Have fun with your dog
We all know about the essentials of dog ownership (food, water, shelter, walks), but did you know that there are SO many more ways that you can enrich your dogs lives? Read on to learn about a wide variety of dog sports, brain games and tasty recipes that can benefit your pup!
Agility is an obstacle course for your dog! In this sport, the handler will direct the dog through/on/under/over a wide variety of equipment such as seesaw's, tunnels, jumps, weaves and more. In a competitive situation, the dog is timed and judged on accuracy. In agility, dogs are off-leash and can only be directed by the handlers voice, movements or other body signals (the handler may not touch the dog or equipment). This sport requires strong communication between dog and handler and is a great bonding activity!
Flyball is a fast paced relay race! A team of four dogs will compete on one team. They will race against another team in relay style down to one end of the course and then back. Along the course, the dogs must jump over a series of hurdles all the way to the "flyball box" which is a spring-loaded box that releases a tennis ball. The dog must catch and carry the ball in their mouth back to the start line and to their handler (at which point the next dog may commence the course). In competition, the race is timed. This is a great sport for dogs who love a good sprint!
Tracking is an activity that uses one of your dog's most powerful senses - it's nose! Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and this ability is showcased in tracking. Dogs will be given the task of detecting, recognizing and following specific scents. While this activity can be done just for fun with your pup searching out a treat, it can also become an occupation for some dogs who are specially trained to assist in search and rescue missions.
Nosework is a very similar activity to tracking as it again utilizes the power of your dog's sense of smell. In nosework, the dog will be asked to locate different scents that are often hidding in boxes, containers or doors etc. Generally the dog is asked to locate one particular scent only and to ignore all other distractions from other scents, food, treats, toys etc. In nosework, essential oil odors such as anise, birch, close, myrrh, pine, thyme, vetiver and wintergreen are most commonly used. Like with tracking, this activity can be done just for fun or it can become an occupation for dogs specially trained to locate drugs, explosives, certain medical conditions are more.
Lure coursing is an activity that is great for any dog that enjoys chasing objects or has a prey drive. In the past, "sighthounds" were trained to track live game and were a hunters assistant. In this sport however, an artificial lure is attached to a pulley which dogs chase. The pulley system is generally set up with several abrupt changes of direction to mimic the actual chase of a live animal. This is a great activity that lets dogs act upon their natural instincts to chase but in a safe and controlled environment.
Weight pulling is what the name suggests - your dog pulls weights! In this sport, a dog will pull a cart on wheels that is loaded with weight (often bricks, mortar or concrete). The dog uses their body weight, strength and energy to pull the cart for a set distance. The total distance covered is generally fairly short. Each dog is fitted with a specially designed harness that is created to minimize any risk of injury to the dog.
Swimming is the ultimate endurance activity for your pup. Not only is swimming a fantastic way for your dog to burn off excess energy and stay fit, it is also a non weight-bearing activity that will benefit dogs with arthritic pain, post surgery and for other rehabilitation purposes.
If your dog loves to swim and jump then dock diving is for them. Like the name suggests... dog's jump from a dock (either in a lake or in a swimming pool) and into the water. They may be judged for either the distance or height jumped, or for the speed that they can get to the other side or to a set point in the water.
Flirt pole is similar to lure coursing, but instead of the lure being on a pulley system (requires a wide open space), the lure is attached to the end of a stick. This version is much for convenient and can be done in your yard or any smaller space. This is a great cardio + strength and conditioning activity.
MENTAL ENRICHMENT + BRAIN GAMES
There are so many benefits to using food puzzles with your dog. These toys turn a regular meal time into an opportunity for mental enrichment.
1) Fast eaters - forcing your dog to figure out how to extract the food from the toy will slow them down and make them "work for their food". This is a great way to reduce the chance GDV/bloat.
2) Reduce boredom and anxiety - if you are going to be away for a long time, need to crate your pup or if you just need a break... these food toys will help keep your pup occupied for a good chunk of time.
3) Picky eaters or dogs that need a job - if you have a picky dog or a working dog breed, giving them a way to express their natural instinct of hunting and "working" for their meal may motivate them to eat and keep them happy.
Like food puzzles, giving your dog a Kong stuffed with food or treats is another great way to keep their brain working!
1) Teething puppies - we all know that puppies LOVE to chew. Putting your puppies food or treats into a Kong is a great way to keep them busy chewing things that they are allowed to (and away from things they are not!)
2) Fast eaters - like with the food puzzles, Kongs help slow down fast eaters because they have to work to extract the food from the toy. Tip - to make it even harder, freeze your Kong first!
3) Reduce boredom and anxiety - like with food puzzles, Kongs are another great way to keep your dog occupied for a good chunk of time. The great thing with Kongs is that there are no small or sharp pieces and so they can be used in a situation where you are not around to supervise your pup. See below for some ideas on what to stuff into your Kong!
Snuffle mats are another type of food puzzle that uses your dog's nose and brain! A snuffle mat is basically a piece of rubber base with holes that has strands of fleece weaved through and tied in such a way that creates all sorts of nook and cranny hiding spots in the fleece. You can then take either your dog's kibble or treats and hide them amidst the fleece flaps. Your dog will then have to "snuffle" or sniff through the mat to find the tasty morsels! If you dog has never used a snuffle at before, you can keep the game easy by laying the kibble or treats on top of the pieces of fleece. As your pup becomes more comfortable with the snuffle mat, you can increase the challenge by stuffing the treats deep into the mat and hiding it under the folds of fabric. Once your dog is done using it, make sure to shake out any treats that they did not find to keep the mat clean. The mat is designed to be used with dry treats only.
2 (6 ounce) cans tuna (do not drain)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until well blended.
Spread mixture into a greased 9x9 cake pan.
Bake covered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Store in refrigerator or freeze.
1) Tantalizer - stuff an extra yummy treat into the hole on top to entice your dog to eat through the entire Kong all the way to the end (eg. peanut butter, cheese, liver treat etc)
2) Dessert - Fill 1/3 of the inside with your dog's favorite treat
3) Main Course - Fill the remaining 2/3 with your dog's food. Canned food or a mix of canned and kibble works best
4) Appetizer - leave a tasty treat sticking out of the opening. This will encourage your dog to pick up and start enjoying the Kong.
**Note that you stuff the Kong in reverse. So your dog will actually start eating whatever you put in as step #4, then #3, #2, and finally finish up with #1!**
Just like how us humans might pack a granola bar, some nuts or fruit on a hike/walk/adventure... why not try out this fun "trail mix" variety for your pup! This is a great option for a healthy snack that they are sure to love.
Pieces of meat
Veggies (peas, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, etc.)
Fruits (blueberries, apples, bananas, cranberries, mango, pears, strawberries etc. NO grapes or raisins)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees OR use a dehydrator machine if you have one.
Cut up your desired ingredients into even (approx 1/2 inch) bite sized pieces.
Place ingredients onto a lined baking tray and leave in the over for approx 3 hours to dehydrate.
Let cool and then store in airtight container or ziplock for up to 6 months (ingredient depending)