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5 Brain Games to keep your dog happy in hot weather

17/07/2018 - Latest News

It’s too hot for dog walking. So hot that it could be a health hazard for Fido and for you. So what can you do to replace walkies? What will use up your dog’s mental energy without overheating his body?

Here are my suggestions:

Chew on a bone
Animal behaviourists are continually challenging the century’s worth of things that humans thought they knew about dogs. We now know much more about how dogs learn and what they truly enjoy doing.
Chewing is one of the things that dogs find therapeutic. Yes, it probably does exercise their jaws and help clean their teeth, but it has another function too.
Where a human being might flick on the TV, read a book or spend time at hobbies to relax. Dogs chew. Chewing releases a chemical in the brain which creates a feel good sensation. Unlike the endorphins released when mammals exercise, this chemical, dopamine, sooths, calms and relaxes.
This also explains why dogs suffering from separation anxiety will chew furniture, doors, etc. – they’re trying to cope with their feelings of stress.
Indulging your dog with a big juicy bone, or a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter will keep him happy while you both wait for the heatwave to subside.

Resource Guarding
This is not a recommended activity for dogs who “guard” treats.  If your dog grumbles, growls or becomes aggressive when he is protecting an object his behaviour MUST be addressed by a professional before anyone gets hurt.   If your dog is possessive with toys or treats, please phone me for a chat ASAP and don’t try this activity before you’ve taken professional advice.

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The rucksack walk – a simple game to play with your dog
I love this game. It’s suitable for any person and any dog. Simply fill a rucksack or holdall with a range of interesting objects. Different smells, different textures, maybe something that makes a crinkly sound or squeaks when squished.
Some of the objects could be edible, some could be new to the dog, and some might be old favourites. What about a small box with 2 or 3 pieces of dried liver inside? A teddy bear, a ball, a tug rope, a squeaky toy, a Kong with cheese in it……….have a rummage in your kitchen cupboards, you’ll be amazed at what you find.

Take the bag, and the dog somewhere quiet and take out one object at a time. Allow the dog to explore each item in turn, let him sniff it, mouth it, roll it on the floor – whatever he wants to do. When he gets bored, reveal another object.

It’s a gentle game that will stimulate his natural curiosity and encourage him to use his senses.

This video wasn’t filmed during a heatwave in Essex, but I just love it. The dogs are so engaged in what they’re doing and they are focussed on their owners. Focus is such an important skill for a dog to learn.

This is something I’d recommend for “playing” with a rescue dog or an anxious dog to build trust in a relationship.
 

Video courtesy of Moira Owers at Paws by the Loch


Hide and seek for dogs
If it’s nice and cool in your house and you can trust your dog not to get overexcited, Hide and seek is a great game to play. It’s a good way to work on his recall too.

You might need a human helper for this game.

First fill your pocket with treats.

Ask your dog to either sit or lie down, and then ask him to stay. Now. If he’s good at staying put, you can go off and hide in another room, behind the sofa, under the bed, or wherever you can fit. If “stay” is a work in progress, ask your human helper to stay with your dog and hold onto his collar.
When you’re ready, call your dog and reward him when he “finds” you.

The finding will be easy for him, but what you are doing is reinforcing the recall and giving him a reason to search you out.

If it’s not too hot outside, this game can be played in the garden. And by the time the heatwave subsides you’ll be able to take it to the park where he’ll be coping with distractions too.

Exercise your dog’s nose
One of the biggest parts of your dog’s brain is the bit that’s attached to his nose. I have never yet met a dog who doesn’t like to exercise his brain by sniffing things out.

If your dog has a favourite toy or ball, you can exercise his nose by playing hide and seek with his toy. If he is motivated by edible treats, then a snuffle mat is a brilliant toy for him.

A snuffle mat is like a miniature agility course for your dog’s nose. The one I most like is a bit like a piece of shag pile carpet. It has long, thick fibres just right for hiding nuggets of food in. Terrier types in particular just adore these toys and will work at them for ages. Labradors I find need a bit of supervision because their appetites are big enough to cope with the whole mat. Having said that, speedy eaters who give themselves wind by scoffing their dinner too fast can be fed from a snuffle mat. It certainly helps their digestion.
 
Chill out together
Do you count your dog as one of your best friends? A bone-fide member of the family? Most of my clients say they do – including the ones who have working dogs. When it’s too hot to move, how do you pass the time with your human friends and family? A game of footie in the park isn’t really ideal, neither is a run or a game of squash. Even trailing round the shops doesn’t appeal. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably just have a drink or two, maybe something to eat and just chill; watch TV, listen to music, chat – that kind of thing.

Why not just chill with your dog. I love this video from IMDT founder Steve Mann. He’s with his pal Nancy, just getting life into perspective.

 
More ideas for warm weather activities with your dog
Why not take the opportunity to brush up on your dog training? Perhaps teach your dog some tricks, or improve his recall. Maybe you need a few new hints and tips to motivate you? I can come to your home – so no need to put the dog in a hot car and we can work together towards your own specific training goals.

Book your 1-2-1 dog training session