Training Tidbit: Home Alone!

Training Tidbit for April:

You can try this at home!

Boredom is possibly the number one cause of behavior
problems in the house, and can lead to more severe problems like anxiety.  Dogs are notorious for getting into all sorts of mischief as soon as their human family has left for the day.  And can you blame them?  Would you enjoy hanging around the house all day, every day, with nothing to do? (TV doesn’t count; you need opposable thumbs to work the remote!)

Feeling guilty for leaving your best friend alone?  Worried that your home will look like a hurricane hit when you get home?  Here are some ideas to try!

*    For some dogs, a food bowl in the morning is waaay too easy!  We work for our meals; why shouldn’t the dog?  There are a variety of food dispensing toys out on the market.  “Buster Cube,” “Kibble Nibble,” and “Tug-A-Jug” are a few of my favorite good-quality products.  They hold your dog’s kibble meal and dispense it slowly as your dog manipulates the toy.  If your dog is like mine and he’s not particularly motivated to work for his own kibble, buy some small sample-sized packages of a different brand of kibble and feed that instead, or mix it with your dog’s original food – the novel smell will suddenly make his or her meal much more worth the work!
*    Hire a dog walker.  If you don’t want to pay a professional, there are quite a few responsible 13 year olds out there who would be willing to work for less.  Ask for babysitter referrals in your neighborhood – if they’re willing to watch a 5 year old human for $10 an hour, often they’re willing to take your dog for a walk, or play fetch in the backyard, for a similar price.
*    Consider doggy daycare.  While it may not be an option for every dog, it can sure take a weight off of your shoulders if it works out.  Make sure to interview the staff and employees before attending.  I personally recommend The Dog Park! Doggy Daycare – they understand dog body language, they’re selective in who they admit, and it’s not a free-for-all: the play is moderated and controlled by a human at all times.
*    Rotate your dog’s toys.  A couple times per week, pick up some of your dog’s toys and put others down.  Repeat.  Old toys are boring. New toys are cool!  Now there are new toys all the time!  Bonus points if you trade toys with another dog owner!
*    Exercise your dog before leaving him for the day.  It releases endorphins and burns off excess energy.  Chances are you need it, too.  It’ll be easier for your dog to settle in to his KONG or chew toys (instead of your couch) if he’s not vibrating with pent up energy.

And lastly, the king of all “doggy babysitters”: The KONG toy.

How to stuff a KONG toy:
Easy: Put a milkbone, piece of freeze-dried treat, or similar hard cookie in the KONG.  Make sure it goes in easily.  Allow your dog to knock it out and eat it.  Many dogs need to get some easy success at the KONG so that they understand the point of playing with it, and this is a good way to start.
Medium: layer the inside of the KONG with peanut butter, canned dog food, plain yogurt, or similar soft, sticky medium.  Jam various treats, cookies, kibble etc. in there tightly, layering with your sticky medium as needed.
Hard: See above, except squeeze the sides of the KONG so that the opening becomes wider in one direction.  Work some treats in through the hole that don’t fit through the hole unless the KONG is squeezed (dried chicken strips or heart-shaped dog cookies are great for this).  They won’t fall back out until your dog has either softened them up, or crushed them inside the KONG.
Time-delayed, for the dog with a KONG-PhD: Plug the KONG’s small hole with peanut butter or a green pea, then turn it upside down in a cup.  Fill with canned dog food (the canned food will be “pourable” if you mix it with a bit of water. Otherwise just jam it in there with a fork.)  Freeze.   Deliver to the especially KONG-savvy dog for a satisfying challenge.

Have an idea for a training Tidbit? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

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