The total change in routine as a result of lockdown can be quite stressful for our dogs, even if they’re getting to spend a bit more time with us than normal!

Giving them some chilled out time with an enrichment activity can be a great way to help them relax. Perhaps your dog is struggling with just one walk a day, you’re trying to work from home or homeschool the kids, and are looking for something that’s going to give your dogs brain a work-out, keeping them entertained and out of mischief. A 30 minute enrichment session can be just as tiring for your dog as a 30 minute walk, so don’t worry too much that they’re missing out on their normal quota of walks and give one of the following activities a try instead.

Apples

Apples are a great alternative to food dispensing toys such as Kongs. They’re also perfect for power chewers that tend to destroy chew toys, as the whole thing is edible. Start off by coring an apple, making sure you’ve removed all the pips. Then fill the hole in the middle with something tasty – this could be some of their normal dinner, some other fruits and veg, or a
really tasty treat like some chicken.

It works best if you can seal the ends with something sticky like dog friendly peanut butter to keep the food inside. If your dog is enjoying it, you can try popping it in the freezer before giving it to your dog next time for a longer lasting treat – perfect for warmer days!

Cardboard Boxes

There are so many games you can create for your dog with a cardboard box! You could try filling a box with crumpled up packaging paper or newspaper and scattering some of your dog’s food or some tasty treats throughout the packaging – they’ll have a lot of fun routing through to
find the food and it’s a really fun alternative to a bowl to feed them their dinner!

You can even try using a box to teach your dog some tricks like ‘Paws Up’. Start by luring your dog with a treat to the box and reward them for interacting with it, then you can start to encourage your dog to put
their front paws up on the box, rewarding them when they do. Once they’re happy putting their paws on, you can add a cue like ‘Paws Up’ and repeat this each time you encourage them to put their feet on to the box.

Over time you can gradually stop luring them with the treat and just use the cue – make sure you reward them and give plenty of praise every time they get it right!

Training

Training and teaching your dog tricks like ‘Paws Up’ is a great way to spend time together and really strengthen the bond between you. Whether you want to work on a problem you have like pulling on the lead, or you’ve always fancied trick training or trying out a dog sport, this is a great opportunity to give it a go. Although face to face classes are off limits at the moment, lots of dog trainers have taken their businesses online so you can join classes and training sessions from the comfort of your own home while benefiting from their experience and support.

Amanda Griffiths
Amanda is currently training to become a professional dog trainer, and is passionate about the benefits of enrichment and mental stimulation on dog health and behaviour. She’s the founder of The Cognitive Canine Company, providing enrichment and behavioural support to owners of dogs that require crate rest, restricted exercise or have a long term condition that impacts their mobility. In her spare time, she enjoys trick training and rally obedience with her Shetland Sheepdog, Poppy.
http://www.cognitivecanineco.co.uk

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