Remote working, social distancing, and self-quarantine can be difficult for a lot of people, but do you know who is going to love it? Your pet! Here are some tips and tricks so pet owners can have fun with their pups while staying home and safe.
Do-it-yourself enrichment is the perfect way to keep your pet occupied, mentally and physically. Plus, it’s a great craft activity for your kids who are home from school! Start with putting away your pets’ bowls for dinner and make every meal a game; hide their food around the room, toss it across the floor, or stash it inside their favorite toys; this a good way to buy you some alone time while you’re making your own dinner. If you have an extra towel lying around, lay it flat and sprinkle out their dinner. Roll the towel carefully and toss to your pup. They will love unrolling it, finding the hidden treasure, and hunting for their food. Do you have an empty toilet paper tube? Fill it with kibble and push the ends inward to create a loose seal; your pup will chase and carry their new toy before they tear it to shreds. Looking for a simple and reusable puzzle? Fill muffin tin cups with kibble, and then stack their tennis balls or Kong toys on top. They’ll be racking their brain as they solve their new puzzle, and an hour of mental stimulation is as important as an hour of physical exercise.
Need a quick break between spreadsheets and conference calls? Teach an old dog new tricks! If your dog has the basics down pat: sit, stay, lie down, “no, no don’t eat that!” What about middle, high five, and chin rest? Middle is the perfect skill for any dog with an active family; teach your pet to sit between your legs on cue. This is great on a busy hiking trail and people or dogs pass by, if your dog is nervous around people, or when you walk near busy roads. The commands “high five” and “chin rest” can make your dog a social media star, but both serve important purposes. High five is a form of touch targeting, the basic of a lot of other tricks. Chin rest is adorable, but also your dog giving consent to touch. This is vital when dealing with nail trims or vet visits.
Still looking for more ways to keep your border collie’s brain busy? Agility courses are incredible for physical and mental stimulation; they are also easily built with supplies around your house! A couple brooms and chairs make instant hurdles or a tunnel when you add a sheet. Empty water jugs, or water bottles if you have small dogs, can built into weave poles or a maze and changed easily for increased difficulty. Do you have a long and tall couch? Substitute “A” Frame for jumping and climbing.
Do not let this time pass without increasing the loving bond with your pet. It can be easy to focus on the difficulties of the world right now, but the happiness your pet will give you is the perfect distraction.
Brie Kuna is the behavior team lead and a dog trainer at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, the state’s oldest and largest no-kill shelter.