I don’t know about you, but winter tends to generate a little cabin fever in me and the dogs. We’ve been stuck inside for almost a week now and we are going crazy. There is ice everywhere and the temps are in the below zero range (night and day) making walks a little dangerous right now.
It’s a perfect time for dog games. Fortunately, we have a slew of them to play with:
We also play hide and seek games with treats.
But, if we had snow and the temps were a little more welcoming, we’d be doing this. B the Dog seems to love these doggie games and I have a feeling that mine might like something similar.
So, what are you doing to help you and your dog deal with the cabin fever in your house?
Happy Friday everyone!
My dogs are spoiled. I fully acknowledge that fact.
They get daily hour-long walks (unless it is too cold outside). They have lots of friends and get to play with them often. They have a large yard and can run and play and stretch their legs. They are allowed on the furniture and have plush beds. They get tasty treats (like cheese and chicken) and bully sticks and lots of love and attention. They have a good life. And, I am proud of that.
I like knowing that they have good lives and that it is fun and exciting and different every day.
It wasn’t always like this. Yes, I took my other dogs for walks, but I never did all the sort of enrichment activities with them like I do with my three now.
I think Daisy is the one who changed it all for me.
When Daisy first came to live with me, she was so frightened that I worried whether she would ever be able to be a “normal” dog. Seeing her like this made me want to give her the best life possible. I made her a promise that I would do everything in my power to make her happy. Not only that, but I would give her the chance to do all the things other “normal” dogs did, and more. My goal was to give her the kind of life any dog would be envious of (if dogs can feel envy). That promise was the beginning of a great journey together.
Finding activities that would enrich Daisy’s life became my mission. Anything that would help her grow her mind and her confidence was part of the deal, this included praising her whenever she took a step outside her comfort zone.
So Daisy got bones to chew, ice cream to eat, and toys to play with. I let her dig holes in the yard so she could experience the pleasure of digging (luckily, she only dug under the lilac bushes!). She learned how to use her nose to find the treats I threw out in the yard for her, and she went on walks all over the city and experienced the excitement of exploring new places. She walked into water for the very first time and then learned how to swim.
In other words, she learned to “live” life and not to fear so much. Seeing her joy and happiness gave me great joy and so we sought out more things to do that would be fun and new and exciting.
When Jasper and Cupcake joined our little family, I continued to look for enrichment activities that we could all do together.
They now have several dog games that challenge their brains and they get to play them on a regular basis. In the summer time, we go to the lake or walk along the Mississippi River or explore a new park. When the snow melts, I hide treats in the yard and laugh as I watch them follow their noses to all the little treasures. Daisy has accompanied me on many dog walking appointments and even stayed with me on one pet sitting date. Cupcake and Jasper have participated in several Sheltie playdates, and Jasper and Daisy have gone to nose work classes. Jasper has even tried sheep herding.
Providing my dogs with enrichment activities has given me great pleasure and it continues to do so. It’s a joy to see them smile as they work and play and explore.
So now I am curious, do you have enrichment activities you do with your own dog(s)? What are they? What things do you do with your dog that gives you both a great sense of joy? I would love to hear about them.
In the meantime, here is a video that highlights an enrichment activity that is easy and fun to do. this is one both you nd your kids can do with your dog. Don’t have a dog that can “stay” like this one? No worries. My dogs don’t have a great “stay” either (although they should), so I use a baby gate to keep them in one location while I hide their treats around the house or the yard. It’s so much fun seeing them run from place to place trying to find them.
A few people have sent me notes and private messages inquiring about the games I play with my dogs. They wanted to know what game or games would for their dog(s). I know Christmas is coming up, so I thought I would at least share my own experience with some of the games I have and tell you which ones I want to get next.
Trixie Chess Game
The Chess Game by Trixie was the first game I ever purchased for my dogs. I thought it would be a difficult one for them to figure out (it was labeled Level 3), and it was, but only for a short time. Cupcake was the first to figure out that there were treats under those golden cups, but it wasn’t long before Jasper and Daisy did too.
It was also Cupcake (Master Puzzle-solver) who first figured out that the red blocks slid sideways, and that they hid even more treats. She loves this puzzle, but mostly because it is so easy for her now.
I love this toy because it got my dogs started on puzzles. I also love it because it helped Daisy to gain confidence. When I first tried this puzzle with Daisy she was skittish and jumpy and nervous. She needed a lot of encouragement to keep trying, but she never stopped trying. Now she is a quick as Cupcake at solving it and she loves it just as much as Cupcake does.
My opinion? A great puzzle to start out on. If your dogs are a little more shy or tentative, this is a great one to start on. It’s also a great game for beginner dog gamers.
The next game I purchased for the dogs was the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Interactive Dog Toy. I was lucky this time because I was able to let my dogs try it out before I purchased it. The toy has 3 levels, with each containing 4 spots in which to place a treat. Each level spins around to reveal the treat. Dogs can nudge or paw each level to get it to move. The game also has 4 bone-shaped cups that can cover any one of the treat spots and prevent them from moving on to the next level until the cups are removed.
I love this toy because it allows me to increase or decrease the complexity of the puzzle based on which dog is doing it. For Maggie, I can leave it at its easiest level (no cups) and help encourage her to solve it on her own. For Daisy and Cupcake, I increase the difficulty by placing the bone cups on the higher levels so they can get them out. Jasper seems to have become more of a pro at this one, so I put the cups in the middle level and on the bottom so he really has to work to remove them and get to the treats.
There is only one thing I don’t like about this toy and that is the bone cups themselves. They are smooth and difficult to get out (especially for Cupcake with her limited teeth) because they slip out of their mouths so easily. If they had groves in them it would be easier but I still love this game a lot. I just put them upside down for Cupcake, so they are not a deterrent to the fun.
My opinion? A great game for beginners and intermediate dog gamers. The ability to make it easy or more difficult is fun for me and my dogs. They love this game.
The most recent game I purchased for Jasper, Daisy and Cupcake is the Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Interactive game. By far, this is the hardest dog game we have in the house. I know for sure this is true because more than once Daisy has given up and tried to chew it apart just so she can get to the treats!
The Dog Twister is made up of ten sliding pie pieces within a circle frame. Each pie piece hides a spot in which to hide treats. A dog must slide each pie piece in order to reveal the treat hidden underneath.
Sounds easy right? Not quite. The game also comes with twelve bone inserts that can be used to prevent a dog from moving the pie pieces. The only way to move a pie piece after that is to remove the bone(s). As the game master, you can put in one to two bones or all twelve and increase the difficulty of the game.
My dog love this one, but are also easily frustrated by it, so I help them out on this one quite a bit. So far, the only one to figure out that the bone pieces need to be removed is Daisy, and even she is hit or miss on this. I started all four dogs out with no bone pieces and have now worked up to two, with help from mom.
My opinion? This game might be a better choice for a more experienced dog gamer. If you want a game that your dog can grow into over time, this might be the game for you, but I think I would start with an easier one for dogs who are new to dog games.
Future game purchases
There are quite a few other dog games out there ranging from easy to more difficult. Amazon has quite a few of them. I already have my eye on a few more that I want to try out with my dogs.
Number one on my list is the Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs. This one requires that treats are placed in the beaker-shaped modules suspended above the game’s base. In order for a dog to get the treats out, he must spin the bottles with his nose. I think Jasper would really love this one. They say it is a Level Two game, but I have a feeling it will be more difficult for all my dogs.
The other game I am looking to buy is the Trixie Gambling Tower. This one requires a dog to pull pieces out with their teeth and to remove cups to get to the treats. This game is labeled Level 1 (Easy), but I still think it would be a fun one to do with my dogs. This is a great one for beginning dog gamers too.
Whatever toy you decide to get your pet, make sure it is fun for them and you. Give your dog time to figure it out on her own, but if you see her becoming frustrated, help her out. I promise you, you won’t be giving her the solution to the whole puzzle. I have shown my dogs how to do something on each of their puzzles and they rarely take that information and use it again the next time.
I hope you all have a great time! Let me know how it goes!
(Side note: I was in Petco this weekend to get new leashes and they had a whole wall dedicated to dog toys! You don’t have to wait for it to be delivered. You can go get one now. )
If you ask, I am sure many people would tell you that I tend to go a little overboard where my pets are concerned. (I know for sure my family would!) I tend to buy them things that I think will enrich their lives and make them happy.
I think in the case of my dogs, I wanted to make up for the bad lives they had early on. I also want them to have lives that is enriched by a wide variety of fun experiences. (What’s the fun in having a dog if you can’t enjoy the fun they have with you?)
So while I do have a logic behind what I do for my pets, I also know that I am not the norm.
After all, I …
Buy dog games for my dogs, just so they can work their brains on a cold winter’s night.
Have at least 20 tennis balls so my crazy Sheltie has plenty to play with throughout the year.
Take my dogs to a wide variety of parks so they can explore something new and different.
Hide treats in the yard so my dogs can have fun using their noses and their brains to find them.
Even placed a step stool next to my tall bed just so my dogs can come up when they want.
But this weekend I think I may have gone a little overboard (even for me). On a trip to Costco I found a dog bed that was the absolute ultimate in dog bed luxury.
How could I resist?
It contains orthopedic memory foam with cooling gel and has a plush pillow top cover. It’s softer than a baby’s bottom and it is so squish-able, in that memory foam kind of way, that even I want to lie down on it.
It’s too bad I didn’t think about the size. Hmmm… crazy? Overboard?
So, what over-the top-kind of thing have you done for your pet(s)?
As a friend and I walked around the dog park yesterday, she shared her experience with “nose work.” She and her dog, Ellie, are into their second set of classes and Ellie is absolutely loving it. So much so that she can’t wait to get out and do it again as soon as she is done!
Like many dogs these days, Ellie has already done and experienced so much. She has already been through basic and advanced dog obedience and has her therapy dog certification. She has gone on camping trips and loves going with her mom on her kayak adventures. She is an active dog with a mom who loves to do things with her.
It got me to thinking about how much has changed in our world when it comes to dogs. Sixty or seventy years ago, a dog would have been great entertainment for the kids, might have been taken on walks in the neighborhood, and sometimes went hunting in the spring and fall. But, that’s about it. They did not have the enriched lives that many of them experience today. Activities rarely centered around them and their fun.
There are so many more choices for us and our dogs. We can do almost anything with them these days, including:
- nose work
- geo caching
- going to the dog park
- fly ball
- freestyle musical dance
- sheep and goat herding
- trick training
- circus dog training
- search and rescue
- dock diving
- frisbee competitions
- doggie puzzles
These are only some of the things one can do with their dog. The list really is endless.
Realizing how many choices we have these days made me wonder, what changed? When did our dogs not only become so much of our lives, but also become a focus of the activities we do in our lives? Why do we do so many things with our dogs these days?
I’ll admit that I am no different. Jasper has gone experienced sheep herding many times. Daisy and Jasper and Cupcake have all gone hiking in the woods, and we play with doggie puzzles.. I like doing things with my dogs. I like that they get me outdoors and doing things I might not normally do. But, I also know that I could be doing other things. I could be traveling or crafting or attending classes. Instead, I choose to do activities that include my dogs. The question I am pondering today is, why? What motivates me to include them in all I do?
Do you do one of the above activities with your dog? What motivates to want to do so? What keeps you doing it? Why do you think we do so much with our dogs these days?
My dogs and I haven’t had much of a chance to go for a walk at the dog park this week. The frigid sub-zero temperatures have made it virtually impossible. So we’ve been playing a lot of indoor games and practicing our commands and tricks.
Last night I had the dogs wait behind a baby gate while I hid treats around the living room. Then I let them out so they could search for them. By the 4th round, the dogs were so excited they rushed past me and the gate and made a beeline for the ones they were certain they could find easily. They were so proud of themselves when they found one it made me smile. (Of course, it may have had something to do with me cheering for them when they did.) Seeing them having fun made staying indoors just a little bit easier – on all of us.
I love being able to “do” something with them on these cold nights, but I really wish that we could be walking at the park instead. To be honest, we could all use the exercise. It’s also nice stress reliever after a long day at work. (Can someone please talk to Mother Nature about this cold spell?)
But after hearing the weather report for next week, I am starting to lose hope that we will ever leave the house again. I am desperate enough to start doing 101 Things To Do with a Box. Not a bad thing to attempt mind you, but I really would prefer a little fun in the snow too.
Things may get bad enough that I may have to resort to dressing the dogs up in costumes just to entertain them! (Okay, that last one would be purely for my enjoyment. I doubt the dogs would find it funny or entertaining.)
Are you dealing with freezing temperatures? How are you keeping your dogs busy?