A blog about my life with dogs.......

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dog days of summer

Summer is flying by fast. While I am doing my best to keep up with my blogging, if you've been following me, you know it's been a smidge bit since my last post. In my defense I've been researching my desired next blog topic, the history and evoluvtion of the domestication process of the dog. I think I've bitten of more than I can chew. I've got alot of reseaching to do, and it's summer, so we are all busy. With that in mind I've decided to put off my deep reseach post and post about different ways to exercise and entertain your pooch.

We all know about the WALK.
Exercise is super important to your pooch although he can't tell you so. If you are struggling with training, and focus, or just wishing Rex would stop circling your feet you can bet a lack of exercise is a likely cause. Taking your dog on a walk, moving his body, allowing that good ole sniffer to do its job and explore the smells of that mail box where the neighbor dogs pees, that flattened frog on the side of the road, or another dogs bum, all these sniffing activities while on your walk activate your dogs brain and his body to wear him out.

Jog your dog!
Can your dog keep up with you? HA! It's pretty likely your dog can out run you! So why not bond by putting you both to the test and upping that heart rate by taking a jog. I thought this was going to be impossible for me, but by starting slow and setting deliberate goals I have begun jogging with my two young dogs both at the same time. If you are not a jogger, set a goal like I will jog from here to the end of the block, then walk again. Then each time set a slightly bigger goal. Jogging gets your 'walk' done faster and the boost in heart rate is great for both handler and furry friend.
NOTE: Some dogs may not be the right fit for a jogging pal. Older dogs, like my 12 year old, just don't have it in them any more. Also dogs with health problems might want to avoid running in the heat. Brachycephalic (look this one up if your not sure what it means, but the short and skinny is that this word means a dog with a 'pushed in' or short face, example: pugs) dogs may have trouble breathing especially in the heat, which makes them a better candidate for other means of shedding there energy.

Find it!
Playing games in the house and in the yard like "find it" are a great way to use up some doggy energy. Start with a new toy, or a really yummy treat, show your dog the object and ask him/her to wait as you place it in a silly spot like on the floor next to the couch, or by the tree (but not where they likely just peed, this may result in your dog avoiding the object, not wanting to put the pee smelling thing in there mouth). Then go to your dog and release them. As he/she goes to eat, chew on etc etc the item say 'find it' and encourage them. When they find the thing have a party, praise your dog, give them another treat or begin a quick game of fetch with the toy. This game can go a multitude of ways depending on you and your dogs preferences. In my household it evolved from as described above to scenting a stuffed duck and asking Bugsy to find it on a 10 acre piece of land. The trick is to set your dog up for success so they can 'win' the game easily at first, then adding difficulty as he/she is more and more successful. Dont forget! Make it rewarding and fun!
If you've got questions about how to play 'find it' with your dog, feel free to inquire in the comment section. :)
Clean up in isle 5!
I have heard this called lots of things, and it reminds me of (a less frustrating version of) 52 card pick up. Stuck in your house 'cause its raining cats and dogs outside? Take some very small treats, or your dogs kibble, and just drop it all over the floor, in different rooms, on the stairs, etc and watch your dog go nutty finding each and every piece of food. Fun, but not for everyday.
Kong, K-Kong Kong Kong!
Kongs are great! Never tried one? Never heard of one? Got an inquisitive dog you need to keep busy? Do you feed kibble? If your dog has energy to spare and you feed kibble, feeding them from a Kong or other food releasing toy is a great way to keep them working for awhile. Dogs were born to work for there food, it's not cruel, it's fun! Kongs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so you can find the best fit for your Fido. Don't feed kibble? No problem, fill it with treats, or fill it with your home made food and freeze it for a long lasting cool meal on a hot day. Going to be out of the house and want to soothe your Sadie, Sasha, or Zoey? Smear some peanut butter over the Kongs hole and freeze it for a yummy peanut butter Pupsicle. I also love a toy called a "Tug-a-Jug". You can find these neat toys at Healthypets.com or in most pet supply stores.
Bored? Try board games for dogs and people!
Yup, it's true. Check out this site for some seriously neat-o games for you and your furry friend. I have the dog brick game and 2 out of three of my pooches will be panting slightly by the end of the game due to excitement and mental exercise. These games are pricey, and not to be left alone with the dogs! Perfect for snowed in days, or for a dog recovering from surgery or another ailment.

Need I say more? Many dogs love to play fetch, but not all. Some dogs have a natural instinct to retrieve. Some love to retrieve but have trouble handing over the drool covered ball after bringing it back to you. Got this problem? Try playing with two balls, when Sammy comes running back to you with the ball, show her you've got an even better ball, wait until she drops it them IMMEDIATELY toss the 'new' ball. Keep trading up as the game goes on, and stop play before your dog become disinterested. You can also offer a treat to get the ball, just make sure you end up with the ball and that dear Sammy isn't running off with both treat and ball (oops! just rewarded my dog for naughty behavior!)

Water retrieval, water rescue training, swimming oh my! Hot dogs love cool water (well, lots, but not all do). I keep a large tub in my yard that I fill with cool water on hot days and after hot walks in the sun. Comet loves to jump into the tub and 'dig'. It cools him down and is just plain adorable. If you aren't sure your dog can swim start out with a small tub, or on the edge of a familiar pond. Remember not all dogs are good swimmers, some like Bulldogs, are naturally bad swimmers.

Itching to do some good?
I am! Check out your local animal shelter or Humane Society for volunteer opportunities. A homeless dog or cat might not out right thank you for it, but I will! Thanks to all volunteers!

Here is a picture of my pal, 8 year old Stella, a boxer at the Cedar Rapids Animal Shelter.