Often when we want to do something with our dogs we default to taking our dogs to the dog park. We get to sit on a park bench and watch our dogs run around and play. Well, that’s fun for the dog isn’t it? While the dog park increases your dog’s interaction with other dogs, it does not necessarily forge the bond between you and your dog. Often when we are training our dogs we need to develop a better bond and ways of communicating with our dogs. This is especially true when your dog heads into young adulthood/adolescence and increasing your dog’s reliability to commands becomes a bigger priority. Now that Spring has arrived, here are some other ways to have fun with your dog and build on that training from puppy class or basic obedience:
Hiking: taking long, vigorous walks with your dog can be very fulfilling. Hiking trails are filled with sights and sounds that city dogs do not often experience and therefore stimulate your dog’s senses. Hiking trails are often graded so you and your dog get a good workout. Most city and state hiking trails require your dog to be on leash or risk a hefty fine. For safety, stay on marked trails. Often wilderness trails are off-limits to dogs because of the negative impact on wildlife. Bring water for you and your dog so both of you remain well hydrated because on a summer day your dog can easily overheat. It is also advisabe to make sure your dog is protected with flea, tick and, if appropriate for your geographic area, heartworm medications/remedies. The following books are great resources for hiking with your dog:
Hiking with your dog by Gary Hoffman
Favorite Dog Hikes in and around Los Angeles by Wynne Benti
Best Hikes with Dogs: Southern California by Allen Riedel
Training activities: often I take my dog to a public park and just train her. She enjoys training and I sometimes use a long line (a 20-30 foot canvas leash) to work on my dog’s “stay” and recalls. When working with a long line, make sure that the end is held so that your dog cannot run away. Also make sure you work in an area where a lot of dogs will not interfere with your training. As a reward for completing these exercises you can play with toys, go for a run or let your dog then play with other dogs. Agility, flyball and nosework classes are other activities that help reinforce the bond between you and your dog.
Playing games: there are many games you can play with your dog. Play is a great way to reinforce the relationship with your dog and make training more fun. Hide and seek reinforces your dog’s recall and dogs love trying to “find” their owners. The more excited you are when your dog finds you, the more rewarding your dog will find coming when called. Scent seeking games are also fun for your dog. Hiding objects like stuffed Kongs and asking your dog to “find it” also stimulate your dog's olfactory senses. Tug of War or fetch can also be used in lieu of a food reward for a dog with good bite inhibition and who knows what “drop it” means. I use tug of war as a reward instead of treats to reinforce my dog’s training. For example, you can ask your dog to do a down-stay and when you release your dog you can play a fun game of tug of war or fetch.
There are interactive dog toys you can use to play with your dogs. See http://pawsitivefeedback.blogspot.com/2010/01/interactive-dog-and-cat-toys.html for some ideas.
There also many books with fun ideas of games to play with your dog. For example:
Play with your Dog by Pat Miller:
So with all this nice weather we have been having, think of some creative ways for you to interact with your dog and reinforce all that great training your dog knows.