Dark mornings, dark evenings and the cold, wet, windy weather are taking their toll, aren’t they? If walkies have been more challenging than usual, you can add indoor games to your repertoire and it won’t just be your dog that benefits.
Our dogs still need their walks, of course, but the fun factor can be easier to inject when you’re warm and dry in the comfort of your home. This is additionally helpful at this time of year when our friends might need to be encouraged to stay away from the indoor pee-posts that have appeared with added shiny stuff and flashing lights.
Triple Cup Game
Three cups, one treat. This is an easy problem-solving game that requires you to be involved so switch off the TV and give your dog your focus and attention. Let your dog watch you put a treat under one of the cups and they’ll watch as you move the cups around. Give them a familiar cue (go on then… find it…) to let them know it’s time to find the treat. Get involved and encourage them. When they’re giving an obvious signal that they believe they have found the treat, lift the cup. If they’ve found it, they get to eat it and get a celebratory cheer. Mr Bear, our resident canine, prefers a round of applause to a cheer! If they haven’t found it, just encourage them to try again. If this is too easy, you can add more cups or switch them around for longer. It doesn’t have to be a huge challenge for you both to have fun playing this together.
This is fun and useful! You’ll need a container, a toy box, that’s kept purely for your dog’s toys. We don’t want your friend to start dropping their soggy tennis ball in your clean washing basket! It will be very useful for your dog to know the ‘drop it’ cue so if they don’t know that yet, start there. Encourage them to pick up their toy, then encourage them to stand over the toy box (keep the toy box close by; make it as easy as possible to start with) and then ask them to drop the toy in the box. Cheers and a round of applause need to be delivered and after a few practice games, you can add the ‘tidy up’ cue with the aim being that your dog picks up their toy and drops it in their toy box when asked to ‘tidy up’.
Teaching your dog the name of their toys brings hours of entertainment and can also be very useful when you combine this with the tidy up game! Start with one toy, your dog’s favourite, so that they understand what’s being asked of them. When they can pick out the specific toy among two or three others, you know that you can start to introduce a new name for another toy. Remember that this is supposed to be fun, so introduce new names slowly. When they’re easily identifying their toys, you can add more names, increase the number of toys they need to rummage through to find the one you’ve asked for or put that toy further away so your dog needs to look in other rooms to find it.
After you’ve had some quality time, playing and tidying up, spend some time together. I don’t mean hanging out while you’re watching the TV or scrolling on your phone. I mean spend some real time together. Stroke your dog, learn some basics of canine massage, talk to them and take a minute to check in with how it feels to do that, without distraction. Your dog will thank you and you’ll feel better for it.