Commentary by Kelly Kolodkin
Mental and physical exercise is important for humans and dogs to rid high energy, anxiety, boredom and stay healthy. Yes, dogs and humans experience these feelings! There are numerous studies documenting the benefits of interactive play with your pups, so what type of games can we play? Let’s take a look!
Games I like to play and suggest to my clients include fetch, because it allows for high-energy running for your dog with the opportunity to train for the commands “recall” and “come” as your pup runs back to you, plus the benefit of training your dog to “drop” the ball in front of you. Think about the three benefits and reinforcement your pup receives from just that one game, if you are in tune to the components of the commands from within the game.
Next, I like hide-and-seek treats or toys. For treats, you can take little pieces of treats or your dog’s kibble and toss it on your lawn to encourage the natural foraging skills of your pup. In addition, with supervision only, you can use disposable cups. Show your dog the treat and put under one of the three cups, then slowly move the cups around and let your dog try to sniff out the treat. Reward with the treat if the dog finds the treat by nosing the cup, or maybe your pup will paw the cup over to expose the treat, then reinforce with praise always. If your dog likes toys better, then you can hide their toys inside your home under pillows, blankets or a chair, but make sure they see you hide the toys before you let them loose to go get it.
There are some great dog puzzle games you can purchase online or at pet stores, but you must take into account your dog’s nose type. You must consider how big, wide, long or short your dog’s nose is to get the treat from the puzzle base. Make sure you keep your receipt just in case you need to exchange it. Some puzzles work really well and some not so much.
Another great option to keep your pup mentally sharp are treat-reward toys such as a ball that your pup needs to move with their paw or nose to get treats to fall out or a toy that is stuffed with a treat reward that your pup has to lick out. Games and interactive play that supply a reward and praise is motivating and carries over to assist with training, too.
Kelly Kolodkin is a Carmel resident and owner of Kelly’s Kanine Pet Services. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.