Many family dogs are left alone during the day whilst their human family are at work or at school, which means they are left to their own devices for hours each day. This excess time can result in under stimulation, boredom and problem behaviours e.g. digging, barking and destructiveness.
We as owners need to provide our dogs with both physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy and to improve their wellbeing.
Dogs are social animals and it’s essential for dogs to have quality interaction with their human family every day including going for walks, playing, training, grooming or just sitting and patting, enjoying the company of your companion.
“But my dog has a big backyard to play in…” a very common comment made by owners. Imagine staying at home and not being able to leave the house every day, confined inside with no toys or TV to keep you amused. I know most would find that very boring after a while.
While it is important to provide multiple places for our pets to rest out of the weather, as normal healthy dogs like to sleep for a good part of the day, for those periods when they are not resting we need to provide mental stimulation in their home environment.
Toys and Food Dispensing Toys
There are many extraordinary dog toys available on the market suitable for most breeds and jaw strength. Be creative, hide them in different places and check when you get home, did they find them? Rotate your dog's favourite toys regularly so they don’t become bored with them.
Food Dispensing Toys are a fantastic invention and are a great way to provide mental stimulation. Don’t waste the opportunity putting your dog’s food allowance in a bowl, place it in a Buster cube, kong or treat ball, dog’s really enjoy working for their food.
Here are a few ideas to make some toys out of items you already have around your home. Using milk cartons, cereal boxes, egg cartons, plastic milk or jucie bottles and old t-shirts.
- A plastic milk or juice bottle (with lids and plastic rings removed) wrapped in a t-shirt. Do not use PET plastic (thin plastic used for water bottles etc as they can splinter)
- Placing treats in egg cartons to rip and destroy
- Hiding treats in cereal boxes, then tape the box closed with masking tape.
- Old t-shirts knotted together, make great tug toys
A Digging Pit/Sand Pit
HELP! My dog is landscaping the backyard!
Why do dogs dig? For several reasons - burying bones, keeping cool, escaping confinement and to dig for odours and sounds that attract them beneath the ground. It is a natural behaviour and providing an area where they can dig, using a child’s wading pool or clam shell filled with sand or dirt will help stop your dog landscaping your backyard.
A Little Tip: On hot days water down the sand or dirt to help keep them cool.
A Wading Pool
A wading pool is a great idea for dogs who adore water to keep them cool and entertained on those hot days. Remembering not to fill it too deep, but just enough for the dog to be able to get its belly and paws wet. Putting toys and treats into the pool, freezing their favourite toy into an ice block and throwing it into the pool to push around until it melts will keep them entertained for hours!
Don’t underestimate how important a dog's nose is to them, that is one reason why dogs like sniffing on their walks, all those new smells. We can provide various stimulation around the home too; use safe items with different smells to hide around the yard or scatter their dry food over the lawn or leave a scent trail with food to their toys at the end.
Delicious ideas for hours of enjoyment! Place rawhide, toys, chicken necks, liver treats, bones and vegetables in an ice cream container filled with water or chicken stock and freeze, as the ice melts many wonderful surprises will appear. Another idea is to cut the hook off one end of a bungee cord, make a frozen treat in a plastic cup and place the non-hook end in the treat and freeze, once frozen hang the bungee cord from a tree or under the veranda for them to enjoy.