It is essential that we provide some mental stimulation for our dogs during the lockdown, especially for young and juvenile dogs since not socializing, can risk them becoming nervous around unfamiliar dogs and strangers.
Mental stimulation can also help to alleviate the boredom of just one walk per day and prevent unwanted behaviour, such as chewing. For those owners who are not generally at home during the day and rely on dog walkers, having you home will undoubtedly be delightful for your dog, since they thrive being part of a pack, so any activity with him/her, will help break your day and be enjoyed by you both.
My German Shepherds thrived on this activity and nose work helps to enhance your dog’s natural talent and ‘where is it’ or ‘seek’ can be great fun for you both. You can begin by using their favorite treat (Ellie’s is a sliver of sausage) and there smell will help to keep your dog focused.
The short method of scent work and so easy to do is to hide a treat in one hand and ask your dog ‘which hand’ or ‘find it’. This should be a relatively easy task for your dog since there are only two choices. Once your dog has mastered this, you can place up to four cones (or any beakers) in a row and chose one to hide the treat under. Please ensure that your dog is out of sight when choosing a cone to place your treat since the game with be affected if he sees where to go.
Ellie’s Epic Fail
I tried this with Ellie, which was caught on camera, and as you will see, she had absolutely no clue what was required of her. Even when she finally found the correct cone, it took several clumsy attempts to upend the cone and she seemed totally disinterested in repeating the process again!
Being a Cockapoo, (cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Miniature Poodle), I had expected a quick response, but within minutes of releasing her into the room, she showed little sign of finding her reward. Ellie can be extremely bright in some things and a little slow on the uptake in others, but the video should make for amusing viewing.
A slightly more advanced game of scent work is to place a treat or toy hidden somewhere in your room of choice. Once the treat or toy is in place, call your dog and ask to ‘seek’ or ‘find it’. Start off placing the reward in a more obvious place and use your voice to guide your dog as to how close or far away the treat is. Once their quarry has been found, make a huge fuss of them, before starting the game again. This really is a fun game watching as they unearth all their treasures.
I have yet to find a dog that is not motivated by food, so puzzle games are another wonderful way for your dog to exercise their minds. This is especially rewarding for older dogs that may be arthritic and are limited in the amount of physical exercise that they can do. There are some wonderful puzzle toys on the market, such as puzzle feeders and activity toys like the JW puzzle ball or the Kong. Some may be a little trickier than others, so your dog may need a little help if they are struggling.
The Name Game
This is a game that teaches your dog to differentiate between objects and l would first begin with a favorite toy such as their ball. Praise and treat the moment he gets the ball, until you are sure that he knows it by name. You can then move on and add another toy, naming the object before asking him to ‘fetch’ until he is able to distinguish each object. Other toys can be added, but do not forget to place each one a good distance apart, so as not to cause any confusion.
Always remember that dogs learn by patience and repetition, so keep your training short and always finish on a positive rather than a fail.