Does your dog's fuel gauge always ready FULL?
Where does your dog store all that pent-up energy? Have you ever checked to see if their fuel gauge is ever empty, and who keeps refilling it when you're not looking?
Over the years I've had countless students tell me that they've lost valuable items due to their dog's excessive chewing. Other students have said to me that their dog just can't control themselves when company comes over and they jump all over their guests. Sometimes they bark excessively for what seems like no reason. Maybe your dog is like my students' dogs, or you've experienced worse from your dog?
Many times the secret to settling our dogs down is good old fashion exercise. I'm talking about walks, jogs, and romps in the yard with dog play dates. But what happens if the weather is crummy or you can't go outdoors at all? You still need to exercise your dog. That's one way we can get them to be well behaved.
A tired dog equals a happy owner, and a home free of chew marks and scratches!
Your dog needs mental and physical exercise to be able to listen better, focus during training and be quiet during rest time. If your dog doesn't get the right amount of exercise you're going to have an unruly dog on your hands; one that barks, jumps, digs, chews and acts out at the most inappropriate times.
There are plenty of indoor games and activities you can do with your dog to help drain all that energy and empty their fuel tank. If you haven't checked out part one or part two of this series go ahead and peek at the 10 other indoor activities to exercise your dog both mentally and physically. In the meantime here are 5 more ideas:
1) Barrel Races: Horses can't have all the fun. Our dogs can barrel race too. Grab some chairs or tall laundry baskets or even orange safety cones and get to work teaching your dog how to circle around the “barrels.” Start with one “barrel” and teach your dog how to go around the basket or chair by luring them with a treat. Next add in a second “barrel” directly next to the first “barrel” leaving no space between. Keep them very close together and teach your dog to go around both barrels to start. Increase the distance between the “barrels” as your dog gets better and faster. Increasing the distance between “barrels” can take anywhere from a few sessions to a few weeks depending on how frequently you play. The most common mistake is that people tend to rush adding distance between their “barrels” and the dogs end up losing focus and walking away from the game altogether. Once Your dog gets to success you can add in figure 8's to their “barrel” racing exercise.
2) Bubble Chaser: Bacon-flavored bubbles don't sound tasty to me, but I bet your dog would love to try them. If your dog likes to chase balls or play fetch, they'll enjoy a game of “chase the bubbles.” Make sure your bubbles are food grade bubbles just for dogs, so you don't give your dog an upset stomach. You can find them on Amazon.com. The idea is to get your dog moving and chasing. You can incorporate the bubble chasing with the agility exercises I've mentioned in part one and part two by blowing the bubbles or using a bubble machine to get your dog to go over or through an obstacle while they try to catch the bubbles.
3) Indoor swimming/fishing without the water: What!? There are 2 ways you can set this exercise up. The first way is to get a small kiddie pool and fill it with water bottles or plastic balls. I bet you thought I was going to say water..no way I'm not crazy enough to fill a pool in my house with water for my dogs. Sorry dogs, that's an outside activity only! Sprinkle kibble or treats in the pool among the bottles. Let your dog go crazy fishing and swimming for treats. This activity is a great physical and mental exercise. It's always hilarious to watch them go bananas trying to get the treats! The second way to set up this game is with an X-Pen to corral the water bottles and dog in a smaller space. You can still sprinkle the treats over the bottles or plastic balls, let your dog jump in and have some fun!
4) Play Date: Do you know anyone with a dog around the same age or size as your dog that could come over to play? If you find a small group of 2 or 3 other people with dogs, you can set up playgroups. Alternate going to each other's homes. Socialization is essential especially for younger dogs, so get them playing with as many positive “role” models or other friendly well-socialized dogs as possible. Not only will they tire themselves out but they'll make new friends too!
5) Target: You can teach your dog to touch an object on cue called a “target.” The idea is to teach them to touch the target first while it's in our hands and eventually toss the target away from you and send them to the “target” on cue. Teaching “target” is one of the foundation pieces for beginner agility training. We can also use it in this application for exercising our dogs. You're going to start with a small round white or yellow lid from either the peanut butter or sour cream container. Make sure it's not the jumbo size, or it won't fit in your hand very well. Rub some tasty treats on the lid, so just the smell of it is on the lid. Show your dog the lid and wait for them to bump it on accident with their nose while they check out where the delicious smell is coming from. When they touch the lid with their nose, you can say “target” and reward them with a treat. You'll give them a treat after each time they've touched the “target”. Don't get ahead of yourself and ask the dog to touch the “target” on cue just yet. They need about 30-100 reps of just touching and hearing the word “target” before they make the association with the whole process. Next, you can start to ask your dog to “target” on cue. Make sure your dog can do this from both your left and right hand. After they are successfully touching the target from both hands, start to move the target around; between your knees, around your back, and into higher and lower positions. Lastly, you'll want to start to put the target on the floor right in front of you. Resist the urge to toss it just yet, otherwise, your dog might think it's a fetch toy. That is not the game we are playing. When you ask your dog to touch the “target”, while it's on the floor, allow them to touch the target with their nose but deliver the treat on top of the target from now on. You do not want them to keep coming back to your hand to get the reward. The idea is to eventually send them to the target. The target will be further away from you. So having them come back each time to get a reward, is counterproductive. As your dog gets better and better you can increase the distance you toss the target. Make adjustments in increments of about 6″ to 12″ at a time. I like to add in multiple targets to get my dogs to race from one to another as I toss them away.
There are tons of different activities we can do with our dogs to tire them out. It's best to pick a few each day and focus on getting your dog tuckered out. Otherwise, your dog is going to get themselves into trouble and chew, dig, bark or have the jitters. When our dogs get the right amount of exercise, they are less likely to cause problems and get into mischief. Your dog needs a solid 1-2 hours of exercise a day to keep them happy and healthy; more is better of course.