December 28, 2012
I don’t know about you, but after 8 years in Minnesota, I’m done with the cold. I’m done with the chapped lips, and cracked hands, and I’m especially done with the wind that rips across you, leaving nothing but a chilled skeleton in its wake. But, God bless them, my dogs will spend any time they can outside, whether it’s 9 degrees or 90. So what could I do with my dogs inside when I just wasn’t able to drag myself out to into the cold? I wanted to exercise both their minds and bodies, and I have to say, I found some good ideas that I’m excited to share!
The first one is relatively simple; the old “throw it in a blanket and see how long it takes for the dog to realize it’s in the blanket and not in their bowl.” Now, we have both a Jack Russell in our family, and a Bull Mastiff, two polar opposites on many fields- One big, one small, one lazy, one super lazy, one smart, one not so smart. You catch my drift. The premise is simple: all you need to do is get a relatively small blanket, any couch throw blanket will do, and a few treats. Show your dog that you have the treats, and get them excited. Then throw the treats on the floor, and the blanket quickly on top. You may have to have another person hold the dog back at first! Some dogs, like our Josephine, will automatically dig at the blanket, use their nose to burrow, or all of the above until they get the treats they want. Others, like our dear old Piper, will stare at the blanket, and look back up at you as if “and you expect me to do what?” Part of the fun of the game is to see if you can teach them a new skill.
Do you know the muffin man? Because apparently, he’s a dog trainer too! An innovative game known as the “muffin tin game” is both fun and unique. What you’ll need is a muffin tin, some tennis balls, and some treats. Begin by showing your dog the treats being put in the muffin tin, then put tennis balls over some of the treats and let them go at it. Once they’ve realized that there are treats in the tins, there are a couple of ways this can go, either they will knock each tennis ball off like a good puppy, or our energetic friends will go crazy and throw the tin around, making a fun mess with both treats and tennis balls, a great mix. Eventually you can begin not putting treats under each tennis ball, and switch everything up. Our baby Piper is especially fun to play this game with, because her mouth and jowls are so big. She sticks that big lounge of hers inside each little muffin cup, knock balls over all over the place, lift her head up and run over to investigate what she’d knocked over, pick it up, remember the treats, drop the ball, run over, stick her lounge all over the place, and so on and so forth. It was a fun and slobbery mess!
The final game is one you can get the whole family involved in, hide and seek! What you’ll need to do is have 2 family members, one to hide and one to encourage the dog. (Later on you could possibly add a few more people for our advanced players out there!) At first, have your dog watch as one person walks off into another room and “hide” (don’t make it too difficult at first). Have the encourager rile the dog up saying things like “Where’s ____? Find _____! Good dog!” and walk to the room where the dog had seen the person walk into. When the dog finds the hidden person, make sure they encourage the dog a lot, maybe even have treats. Eventually, when the dog gets the concept, you don’t need to let them see what room they’ve hidden in, and let them use that great nose of theirs to find them! Our little one, Josephine, was a surprise tracker, which we found out through this game. It took her only a few practice runs to get the concept, and she was off! Josephine can now find 3 people hiding, and she isn’t allowed to see which room they go to. She sticks her little nose to the ground, and move the toothpick legs protruding from her potato shaped body at speeds we’ve never seen before just to find everyone!
As long as you and your best friend are together and having a good time, that is all that matters. Have fun with it, and be inventive! If you have fun games or ideas to go along with these games, be sure to try them out and come back and share them!