Saturday, February 19, 2022

Jazer's Puppy Enrichment Rug

This video was shared with me via a friend, Patty Aguirre, who's puppy Jazer (pronounced Jay-zer) has just become an adolescent at 6 months old.  Young puppies need lots of enrichment opportunities that are designed to help them learn to use their senses to explore the environment.  Although the types of enrichment activities may change, enrichment opportunities need to be continued into adolescence in controlled environments that are safe.  Often puppies and adolescents do tons of behaviors we do not necessarily love; chewing, biting/nipping, barking, jumping, etc.  Patty is training Jazer to be a Service Dog to assist her in daily activities and has been providing various types of enrichment since the day he came home.



Puppy loves to chew up carpet. He doesn’t get to eat the rug in the living room. So I got him one of his own to destroy. He got to keep it for the weekend & until today. This one made a big mess. Jazer had a ball until his daddy threw his rug away today. But look what fun Jazer had.

This is the same concept of giving a dog one area of the yard for approved digging to prevent them from digging up the whole yard. Or for teaching your dog to potty in one section instead of all over the yard. Doing this allows your dog to take care of their actual "doggie" needs and in no way teaches them that it's OK to do this to all rugs. If we want our dogs to be successful in our "people world" we have to take care of their basic canine needs as well!

Using Enrichment to get the Behaviors We Love?

 

In the post titled, "What is Enriching for Your Dog?" I discussed specific criteria that all enrichment activities should impact.  In this post, I'm going to specifically talk about 3 of those criteria.  

Enrichment should:

  • be an activity that has interaction between the participants.  
  • effect the response a dog has to a particular action.  
  • lead to evidence based, behavior changes. 
If enrichment is to be in the form of interaction between participants, the owner and the dog, that means that it must be enjoyable for at least one of those participants.  For example, we as owners may not like spending time in the frigid temps, but if we choose to own a northern breed like a Husky we do it anyways.  Azul is working dog, if I want him to keep me safe and continue to alert to medical conditions which happen to rely on his sense of smell, I need to provide him the opportunity to use scents in ways that make him happy too.  Basically, we spend extra time sniffing outside throughout the day for him and he keeps tabs on my smell 24/7.  All the enrichment sniffing he does, then acts as a reward for his hard work.  But instead of coming after a behavior that I love, the sniffing often comes before the behavior I want him to repeat.  It's a win/win for both of us because he gets the environmental interaction daily and I receive the medical alerts as needed.

Enrichment must effect the response a dog has to a particular action.  I've done extensive learning when it comes to how a dog's brain and nose work together to process scents.  Science has demonstrated that dogs use a different part of their brain to process chemical or hormonal based scents then they do process typical environmental scents.  Since Azul's medical alerts are based on a chemical/hormonal change in my body leading up to a migraine he uses that half of his scent sense often.  The sniffing of the environment allows him to keep the other half of his scent sense engaged and sharp.  The more he practices processing various scents every day, the better he will be at providing the alerts I need, therefore the enrichment sniffing impacts Azul's ability to do this task.

Enrichment must lead to evidence based, behavior changes.  I've worked to provide Azul with some type of scent based enrichment every single day since I brought him home as a puppy.  I've spent extensive time tracking my medical episodes and Azul's activities and behaviors at the time of the episode.  Through this tracking, I've gathered the evidence to know that Azul's alerts are stronger when his needs for enrichment sniffing are met and he is less likely to alert  as early if he has not done his enrichment sniffing activities.

Walking Manners

Switching gears from a Service Dog task, to a behavior most dog owners want from their dogs I'm going to show you how enrichment can help you with leash manners.  Starting with loose leash walking that is often challenging for most owners, I'm going to break down a few things you can practice to improve your dog's ability to focus while walking close to you.

Most people teach the heel position through a combination of luring a dog into position, capturing when a dog automatically steps into position on their own, and shaping activities to help the dog learn exactly where you want them to walk.  Most often in the beginning, food is the primary reinforcer for these training sessions.  While you are using the food as motivation to repeat the behavior, the dog is often sniffing the food or your hand as they are learning.  As a puppy grows up and advances in training, we often slow down the amount of food we deliver with longer gaps between reinforcement.  This is where enrichment starts to come into play.  Our dogs should find the act of simply being with us in this position as an enriching or reinforcing activity we do together.  Then as we walk, we stumble upon something that smells really awesome such as tree that was peed on by another dog.  At that point, the dog often stops interacting with their person to reach the smell or in other words, they begin pulling on the leash.  A common trainer suggestion at this stage (and something I do with Azul) is stop moving in the direction of the scent, stopping before the dog can actually reach it.  This often will stop the pulling as the dog moves closer to their handler thus interacting again until they are close enough to reach the smell they want.  The enticing smell becomes self reinforcing.  If we make our dogs stay in a heel position for long durations, they are not getting this reinforcement and often they are not finding the walk very enriching either.  It may take a bit longer for a dog to learn this way and they may get over-excited and forget what they have been trained to do in these situations, but the more you practice this you will see improvement in your dog's leash manners.  You do have to watch for signs of frustration during this type of training, because if this is frustrating your dog will likely stop trying because they are not sure what you want.  Consistency is the key here!  If you don't take your dog on enough sniff-a-bouts, where they are free to sniff the environment they will struggle a whole lot more with learning not to pull your arm off on walks.  Punishment or corrections based training might stop the pulling, but at what consequence to your dog and to your partnership with your dog?

Jumping on People and/or Furniture

This is a common puppy problem that carries over into adulthood for many dogs.  Often people jump to corrections or punishment for jumping issues.  Force free trainers often focus on managing the environment while teaching a cue for sending a dog to their mat when a guest comes to your house or sitting and waiting for the person to come to the dog.  Positive reinforcement training of cues can be very effective, by using management and training most people will see progress in their dogs learning not jump on unwanted things, especially when the jumping is due to over-arousal.  However, what often gets looked over is that some dogs have a basic canine need to JUMP.  This is especially true for herding dogs that were bred to have a very active life style such as Aussies & Border Collies.  It's super common to see these types of dogs in an agility ring where they can practice running and jumping in an approved environment and when desired by the owner.  Many smaller dogs also have an issue with jumping that is driven by their breed instincts and the simple fact that they are too short to greet people that are standing up.  

Agility is awesome for people who love to compete, but can become an expensive hobby real fast.  Instead, I choose to do K9 Parkour with my dogs as an outlet for some fun on our walks and to train appropriate behaviors based on the environments we are in.  If you're not familiar with K9 Parkour, it is basically agility done in your natural environment instead of a show ring.  You teach your dog to jump up on surfaces on cue, to place only their front paws up, only their back paws up, moving around objects, standing still on top of objects and other such skills in a fun way that helps your dog learn to navigate their world.  By starting small and working up to bigger and better Parkour activities, you help to build up your dog's body condition in a way that is healthy, teaching controlled movements which also reduces the risk of injury during typical doggie activities.

Calming activities can also be very enriching, so if your dog is jumping out of over-arousal, this type of outlet can be amazingly helpful.  This often starts with mat/place training and/or food enrichment toys.  But it doesn't have to stop there!  There are many other enriching activities you can do with your dog that can encourage calm, relaxed behavior.  Enrichment sniffing can be calming for some dogs, but can also lead to increased arousal if not done in the right time & place.  Cooperative Care training, gentle massage, and K9 yoga can also help teach your dog to calm themselves down in exciting situations.  Like most behaviors that I want to train, I use games to help with calming activities too.  There are tons of games you can play to help teach your dog to have an On/Off switch or move more easily back and forth between excited and calm.  The act of playing the games can be very rewarding and enriching for your dogs while being fun for you!

Additional "Bad" Behaviors

As a Trainer and Behavior Consultant, my role in helping you and your dog develop a partnership that you both love that is based at looking at the big picture surrounding those behaviors.  What emotions are present when the behavior occurs?  How is your dog's breed impacting those behaviors?  How are your dog's needs impacting those behaviors?  And how is the environment your in impacting your dog's behavior?  Then it's my job to help you find creative solutions that will fit your lifestyle and build the partnership you want with your dog.  If you are struggling with a behavior your dog is doing that is driving you nuts, it's time to reach out to a skilled Trainer or Behavior Consultant!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

New Virtual Positive Puppy Paws Classroom!


The discounted rate of $50 will only be offered during a limited registration time of February 15th to March 15th!  If you have any questions about this classroom, please contact me for more a sample lesson.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Fitting Enrichment Into Your Schedule

How can you fit enrichment activities into your daily schedule?

Azul takes a pause after a walk to enjoy the environment.

Finding time to help our dog's do Dog Things can be very challenging!  Everyone has a busy, often overwhelming, schedule with too many things on our plate.  One of the biggest issues that I deal with as a trainer is clients calling me overwhelmed because they thought they did everything right, stepped out of the house for a bit, and came back to destruction from a bored adolescent.  And let me say right up front, I've been there!  Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum with clients that are stressed because in trying to give their dog the best life possible they are exhausted from entertaining their dog.  It can be extremely difficult to find balance in various aspects of our lives.  My goal as a dog trainer is to help you find that balance for you and your family, including your pets.

We find balance easiest in the routines we set.  With my autoimmune issues, routine is hard to come by as one day I can walk, talk & do like normal person, then some days I can't.  So I'm going to start be describing the perfect day for me with my dogs.

Like most of you, we start out with a potty break for everyone.  This takes care of a physical need for all of us, but is not enrichment.  Most of what we do in life is based on such activities.  Will the dogs are outside in the yard, I prepare breakfast, again not enriching since this is typically a bowl with kibble and some raw mixed together.  Then my dogs chill for a few hours while I get some work done. (Not Enrichment -average time 5-10 min)

Late morning is when we really start the enrichment activities in our house with a sniff-a-bout on our property, typically to sniff where wildlife visited then night before.  Sometimes it's a short 5 mins or sometimes it's an hour depending on the weather and the rest of our plans for the day.  If either dog did not finish eating their breakfast, it usually gets added to a lickmat or scatter feed in the grass or snow outside. Then it's more down time till after lunch. (Enrichment Sniffing - average 15-30 min)

Today's playdate and sniff-a-bout partner, Nala!

Somewhere in the afternoon we try to either set up a playdate and/or training session with a client,  On days that we don't see a client, we try to do a trail walk to practice leash skills.  This winter finding activities that can be done indoors has been a must with some pretty frigid temps.  I always keep a list of "indoor activities" that can also be done during this time.  This can be anything from Find It Games to Skills practice.  (Physical and Mental Enrichment - average 1-2 hrs)  

We tend to have an early supper, then we will do one final sniff-a-bout.  This winter our plans have changed quite drastically and we haven't been doing as many training sessions with clients or as many hikes.  It gets dark quite early in the winter so we've been playing some longline zoomie games in the evening for some exercise.  We practice recall during this time so we mix fun and training.  (Physical & Training Enrichment - average time 15 min or less)

Today for example, we had a client in the morning and another client in the afternoon, then family stuff in the late afternoon.  Which totally changed our routine.  During that time, Azul was able to run, sniff, and be social but we didn't really do anything mentally challenging so this evening before bed, we added in some Find It games to encourage Azul to finish his dinner with some mental work.  (About 10 min)      Izzy, the 4 month old Great Dane puppy pictured to the left was my morning client
This leaves my total enrichment time for sniffing (most important to Azul), games, and training to be around 1.5-2 hours on a typical day.  Which is about perfect for Azul.  My last German Shepherd Pup needed about 3 hours of fun and games a day including at least 2 high speed exercise games.  But that was my poor training in teaching her to love playing ball at much too young of an age.  

Remember this is the "perfect day" scenario and none of us lives in a perfect world!  If you can't cover all of your dog's needs on a certain day, figure out what is most important to them and at least do that activity.  You can double up on other types of activities on other days.  My goal is to have more days where I'm meeting their needs then days where I don't.  If you don't meet their needs too many days in a row, you will start to see some behaviors that you don't like!

Of course my schedule is not perfect for everyone else!  But I can help you determine what your dog needs and how you can develop a routine that will fit your busy schedule and all that you are trying to accomplish in one day!  For the rest of February, I will be offering 1 FREE Zoom Meeting to anyone who wants to discuss creating an Enrichment Plan for your family.  To schedule this send me a chat request or email at yooperpaws@gmail.com!






Monday, February 14, 2022

Service Dog Training with a Motorized Cart

With my disability, it's very likely that in the future I will struggle with being able to walk as I do now. Some days are a struggle now, but Azul is task trained to mitigate my mobility issues as they currently are. I want to make sure we train for that possibility so Azul is prepared.

In this video, Azul and I are just getting started and he needs to figure out where a heel position is, where to stand and wait at the end of aisles, and how to turn corners without getting under the wheels. It helps that Azul knows cues to turn left/right so I can give him a heads up before we turn the corner. And he's used to waiting at the corner, but we need to stop slightly further back then normal to be able to avoid sudden collisions. Plus this cart basically has 2 speeds, a slow creeper speed and full speed which is slightly slower then the speed we normally walk. Azul has to make adjustments for this as well.


In this video Azul is starting to become comfortable heeling next to the chair so we are starting to add in some more difficult cues.  Our biggest one is the follow cue, which means to drop behind me.  Azul is very familiar with this cue while I'm walking, but the cart means he has to move even further behind me.  He struggles with figuring this out at first, but he gets it after a few practice sessions. 

This video demonstrates Azul and I working together to figure out his best position in relation to the chair based on what I need to do. We demonstrate heel, follow (walk behind me) turn, and backing up. Then we practice paws up, stepping over the chair floor and going around.


It's important for young Service Dogs to practice this type of thing to be prepared for the future possibilities. When Azul was a young pup, we practiced remaining calm as other people moved passed us in motorized carts. At first we watched them from a distance, but slowly decreased the distance until we were walking right passed them as they moved in the opposite direction. We've practiced walking behind & beside motorized carts. The only time Azul has been with me riding a cart was for a very short ride when he was about 16 months old as we delivered one to my sister because she couldn't walk the distance to where they were parked. Azul did very well with that, or I probably would have practiced more before now. My goal is to practice about 2-3 times a year so that Azul can stay prepared should I ever need to use a cart or wheelchair for real.

#ServiceDogSkills #SDPublicAccessSkills

What is Enriching for Your Dog?


Just like reinforcement, enrichment is something that our dogs have to chose.  Not all dogs find the same things enriching.  But how can we know what our dogs find most enriching?

First lets figure out what the difference is between reinforcement and enrichment.  Reinforcement is going to be our topic for next week so we will dive into that more later.  As dog owners, we use reinforcement to reward our dogs for the behaviors we like.  Enrichment is not meant to be a reward but more of a way to meet our dog's natural instinct needs from day to day.  Behavior Consultants from around the world have pretty much agreed that enrichment activities should into these criteria.

Enrichment should...

  • be an activity that has interaction between the participants.  
  • effect the response a dog has to a particular action.  
  • lead to evidence based, behavior changes.  
  • be changing constantly.
  • differ from dog to dog based on their needs.
  • reliant on the evolution of learning experiences of the dog and human.

The importance of participating together in enrichment activities.

For this example, I'm going to use one of Azul's favorite enrichment activities of a sniff-a-bout.  With our winter climate, Azul spends time each day in our backyard by himself.  While he may sniff and explore during this time, this is not necessarily enriching for him because it doesn't fit many of the other requirements.  We also try to take a daily sniff-a-bout together which he finds very enriching.  If he is alone, there isn't any teamwork leading to behavior changes or response changes to things in the environment.  But when we are together on a sniff-a-bout, Azul is processing or reading the environment we are in, while at the same time working as a teammate with an emotional connection between us which leads to a change in responses to things we find in the environment together.  The backyard gets boring, but sniff-a-bouts allow us to change environments regularly and I can choose the best environment for the type of exercise I think Azul needs on a particular day.  Our sniff-a-bouts are ever evolving, as we enjoy new and different things as our partnership grows.  Those things are missing when a dog's only outlet for sniffing is in the backyard.

Enrichment can and should effect responses to activity and changes in behavior.

If you have followed our journey, you will know that Azul's biggest distraction is other dogs.  When we first started taking sniff-a-bouts when Azul was a puppy, if another dog came into view Azul's reaction was to rush up and say hi to everyone.  Being a reactive dog owner, I know first hand how bad this response can be!  During our daily sniff-a-bouts, we slowly transitioned that response of rush to greet into a more suitable response of stop, watch, and wait for my cue for further instructions.  We are working toward having Azul automatically return to my side when he sees another dog and hold a wait or heel with me until I give permission to greet or cue a leave it.  This is what he does when we see people, but dogs are just a bit too exciting still.  While this type of training also involves reinforcement, it's the regular practice of allowing Azul to sniff to his heart's content, return to me for brief periods, then return to sniffing.  This means that once the other dog has passed, Azul's favorite reward is going to sniff where the dog was previously walking or standing, which again is very enriching.  Breaking this down further, Azul returning to my side is the desired automatic response whenever a distraction is spotted.  Then following my cues to make sure everyone involved has a positive experience is the behavior change part of this example.

Enrichment should change regularly.

With a puppy, we can use an enrichment feeder in their crate to help them create a positive associate with the crate as being a calm, safe, and happy place to hang out.  Typically we start by doing this while we are in the room with the puppy, often encouraging them to learn how to eat from the toy presented.  Eventually we work toward being able to give the pup an enrichment feeder so that we can calmly slip away to do something else without creating a panic.  We as humans get set on the pattern of always doing this when we leave, but if we don't change up the enrichment feeding methods our dogs typically get bored after the repetition and either stop eating the treat or going back to some of the unwanted behaviors they had originally when we started the training.  We can continue to make food toys enriching by changing through various recipes, various types of toys, and various locations or changes in routine to help the dog stay engaged and find the activity enriching.

Enrichment driven by breed traits.

Not all dogs will have the same needs based on their personality, lifestyle, and training level.  However breeds often play a role in what they will find most enriching.  For example, herding breeds where bred to be able to move sheep herds, watching over those sheep, providing protection and chasing off threats.  If take a herding breed such as a Border Collie or an Aussie and put them in a "people world" environment where they are never going to see sheep, that doesn't change their natural instinct to want to herd, watch, protect, and chase off.  This is why many herding breeds develop a huge attachment to their favorite toys whether that's balls, stuffed animals, etc.  This attachment often leads to resource guarding tendencies if we don't give them an opportunity to learn how to develop their skills of herding in a natural yet safe way.  Whatever their favorite toy is, let them have lots of them!  That way if they are guarding one, you can offer them to trade for another.  Teaching the dog to trade then becomes invaluable as they then will bring items to you instead of running off to play keep away.  Once the trade is well established, you can then add back in a game of Keep Away with your dog in a controlled environment where other dogs or distractions are not going to interfere.  

So what about a hunting dog that was bred to follow a scent trail, but the owner does not go hunting?  Enrichment activities for these breeds will likely involve sniff-a-bouts, Find It Games, & Hide-n-Seek.  You can take your dog "hunting" without ever stepping in the woods with games that help your dog learn how to use those instincts within their daily activity.

Whatever the breed of dog, enrichment activities should be designed around your dog's senses.  With smell being the strongest sense for many dogs, lots of enrichment activities are based on scent games.  But you should also look for enrichment activities that teach your dog to use their other senses too; sight, sound, touch and taste.

Emotions can impact our dog's enrichment needs.

Our goal is to prevent bad things from happening to our partners, but we also have to be realistic in realizing we do not live in a perfect world.  If your dog has an unexpected negative experience, you can use certain enrichment activities to help them to get rid of some of the stress associated with the bad experience.  Chewing, licking, and sniffing have all be documented to lower stress hormones in dogs.  First and foremost, you want to get your dog back in a calm, safe environment after something bad has happened.  But it can take 3 days for their hormones to come back down to a natural state.  During this time, provide extra enrichment activities that they love.  Also it's important for you to de-stress from bad experiences too so make sure to talk to someone who can help you sort through the negative and come up with a plan to better next time.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Understanding Your Dog's Needs


Every person on the planet can pretty much agree that all animals, including people, need a minimum of food, shelter, and clothing (safety gear for dogs).  But is that enough to make an animal's life enriching and have value?  In this post we are going to be going over some other things that greatly affect the quality of life we provide for our dogs.

Ditch the Bowl & Other Food Based Enrichment

Since food is one of the most basic needs, it's also one of the most basic enrichment activities that trainers recommend for their clients.  With a quick search on Google, YouTube, or Amazon you can get all kinds of great food based enrichment ideas that you can use with your dogs.  With all those resources readily available, I'm going to tell you about a few that my dogs love.

The Snuffle Box

Take a cardboard box and put 3-5 items from your recycle bin or around the house that are safe to be touched, mouthed, or chewed by your dog; plastic water bottles or bowls, rolled up newspaper balls, dog toys, basically anything that can get in the way but your dog can easily move around with their nose.  To get started, drop a few treats in the box and tell your dog to Find It or Search.  Once your dog gets the hang of the game, you can switch from using treats to using a portion or all of your dog's meal in the box.

There are also snuffle toys like mats and balls you can buy just about anywhere that sells pet supplies.  Nature is also a great place to sniff out food, so you can drop a handful of kibble in the yard for the dog to search through the grass for the food.  Azul started doing this as a young pup where we spent the after meal sitting in the front yard daily if weather permitted.  Still at almost 2 years old, he enjoys at least one meal a week sprinkled around somewhere outside.

The act of seeking is a natural instinct that all dogs are born with.  Certain breeds that were bred for nosework or hunting have an extra need to develop the seeking instinct in greater detail.  By teaching them how to forage for their meals and providing lots of opportunity to do that, we can often prevent some of the less desired behaviors of following a scent trail or seeking other forms of self entertainment.

Lickmats or stuffed toys

This is something that Cam has never really enjoyed, but he was punished in a former home for excessive licking of people so that likely has something to do with it.  Every other dog that I've tried out a lickmat with has found it extremely rewarding!  When Azul was just a baby, I used to spread some peanut butter inside a hollow toy or bone that he could easily fit is nose in to provide a calming activity before his afternoon nap time.  A stuffed kong or similar toy can be awesome for helping a young pup get used to a crate as well.  And now that Azul is older, he still wants to eat at least one meal a week on his lickmat, although the recipes we use now are much more complex.

The act of licking is a natural stress reliever so if your dog has something unexpected in their day, providing an extra opportunity for licking can help help turn that negative experience into a positive experience.

Using kibble for training

This is where the idea of "Ditch the Bowl" comes in, suggesting that you hand feed your dog during training sessions and enrichment feeders instead of a dog bowl.  This is great, but I simply don't have this much time in my day in a multiple dog household.  Instead I use a wide variety of feeding methods using a bowl for one of 2 meals a day and using alternative methods for the other meal.  It's more important that you find a feeding schedule that works for you and your dog, than it is to try to follow someone else's schedule.

The act of training by itself is often enrichment for our dogs!  If we tailor our training to incorporate concept style training, teaching our dogs life skills instead of solely focusing on getting behaviors, we tend to help their brain develop stronger connections.  Activating the brain and putting some of their mental energy to work to solve a problem is very enriching for most dogs.

When many people think about enrichment, this is where they stop as food related enrichment is the easiest to learn to use and apply to daily life.  But our dogs have other needs!

Can shelter be enriching?

I totally believe it is!  When we have a young puppy in the house we tend to confine them to one room of the house that is puppy proofed and as they grow and learn house manners we slowly add in other rooms of the house.  This is in part designed to help them feel safe and learn about their world around them.  Fast forward to our adult dogs, and we don't often think about what rooms they are enjoying on a day-to-day basis.  But just like people, dogs easily get bored without a change of scenery.  I have dog beds or rest spots in various rooms of my house allowing dogs to choose where they want to rest.  Most times they choose the room I'm in, so I try not to spend hours on end in the same room to help add variety to my dogs.  I recently repurposed an unused bedroom into a makeshift office & training room to provide myself a quiet place to retreat when other areas of the house are busy.  Azul and Cam are really enjoying that because they now have company in another area of the house at least for an hour or so every day.  I'm also lucky enough to have a large back porch that is gated off from the yard.  Azul loves to spend time out there throughout the day "reading the newspaper" to enjoy the smells in the neighborhood.

Not all dogs enjoy new environments!  Azul has always visited lots of different places with me as a Service Dog, therefore he enjoys getting out of the house to walk a trail or go shopping.  Cam on the other hand, has more anxiety in new places so he is happiest if we stick to the same 5-10 environments that he feels safe in, avoid busy trails with unknown dogs.  

Enrichment activities MUST be tailored to your dog's needs and preferences!

Clothing or Gear as Enriching

Azul is a minimalist when it comes to gear and clothing!  While he will tolerate anything I want to put on him, he doesn't enjoy it so we don't do it often.  Cam enjoys some minimal clothing such as a new collar or a fancy bandana put on after a good brushing session.  You can tell he enjoys it by an increased swagger he has when I first put it on him.  My boys don't really like any other clothing, but I've had dogs in the past that enjoyed playing dress up.  

The key here is doing things that your dog enjoys and avoid things that are not enjoyed.

Enrichment Sniffing

We already discussed this a bit under Food Enrichment, but allowing your dog to sniff when you are not feeding them is also amazingly enriching.  Let's face it, our dogs are limited to exploring environments that we give them access to.  Most dogs, living a people world are not allowed to go out and explore on their own and at their pace.  We do this to keep them SAFE, which is also important.  But it's also very important to provide them a chance to sniff and explore various environments at their pace.  This is one of the most common things that people leave out as we live in a world where keeping our dog in a heel position at our side is becoming far too normal.  Yes, there are times when you want or need your dog to be in a heel or stay close to you.  But then you need to give them the opportunity to sniff on their terms if you want to have a partnership with your dog.

We regularly take sniff-a-bouts on a longline through rural environments or large fields near parks and we rotate that with trail walks on a 6-10 ft lead that is focused on the enrichment needs of the dog I am walking.  Longline walks can be hard to get used to, but I have lots of videos with tips & tricks on my YouTube Channel.  Here is a video of Azul and I enjoying a short sniff-a-bout a few days ago.

Health & Hygiene that is Enriching

This is something we tend to overlook!  We sometimes have to take our dogs to the Vet for checkups or other needs, they need occasional baths, brushing, etc.  These things can be approached with the mind frame of, "This is what my dog needs so I'm just going to do it." OR "This is something I want my dog to enjoy in life!"  For people that want to help their dog enjoy some of life's necessities, this is where Cooperative Care training comes in.  With some time and proceeding at our dog's pace, we can desensitize them to nearly anything in the health & hygiene world as long as we start before they've had a fear based reaction to that activity.

Socially Interactive Enrichment

This is one that really has to be designed around your dog's needs, but all dogs have a basic need to be social.  For some dogs this means doing activities with "their people" or their family unit and for other dogs that means going out and meeting new people.  The absence of social interaction in a puppy's life can easily effect their desires for social interaction as adults.  Having spent the first year of his life in an outdoor kennel, Cam does not really enjoy new people invading his bubble.  While Azul on the other hand got a really great start to early socialization and not only loves meeting new people, but also craves that interaction.  Regardless of how our dogs feel about strangers, they have a basic need to feel safe and comfortable in their living environment and this comes from spending time with their family doing activities they enjoy.  People's lives are busy and we don't always take the time to talk to our dogs, or pet them, or cuddle with them, or whatever it is they most enjoy.  Playing games (not just physical exercise) with your dog daily can help fill their need for social interactions.

These are just a few examples of things that my dogs find enriching.  In my next blog, I'm going to be discussing what makes activities enriching for our dogs and how you can use your dog's natural abilities to find additional enrichment activities that are better suited for your dog.

Working Paws Comment

  Message Received from Group Member The Working Paws group is open to anyone training their dog with some more advanced skills typically fo...