Make your walkies special!

by Tamsin Durston // June 2017

Make your walkies extra special!

At Dog School we believe in making the absolute most of the time we spend with our dogs - every dog owner understands just how precious this time we have together is!

So here’s a game to play with your dog when you’re out and about that will help to build his confidence and creativity, as well as teaching him to use his body to balance and have better spatial awareness.

Take some really tasty treats out with you (if you’re worried about your dog’s weight you could use a portion of their daily rations instead, or even completely feed your dog with this game) and as you walk look out for somewhere fun to play – a fallen tree can make a great searching location! You can be very creative, using walls or fences too!

Step One:

First check the site – we’ve used a fallen tree here for Coco - to make sure it is sturdy and unlikely to roll or move if your dog jumps onto it – you don’t want him to become scared or have an accident, as this game is all about building confidence and having fun! It is also worth checking that there aren’t any other dogs too close by, as they may well smell the treats and come over to join in…. less fun for your dog!

Step Two:

Have someone hold your dog so he can watch as you simply place the treats all over the fallen tree and the ground surrounding it. You can press small pieces of sausage or cheese into walls/fences/tree bark and smear them so they stick. The idea is the dog sees you putting these treats out so he is interested and really wants to investigate. If your dog gets frustrated when you are walking around placing treats out have your ‘assistant’ ask him to do something he can do well, such as ‘sit’ or ‘paw’ and reward him for this so he has something to do while you are busy preparing the game for him.

Place the treats at different locations and different heights along the fallen tree so your dog will have to stretch to reach them and potentially even jump right onto the fallen tree.

Step Three:

Ask him to “go find the treats” and allow him to go and investigate the fallen tree and locate and eat the treats. Verbally encourage him and praise him as he finds each piece, encouraging him to explore different parts of the fallen tree and the ground surrounding it. You can also add more treats as he goes along..

You may need to let him off-lead to do this, especially if the area you are using is high and he might jump up onto it or has different levels (several fallen trees in one area for example). If you prefer not to let your dog off lead you can still play, just find a very low fallen log and use that so you can safely keep hold of the lead while your dog searches out the treats. You can also just press treats into the bark around the bottom of a tree for very short dogs like our dachshund friends or alderly, arthritic dogs! This is a game that every dog can enjoy!

This game gives your dog the chance to be confident and to have this confidence rewarded by finding the treat to eat. He might also need to balance and stretch and this will mean he has to use his body carefully in order to reach all the treats. He will have to use his nose and brain to locate each individual piece, as the whole area will smell like one big treat to him! and this will mean that his mind is having a workout as well as his body! Searching like this for treats is tiring physically and mentally so is a great way to give your dog physical and mental stimulation, plus its great fun! And you can play it indoors too – great for rainy days!

If you are by yourself you can still play! 

You will need to take your dog with you while you place the treats out, but take care not to let him eat them as you go! You could scatter a couple of treats onto the ground to keep him occupied with finding those while you place the others onto the fallen tree.

Remember:

  • Health and Safety First! – check for sturdiness and potential hazards
  • Go with your dog to be part of the game. Alternate between letting him sniff out the treats for himself and pointing out where they are.
  • If at any point your dog looks worried/unsure or is unable to reach a treat, simply deliver it to him and then place a treat within easy reach of him to give him confidence.

We’d love to see pictures or videos of you out and about having fun with your dogs –

you can find us on Instagram #dogschoollondon and Twitter @dogschoollondon

If you want to practice self-control exercises such as ‘wait’ or ‘stay’ while you place the treats out then being released to go and find the treats will be an excellent reward for your dog controlling himself and remaining still while you prepare! BUT…. you will need to be prepared that you placing the treats out will be very enticing for your dog and he may well find it too big a step to remain still without being held while you do this!

At Dog School we’re all about setting our dogs up for success! So we plan carefully how we are going to make sure our dogs learn what we want them to learn. Remember we always build in distractions gradually when teaching dogs, and so this might actually be the ‘end goal’ of your ‘wait/stay training’! You may need to continue to practice in a much less distracting place for longer before very slowly working up to your dog being able to wait by himself without being held while you place treats out. If you need advice on teaching your dog to wait/stay, or any skill that will help him in life, then why not sign up for a course or contact us by emailing: londondogschool@dogstrust.org.uk