Getting the best from those presents

Getting the best from those presents

No doubt many lucky pups got edible treats for Christmas but some will have been given special toys known as enrichment activities to get them using their brains as well as their stomachs! They are a brilliant idea but you do have to put in the time to help your pet get the most from them.

Coincidentally one of our walkers Sarah bought Domino, her young Collie Lab cross, the same gift as ageing border collie, the Archduke Ralph, was given by Jane. Comparing notes across Messenger it soon became apparent that Domino was much better at this than the Archduke and forays into #DogsofTwitter showed a couple of lively Westies absolutely ‘owning’ the toy. This did not go down well with Jane as, like all owners, she believes her dog to be the most perfect and cleverest! The toy in question is the Trixie 32019 Dog Activity Turn Around which comprises three tubes that can be spun to dispense treats.

The trick in helping your dog (or cat) get the most from their gift is to break down the activity into lots of simple sections, reward and repeat with copious high pitched voice encouragement throughout until they finally get the hang of it and can do it for themselves. Sarah found that a couple of intensive sessions over two or three days was enough for Domino to grasp the basics. Not so the Archduke Ralph…which brings us to the school girl error Jane made. She didn’t think through whether or not the toy was suitable.

This particular toy requires the dog to stand or sit and pat the toy with their paw to get the most from it, or to nudge it with their nose…..as you will recall from previous articles, the Archduke is arthritic. This toy does not suit him. He can sit but if he sits he finds it hard to repeatedly raise a paw comfortably and put pressure on the patting move, if he stands he is a bit too tall to nudge comfortably with his nose and he certainly can’t stand whilst raising a front paw (he sometimes has to squat to pee these days). The last training session ended with the Archduke in the down position, ears back, looking away from Jane and swallowing hard, making it very clear he was not prepared to engage. However, all is not lost as he is very happy to hoover up the treats when Jane spins the tubes for him so at least they get to spend a bit of different quality time together!

There are lots of other activity toys around and you can make your own, but think about your dog’s capabilities before you spend money. Jane is going to get him a different toy that doesn’t require quite so much balancing and use the ever faithful cones from the garden indoors for some ‘hide and treat’ activity!

Once you have found the right toy the basic components of the training are:

  1. Show the treats and let pup or puss have a good sniff
  2. Show them how the toy works with the treat
  3. Help them retrieve the treat and praise
  4. Repeat several times to log it into their memory
  5. Repeat the above a couple of times a day for as many days as it takes for them to do it for themselves

So much of this is about the owner learning too, recalling the basic principles of puppy school and applying them to the tricks and toys.

You Tube has some amazing tuition videos and there are many books around to help such as 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance. Sarah has made use of these with Domino even doing a bit of dancing – crawling, conga, bowing; you name it! This is such a good idea as when your pet gets older they are more likely to adapt to gentle enrichment activity as they are used to their owner asking them to do strange things that are not necessarily high energy like the flyball, agility and ball games they are used to as nimble youngsters.