4 Brain Games For Your Dog

A Basic “Magic” Trick

This “brain game” has your dog use his eyes and nose to find the hidden treat.  Get 2 or more plastic or paper cups, place them upside down on the floor, and show your dog that you’re hiding a treat under one of them.  Then, encourage your dog to tip the cup over with his nose or paw to get the snack.  Up the difficulty by hiding a treat and then scooting all of the cups around on the floor, mixing them up.  You can also make it even more difficult by adding more cups.

Hide and Seek

This game isn’t just for kids!  For the first game, hide behind something where you’re very visible, like a chair, with your dog watching.  Then, call him and, when he “finds” you, give him a treat.  If you have another person available, you can have the other hide while you hold or distract your dog.  Next, give your dog the command “Find!” before the other person calls him.  You can up the difficulty by only giving your dog the command to find a person with no further hints and by hiding behind larger objects.

“I found you!”

Frozen Food/Toy Fun

Dogs love to exercise their brains by working to get something, and freezing toys or food does just that.  Get a cup or bowl (ice cube trays work also), fill it with water, and put treats (dog kibble works great!) and/or toys into it.  Once it’s frozen solid, pop it out by running some warm water on the bottom of the cup or bowl.  Give it to your dog outdoors for him to lick and gnaw at to get at the treats and toys.  This can keep your dog busy for a long time and is a great way to cool off as the days get hotter!

Teach New Tricks

Of course, a great way of exercising your dog’s brain is to teach him new tricks.  Visit the Tricks Page to learn more!

Rosie, the Big Red Dog

Last week, Rosie decided to be just like Clifford the Big Red Dog.  Someone was out in the backyard painting the house, and Rosie suddenly came upon the scene.  There she found some nice red paint to roll in and, afterward, danced around the yard with it on her back/legs.  Here is a video my humans made of the funny episode:

Turn Your “Bad Dog” Into a “Good Dog”!

A crime has been committed in your bedroom: someone snuck into it while you were at work, stole your pillow, ripped open your mattress, and left mud on the blankets.  You pick up a dirtied sheet and smell it.  Yuck!  Then, you notice a few hairs sticking to it…dog hairs!  Your dog has been up to no good again!  Yesterday a TV remote, the day before that your flower garden, the day before that your expensive running shoes…  You search for your dog and finally find him cowering under the kitchen table.  Now, you can tell him exactly what you think he is.  Baaaad dog!

While no dog is perfect, there are a few who seem to be particularly naughty.  Chewing furniture, barking their heads off, ruining your yard, it seems that their middle names should be “trouble”!  Having a dog that causes mischief wherever he goes can be hard on a dog owner, trying your patience and making you wonder what ever made you get a pet.  However, your dog isn’t literally a “bad” dog.  Inappropriate chewing, barking, and digging are actually called behavioral issues by dog trainers.  Behavioral issues can often be fixed or broken just like humans break habits such as chewing nails.  It takes much time and effort on your part, but it will pay off a hundredfold when your dog stops the bad habit(s).

What Causes It?

Oftentimes, when a dog does an unwanted behavior, humans just assume that the dog is “being bad.”  However, dogs don’t take pleasure in making you upset.  We live to work for and please our owners and love to be part of a pack with a human as the leader.  Therefore, your dog isn’t just doing a behavior to make you mad.  There’s a reason for it, and you need to identify it in order to help you find a solution.  Here are a few behavior problems and possible reasons for them:

Excessive Barking – Dogs bark to communicate with other dogs, alert you of potential dangers, and to decrease boredom.  A dog who barks too much may be trying to tell you something (such as, “Look at that scary squirrel!”) or might be bored, needing more exercise and stimulating brain games to keep his mind busy.

Digging – Some dogs are natural diggers, especially terriers, and need an outlet for it.  Such a dog needs a special place just for digging, like a sandbox.  Or, a dog with that energy and need for digging needs to be enrolled in a dog sport such as Earth Dog.

Inappropriate Chewing – Have you ever felt the need for a big yawn or stretch?  Sometimes, dogs get that feeling too, only we want to chew.  A dog that chews inappropriate items needs to be given plenty of toys and bones to chew on, and the owner may need to be neater and put away his or her belongings.  Another possible reason for this behavior is boredom.  Perhaps the owner needs to exercise or spend more time with his or her dog.

As in the examples above, identify the reason for the problem and think of a good solution to fix or at least decrease it. Exercise, starting a sport, and more one-on-one time with your dog are often the biggest solutions to behavior problems, but you might have to get super creative for your dog’s.  Remember that you can always consult a professional dog trainer who will be full of good tips and advice for your dog’s specific problem.

Should I Cut My Dog’s Whiskers?

Your dog groomer recently suggested that you allow her to trim your dog’s whiskers, or perhaps you were wondering if your dog would be better off without the odd things attached to his face.  It would give your dog a “clean-shaven” look, you reason, and surely make life so much easier for him.  Or would it?

Actually, whiskers help dogs more than most people realize.  Though they are “just” hairs, they have sensitive nerves at the base which inform the dog about his surroundings and even oncoming threats.  Thanks to whiskers, a dog can know when someone – or something – is approaching, and he can also get the details: size and rate are a couple of examples.  Also, when faced with unfamiliar surroundings or the dark, his whiskers will inform him of objects in the way, keeping him from bumping into anything and getting hurt. When your dog’s face is low to the ground, his whiskers will alert him of any tasty bits of food or dirt around him.  A dog’s whiskers help him “feel” the world almost as much as your hands help you.

With these things in mind, I would highly suggest that you leave your dog’s whiskers alone.  While cutting them won’t physically hurt your dog, it could hurt his “feeling” ability.

*If you read this and still want to have your dog’s whiskers trimmed (please change your mind!), make sure that you don’t pluck them out.  Having them trimmed by a pro with scissors won’t physically hurt your dog, but, if you pluck them, your dog will have terrible pain because of the extremely sensitive nerves at the base of the hair.

Balto, a Dog Hero

Balto with Kaasen

Nome’s youth was starting to catch Diphtheria in January, 1925, and the serum that would cure it was in Anchorage.  That was 500 miles away, so they prepared to have the only available plane make the long journey, but it wouldn’t start.  The serum would have to be fetched by a dogsled relay before the epidemic spread and infected all of the children.  Twenty mushers volunteered, and the relay began.  The next to last team of the relay was Gunner Kaasen.  The dog who led his sled was Balto, a three-year-old dog without much experience.  Balto, however, proved his skill despite being an amateur.  Even when Kaasen could barely see his hand when held up to his face, Balto went on.  Crazy winds swept the sled and dogs off of the ground, but Balto went on, staying on course.  Finally, they came to where the last team was.  Now the dogs could rest, and Kaasen could warm his frigid hands.  However, the other musher was asleep, and Kaasen decided to keep going.  The serum just had to get to Nome in time.  Their team arrived at Nome on February 2nd, which ended the “Great Race of Mercy” in five days.  Kaasen was a hero, and everyone wanted to thank him.  He reminded them, however, that Balto was also a lifesaver, as he had faithfully stayed on course despite far below zero temperatures and strong winds. Balto died at the age of fourteen in 1933.  There is a statue in Central Park in New York City of the famous dog, and a plaque nearby reads: “Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of the stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance ~ Fidelity ~ Intelligence.”

The Lassie Dog Training System

Robert Weatherwax helped his dad, Rudd, train the Rough Collie Pal for the role of Lassie.  In this video, Robert shares training tips and techniques and shows how to teach your dog several tricks.  My human found this video a helpful training reference for basic tricks as well as a few unique ones.  Also, it gives you an overall idea of how to teach your dog gently but firmly.  Go ahead and watch it and learn how to train your dog with methods used by Hollywood dog trainers!

Read more about famous doggy stars here.

Some Doggy Pictures

Rosie and I have been really enjoying the warmer weather!  Kitty likes it too, but she mostly sleeps because she’s a lazy cat.

Here I am on squirrel patrol.  I had to leave my home for a couple of hours Thursday, so the squirrels have gotten bolder because of the absence of a tough little Poodle.  I had to go to the vet Thursday and get shots (ouch!) and medicine for an ear infection.

Rosie is definitely not good at patrolling for squirrels.  She doesn’t even look for them!  One time, though, my human and Rosie were out walking and there, about two yards away, was a rabbit.  He stared with those deep eyes and Rosie watched and watched.  Then, with a leap, he was gone, and Rosie felt a sort of hunting instinct and tried to pursue.  Thankfully, however, she was leashed.

Above is Rosie “swimming,” as my humans call it.  She rolls around on the ground, growling at her tail or a toy, and pretends to swim on the floor.  Pretty silly, right?

Babies and Dogs

Oftentimes, you’ll see a video on the internet of a dog being extremely gentle with a little baby.  Other times, however, you’ll read news stories about a baby getting bit by a dog.  Should you be concerned when your baby and dog are together?

Supervision is Vital

No matter how sweet and gentle your dog is, never leave him (or her) unsupervised with a baby!  Even a typically good-natured dog could lash out if he feels threatened, and babies are famous for pulling ears and tails, both of which could easily irritate a dog.  With these things in mind, highly supervise interactions between your baby and dog.

Teach Your Baby How to Treat Your Dog

Again, babies are famous for pulling ears and tails.  Also, they pet dogs roughly, treat them as ponies, and even try to taste them!  While none of these things is Baby’s fault, he (or she) must be shown how to properly treat dogs.  When you sit down to pet your dog while Baby is watching, do extremely soft strokes and be very gentle.  If Baby is old enough to understand, explain what you’re doing, and, hopefully, your baby will follow your example.  Also, make sure that you never roughhouse with your dog when Baby is present.  No tug of war, no rolling around on the floor with your dog, no friendly slaps on your dog’s back.  Baby is watching, and Baby will mimic you.

Take Safety Precautions

Even with gentle dogs, take safety precautions by keeping your dog out of Baby’s room either by closing the door or putting up a baby gate.  Also, if your dog is highly food driven, put your dog in his cage or outside when Baby eats so your pet doesn’t attempt to steal food or beg.

Get Your Dog Motivated to Fetch!

I’m going to assume that your dog knows the rules of fetch (if not, read this article): wait for you to throw a toy, retrieve, and preferably drop the object on the ground or in your hand.  Your dog’s enthusiasm is waning, however, with every toy you throw, and pretty soon he totally refuses to obey.  Your dog is clearly bored with this game; to him, there seems to be little to no point in it.  You, on the other hand, find this activity a great way to exercise your dog and spend time together.  What can you do to rekindle the original enthusiasm (or even create some despite it never being there) for your dog?

Show Your Excitement

What is your attitude towards playing fetch?  Do you simply toss a toy, give a few dry commands, and play with your phone while your dog runs after it?  No wonder this is a boring activity for your dog!  Since you have no enthusiasm, your dog doesn’t either.  Dogs love to share excitement, so, if you act excited, your pet will find it highly contagious!  Throw the toy with vigor, give commands in a happy, peppy tone, and be overly excited when your dog brings it back.

Retrain

Sometimes, what appears to be disinterest in dogs could actually be confusion.  Perhaps your dog didn’t fully grasp the concept of fetch when you trained him, which means you need to go back to the basics and retrain.  Check out the Fetch page to learn how.

Change the Setting

Playing the same game in the same area could get rather boring for your dog, so try to change up the setting.  You can use a long leash for unfenced places and see if any fenced-in dog parks are in your area.  Also, if you have space, you could play fetch inside.

Buy New Toys

As with the setting, playing with the same old toy can get dull.  With this in mind, buy a few new toys and play with a different one each day to keep your dog interested.

Use More Praise

Dogs are quick to lose interest without praise, so perhaps you need to give more.  A pat on the head and “good dog” are nice, but we also like excited, happy talk.  Also, remember that, no matter what you say, your dog won’t think that you’re weird, so go ahead and say silly stuff like, “You’re mommy’s (or daddy’s) pupsie, wupsie, aren’t you?  You’re such a cute wootie pupsie pie with sugar on top!”

4 Spring Activities to Do With Your Dog

Water Fun

While water outdoors may be too chilly for you yet, dog’s aren’t so sensitive.  Fill a kiddie pool with water, toss in some treats, and watch your dog have a blast.  Other water activities are letting your dog swim in a pool, lake, or ocean, turning on the water sprinklers, or holding a water hose and encouraging your dog to chase after the jetting water.  Always supervise your dog in possibly dangerous water activities and discourage drinking it by putting out a bowl of clean water.

Do a Sport

Does your dog like to run?  Is he a digger?  Or, would he prefer to sniff around and find stuff?  There’s a sport to fit almost any dog, some of which are agility, lure coursing, herding, obedience, earth dog, and tracking.  Not only does training strengthen the bond between you and your pet, it also boosts your dog’s confidence and helps reduce behavior issues resulting from boredom.

Take a Hike

When the weekend rolls around, make it a point to take your dog on a hike.  It’s a fun adventure and is good exercise for you both.

Walk Your Dog Daily

If you don’t already, give your dog a walk every day now that the weather is warmer.  As you probably know, dogs are happier and healthier when exercised regularly.  Behavior problems such as digging, barking, or being destructive result from boredom and excess energy, so a walk could very well save the leg of your table from being chewed to bits.