The art of keeping a dog happy - it’s all in the mind - The Evesham Observer

The art of keeping a dog happy - it’s all in the mind

Evesham Editorial 16th Sep, 2018   0

A CREATIVE canine carer at Dogs Trust Evesham has been putting old items from around the home to good use by making problem-solving doggie games to keep the minds of the four-legged residents busy whilst they wait for their forever homes.

Mark Rose wanted to make the dogs’ time in the paddocks or out on walks as beneficial and as enjoyable as possible. Enrichment, or mental stimulation, is a crucial part of the dogs’ daily lives at the rehoming centre, but Mark soon realised that there were lots of items from around his home he could bring in to add more variety, and is urging dog lovers to get involved and get creative at home to help their dogs beat the boredom.

His inventions so far have included bottle spinners made from attaching old drinks bottles filled with kibble to an old chair frame using a wire rod so the dogs have to use their brains to spin the bottles to retrieve the treats, plastic pipes with holes in and filled with dog treats to get their noses working and old tool boxes and briefcases filled with snuffle mats and old towels wrapped around treats.

“The idea came to me when I was in the paddock with a dog and I started to think about how I could give the dogs the best time possible and ensure their time out of kennels is well spent,” Mark said.

“Mental stimulation is so important to keep their minds active and it also teaches them other skills such as problem solving, confidence and foraging – they love it!

“I have found by setting up enrichment assault courses in the paddocks, the dogs are much more confident at being left alone whilst I clean their kennels as their minds are occupied as they are busy hunting for treats.

“I also found other dogs who find walks a struggle have been able to focus much better as half way through a walk we’ll stop to open up the box full of fun and tasty stuff, so we can combine walking with training which is great,” he added.

To help dogs and owners Mark has some top tips for getting creative at home:

Bowls are boring, play games instead

Dogs love eating so really enjoy food games and sniffing out tasty treats. Get creative and hide kibble inside boxes with scrunched up newspapers, or empty plastic bottles with lids removed. You could even scatter food around the garden and play a ‘go find it’ game.

Make the most of walkies

As well as giving them ample time to stretch their legs, keep walkies fun by including activities to search for food, or lay treat trails for them to follow. This is great for dogs who lack confidence on walks as you can re-direct their focus away from the things they find scary and onto the fun stuff!

Brain games

Dogs love to use their brains and mental stimulation can be just as exhausting as a walk. You can get creative like Mark and make games from old household items, or there are plenty of doggie games available to buy which gets dogs using their clever minds. Dogs can get frustrated if they cant solve puzzles so don’t forget to supervise and if they need it, help them out and become a partner in the game!

See, hear!

Dogs love the opportunity to experience different environments to stimulate their senses. Think walking on grass, playing in the sand and water, or a stroll through the woods. Just make sure your dog is enjoying themselves and if they are worried, calmly lead them away.

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