Monthly Archives: November 2017

Games to play on a dog walk.

Walking our dogs is great for their exercise (as well as our own) but it can also be a great mental stimulus and needless to say can be super fun for both parties. Although going for walks in different places can be good for the mental stimulus, there’s nothing like playing games with our dogs. Here are our top 10 games to play on a walk (in no particular order):

  • Hide-and-Seek: It’s a simple one really but also fun and gets our dog working and using his/her mind. When your dog is distracted by investigating something, you can quickly hide behind a tree, squat behind a bush etc. (you get the idea), wait a moment and then call their name. Call again if they are finding it hard to find you. When they discover you be ready to praise them for their cleverness with a toy or treat reward and lots and lots of praise. Top tip: when hiding, remember to keep your dog in your view in case they need your guidance or become a little panicked.
  • Follow the leader: This game can be played either on a long lead or off the lead completely; all you need is your dog’s full attention. With your dog by your side or behind you, and an element of unpredictability, you can vary your speed and make prompt changes of direction. You can try zigzagging, circling, retracing your footsteps a little before going forward again, the options are endless!
  • Treasure hunt: Another easy game, but make sure you have lots of tasty treats with you! As you’re on your walk, sporadically throw a treat on the ground around you while your dog is off investigating and then tell your dog to ‘find it’. Your dog can investigate and sniff around to find the treat. To add a different level, you can get your dog to sit/stay whilst you lay a treat trail, let your dog see you do it but sometimes bend down and touch the floor but don’t put a treat down. Once the trail is laid, call your dog and they will follow their nose to retrieve the treats. Top tip: if it’s too tempting for your dog, ask a friend to hold him/her whilst you lay the trail. You can make it more exciting by zigzagging rather than just being in a straight line.
  • Obstacle courses: Why not switch up your regular walks by using your imagination to create challenges and obstacles courses. You can use anything with this game, and not only use objects as obstacles (jumps, climbing upstairs etc.) but you can use your dog’s training along with it. For example, if there’s a large log/fallen tree get your dog to jump over it initially, when your dog’s got the knack, make it more difficult by adding a sit and wait, then call your dog to jump over it. You can do this with stairs; get your dog to wait at the top or bottom of the stairs, you go down or up them and then recall your dog to you. Your obstacle course is as big and fun as your imagination, but don’t forget your treats.
  • Stop! Start!: Use your ‘stop’ and ‘go’ commands (wherever yours may be; sit, wait, red, go, ok etc.) to play the stop, start game you may of played as a child. You can use your stop command and then when your dog successfully stops, use your go command. When your dog does both command, give lots of praise and rewards. You can use the stop, start commands at various times throughout your walk.
  • Homemade Flyball: This game is for those walks with a friend, in a park or wooded areas that have fallen small trees or logs that can be used as hurdles. Once you’ve spread out the logs as your hurdles, you can get your dog to sit and stay whilst your friend is at the other end of the hurdles with a tennis ball. On your command, your dog can jump over the hurdles, your friend can throw the ball for your dog to catch and then your dog has to run back over the hurdles to you to collect its tasty reward. This game is great for exercise but also good for your dog’s eye-paw and eye-mouth coordination.
  • Change your pace: This game does what it says on the tin! The idea is to make your walk interesting by changing your pace; switching between walking, jogging and slowing it right down. You can add in commands to the speed that you’re doing (fast, walk and slow) as well as reward your dog when he/she changes their paces and eventually when they change their paces on the word command.
  • Toy Time: All you need for this game is one of your dog’s favourite toys (and maybe some treats); but be aware that if it’s wet/muddy, toys may get wet and muddy themselves! It’s a basic game of fetch with your dog’s toy, you can start with just throwing the toy and getting your dog to fetch it and bring it back. Once your dog’s got the idea of the game, you can make it more interesting with adding a ‘wait’ or ‘stay’ before throwing the toy and then a command to fetch it. Always reward your dog when they bring back their toy to you.
  • Homemade agility: Agility is a great form of exercise for your dog but it’s also a great way for your dog to engage its brain and for you to continue building a relationship between you and your dog. You don’t need an agility course to enjoy this game; it’s all about improvising with what you come across during your walk. Using objects to jump over as hurdles, using your legs for your dog to weave in and out of, using benches for your dog to jump up and sit on. You can add in your dog’s known commands to make it more challenging and lots of those yummy treats for rewards.

Nature vs. Nurture effects on Dog Behaviour.

There is always a lot of stories in the news and on social media about specific breeds. Certain breeds tend to get more bad press than others so is it justified or does the dog’s upbringing contribute more strongly to behavioural traits?

Our dogs are intelligent animals and do not react to something without a reason or two. With this in mind, if we’ve corrected a behaviour displayed by our dog within an environment because its seen as ‘bad’ or ‘misbehaving’, we need to have a look at the environmental impact in relation of changing the dogs reaction to the ‘stimulus’. There are lots of factors which when taken into consideration, can influence your dog’s behaviour relationship with the environment. Here are some of them:

    Inherited behaviours

    These are behaviours displayed depending on how your dog reacts to different stresses in environments:

  • Dogs which are considered to be weak-nerved can display fearful based behaviours (behaviours such as shy, timid, fearful bites); these dogs struggle to deal with the everyday environmental stresses.
  • Dogs which are solid-nerved can display ‘disobedient’ or ‘dominant’ based behaviours; these are dogs that are confident, curious, distracted, like to explore and get easily bored.
    How the dog has been socialised
  • This can affect your dog’s behaviours in connection with its social skills and its relationship with its surrounding environment.
  • Your dog’s brain is like a sponge during the first 16 weeks; more social interaction and different environmental stimuli and stresses during this period will form ‘good’ behavioural patterns (and how it would react) as an adult dog.
    The relationship between the dog, its owner and other humans
  • This is so important, whether your dog is a family pet, working dog, police service dog, etc.
  • No matter how well your dog is trained, if the relationship between you and him/her isn’t based on trust, fulfilment etc. then the performance will not be good.
  • If you have a good relationship with your dog it will be beneficial for your dog when dealing with or coping with different environments; a dog won’t play a game during a stressful situation/environment. If you engage in a game then your dog will have a message from you that there is nothing to worry about because you’re relaxed, therefore your dog relaxes.
    The environment which the dog lives or has grown up in
  • This can initiate and fuel your dog’s natural drive, although it should be considered when looking at territorial, aggression, fearful behaviours / reactions.
  • How you present or even don’t present the environment during the 16 week period of your puppies life will affect how your dog reacts to the environment as an adult.
    Environmental distractions
  • The way which your dog reacts in an environment to the distraction depends on the level and intensity of the distraction and how used to a distraction the dog is.
  • Your dog will not react the same way with an ambulance siren (the stimulus) going off 100 meters away compared to if the sirens went off right next to it; this is because the intensity of the volume and distance is different.
  • By identifying the ‘trigger’ you can work on your dog’s behaviour, desensitise and condition your dog to know how to react the next time it faces that situation.

Waiting till the issue is obvious, or the dog’s behaviour is dangerous before dealing with a less than perfect behaviour can be quite common; however preventing is the best we can do for our dogs.

    Preventions can include:

  • If purchasing a puppy, use a reliable breeder/owner who obviously cares about the breeding dogs behaviours (selecting good temperaments etc.) e.g. inherited behaviour.
  • Start your puppy’s socialisation from day one as this is a small window of opportunity; the puppies brain is like a sponge and are influenced on the environment and situation. Exposing the puppy to many different environments and stimuli will influence its adult behaviours and reactions.
  • Build a solid relationship between you and your puppy, this will help them feel secure in different environments and with different distractions.