Things to do with your dog

Author: Bella (proHOUND Co-Founder)

A lot of people (myself included) feel overwhelmed when it comes to deciding how to entertain their dogs. I’m delighted mental stimulation is now (rightly) seen as a necessity in our dogs’ lives but with so many ideas for enrichment, it can be hard to know where to start! Especially cos the level of our dogs’ training sometimes comes into it too. 


e.g. you’d love to start doing some trick training on walks to make them more interesting, but your dog currently cannot peacefully pass other dogs on walks. 
Or perhaps you want to start a particular sport or activity but you’re worried about one or more of the following: equipment, cost, location of any workshops. Can your dog behave?!


For those reasons, I’ve decided to compile a list of fun things you can do with your dog at home. You can take these activities into the outside world as well though! 


Nose work
Whether you want to call it nose work or scent work overall, I’m talking about a particular type of scent work here – detection! Imprinting your dog onto an odour which he can then learn to find and indicate on is a super impressive skill. Not to mention the fact that nose work is hugely mentally stimulating which in turn means it’s hugely tiring! 
I’m a detection dog handler and I teach detection for fun. I’m passionate about making it accessible to everyone – the kit can cost as little as £7. 
If you don’t want to learn detection, you can hide your dog’s food and/or their toy for them to find. That’s still nose work! 
You could even teach your dog some tracking – maybe that’s another blog! 


Trick training
Take your marker word system and prepare to lure your dog into learning some fun tricks! I taught Ava ‘middle’ for no reason at all; she loves doing tricks for her meals. 
My friend Courtney (@amberthepom_mistythemas on Instagram) is a brilliant trick dog trainer – she has even taught her dogs to sneeze on cue!


Shaping is another hugely mentally stimulating one – the difference between shaping and luring is that shaping involves going with which behaviour the dog offers and gradually progressing closer to your end goal, whereas luring is using a reward to entice the dog into behaving a certain way. 
Shaping doesn’t just have to be for tricks – sometimes it’s fun to take an object like a cardboard box and decide what your end goal is (put both front legs in the box, for example), marking & rewarding whatever relevant behaviour the dog offers until you’ve eventually ‘sculpted’ the end goal. You could put a word to it later and make it a trick if you want! 


Down/Sit stays
Having a proofed stay is really helpful for safety and immobilising your dog when you’re trying to do something!! I’d have lost my sanity a long time ago without Ava’s stays. 
In addition, working that impulse control is exhausted for the ‘impatient’ dog! 
Use your continuation marker here and have fun proofing the behaviour with whatever your imagination concocts (think distracting the dog by jumping around, throwing things, going out of sight – take gradual steps though and sporadically increase the length of the stay so the dog doesn’t lose motivation). 
On a side note, all Ava’s tricks are with implied stays. It’s Sit (or whatever) until further notice!


Perhaps the most important activity you can do with your dog ever. Not only is it super fun but you can unlock a whole new level of relationship once you’ve learned how your dog likes to play (this is normally relevant to their breed). I could go on about play for hours – it’s potentially another blog topic in itself! 


Loose lead walking
Lots of people don’t realise that learning loose lead walking starts at home (as does any skill). Teach your dog that collar = nice walking. Remember to take v gradual steps when proofing this behaviour and be consistent. Teach the dog how to turn off lead pressure and reward a nice loose lead. This counts as enrichment in my opinion because learning something new is mentally stimulating! 


If you have a garden and/or a safe area nearby, keep your dog fit with an activity such as (two toy) fetch, flirt pole or running together!
Games with toys are also a great way to practise impulse control and a nice Drop cue. 
Be sure to limit a puppy’s physical exercise – their joints don’t finish fusing and developing until much later than you’d think. Make sure to warm up and cool down as well, and consider joint care in general. 


Improving housetraining 
This one isn’t as fun – I’m sorry! Have a think though – is there anything you need to work on with your dog? Does he barge out of his crate? Is he overexcited before a walk? Do some reps, do some desensitisation – make some progress! You might even need to teach an off-switch too – this is more common than you’d think! 


Can you make a basic jump with a broom and two chairs maybe? I think weaving poles are quite cheap too. I definitely want to try some agility with my dogs! 


A bored, under-stimulated dog is not a happy dog. But an over-stimulated dog who cannot switch off is not happy either.


Life is all about balance! 

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