clicker is a small device you hold in your hand to make a “click” sound.  If you don’t have a clicker, you can also use the verbal marker “yes” to “mark” the behavior you want.  The benefit of using a clicker is that your dog will get consistent and immediate feedback, which can be more reliable than the word “yes.”
      You “click” the precise behavior you want in the exact moment your dog performs the target behavior. The “click” let’s your dog know she did something right and a treat is on its way. The treat should be small, easy for you to hold in your hand, and quick for your dog to eat.
      Start your training indoors and then vary the setting.  By moving to new areas, you are increasing the challenge and generalizing the behavior. Train in the backyard, front yard and then when you’re out for a walk.
      When the behavior is nearly perfect and you’re willing to bet money that your dog will perform the behavior when asked, you can give it a name.
      FUNdamental Behaviors for Manners, Life Skills, Grooming and More!
    • 4. Name Game

      Toss a treat on the ground away from you and away from your dog.  Right as she is done eating, but before she makes her way to you, call her name, “click” the moment her shoulders turn to come to you and toss treat away from you.  You will be building value for her name.
    • 5. Target/Touch (with nose)

      Teach your dog a fun and practical behaviors for grooming, leash walking, recall, tricks, emergency exits and more.  Put your flat hand out close to the dog’s nose, as your pup approaches your hand “click” and toss treat away from you. Gradually increase the distance. When your dog understands reaching the palm of your hand with her nose in front of her, to the left and to the right, then put it on cue.  Say “touch.” and then extend the palm in front of her nose. The second she touches, click, and then deliver the treat. Increase the challenge by teaching your dog to follow the target and “touch.”  Click. Treat. Repeat.
    • 6. Leash Walking

      Teach your dog to stay at your side using the “touch” game.  Play games where you walk in a small square, ask your dog to “touch” your hand and “click” every time you reach a corner, then change direction.  Repeat this game in a straight line and then a figure 8.  Practice in various rooms in your house, then the backyard, front yard and finally on your regular walk. You will be building value for staying close to you!
    • 7. Coming When Called

      Teach your dog to come when you call.  Make it FUN and make it easy. Start by tossing a cookie on the floor away from you and away from your dog. She dog will want to come back for more. This is a great time to give her the cue to “touch.”  Gradually increase the challenge by playing in other areas of your house and then by increasing your distance.
    • 8. CALM BEHAVIORS – Create a sPAW for your Dog

      Teach your dog to chill out. Whether you’re at home watching TV, on a teleconference with your boss or out running errands, teaching your dog to be calm is an essential life skill.  Now that you’re spending a lot of time at home, your dog can easily develop the expectation that you will provide entertainment for her at all times. To prevent anxiety or destructive behaviors when you are away, make sure to plan for personal time away from your dog even when you’re home.  Plan to watch a movie in the next room, work in your yard, or go for a walk without your dog.  Planning quiet time for your dog will alleviate your dog’s reliance on you and can prevent separation anxiety. Teaching your dog to settle will help you enjoy your dog when you’re home and will help her comfortably lounge around when you’re not.
      Arrange cozy sPAW environment in a common area in your home, as well as your dog’s typical sleeping area so that your dog has multiple areas to rest.  Consider music and aromatherapy in those spaces to help promote relaxation.
    • 9. Teach your dog to Settle

      Condition a mat to have a calming emotional response for your dog.  You can do this by strategically and calmly delivering treats to a mat. While your dog watches, place small crumbly treats on a flat mat or towel on top of a table. Then, make a bun and place the mat on the floor.  Set a silent timer for 2 minutes, unroll and sit in on the floor in front of the mat. As your dog sniffs and eats small treats, continue to calmly and repetitively deliver small treats to mat when your dog is sniffing.  Deliver treats in such a way that your dog’s head never comes up and she does not look to you for more treats.  Your movement and delivery of treats is in a repetitive pattern, which creates predictability and calmness for your pup. Once the two minute exercise is up, scatter treats next to the mat, gather it up and take a break.  Repeat exercise 3 times a day for a week.  Perform this exercise in different places in your home, yard and you can even take your mat on the road.  Soon your dog will find her mat to be soothing and will love to rest and settle on her mat.
      Social distancing and the disconnect from your work and social activities means you get to spend more quality time with your pup at home.  It’s a great time to teach her life skills that you will get to show off to your family and friends when all this over.  Taking just a few minutes at the beginning of each day to plan your dog’s activities will help you work in enrichment and rest time for your dog and will help you enjoy a more productive workday too.
      Veronica Selco, Board Member of Hearts Alive Village Las Vegas is a Certified Dogs Trainer at imPETus Animal Training, a training studio in Las Vegas dedicated to using positive reinforcement to train people how to train their dogs.  Veronica has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has been coaching people how to achieve behavioral wellness for 20 + years.  She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor and a Certified Nose Work Instructors.

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