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What else can my dog do? - We owe our dogs more than a walk

05/03/2022 - Puppy & Dog Training Advice

What else can my dog do?


We all know that a big part of responsible dog ownership is taking our dogs out for their daily walks. It’s wonderful that the vast majority of dog owners these days recognise their obligation to ensuring their dogs are able to go outside, explore and get regular exercise. The only downside we can see, is that it tends to stop there!
Just like us, dogs are intelligent creatures and can benefit hugely from being able to engage in a range of different activities. Not only will our dogs thank us for providing a bit more variety in their lives, but there are benefits for us humans, too. Ever looked outside on a howling winter’s day and had to drag yourself and your dog outside, despite neither of you being particularly happy about it? Maybe you’ve had to deal with a restless, bored dog on a scorching summer’s day, unable to explain to them that you’re skipping their afternoon walk for their own safety! These activities will give you ways to exercise your dog’s bodies and minds, whatever the weather.
But even if the conditions are optimal for dog walking, it’s still a great idea to mix things up a bit for our pups. While many of us have things we love to do regularly, rarely do we do the same thing day in, day out without eventually growing tired of it. Dogs are complex creatures, they exhibit a range of natural behaviours and they enjoy fun, novel experiences. Not only will adding some new things into your dogs’ routine be great enrichment for them, it also gives us humans the chance to get the most out of our time with our dogs and enjoy watching them discovering new things, learning new skills and having fun!
Here are some of our favourite suggestions for alternative ways to spend time with your dog!

Training
Of course, this had to be top of our list! Training is a fantastic way for you and your dog to enjoy one another’s company. Training is about much more than just telling our dogs what to do – it is a fun way to get them using their brains as well as to develop their problem-solving skills, get them to engage with us in a positive way, build our relationship with them and help them learn value life skills such as impulse control. Whatever your personal training goals are, your dog will benefit from additional training and they will love spending this quality time learning with you. Clcik here for more info on training options. 

Scent Work
We LOVE scent work, and so do our dogs! Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and sniffing, as many of you will know, is something our dogs can rarely get enough of. There are so many ways to incorporate scent work into our dogs’ lives, from formal scent detection training (which we highly recommend and offer both in-person and online!) to simply games at home. You can use your dog’s every day food and treats to give them plenty of opportunities to work those snouts at home, too. There are a range of foraging toys/interactive feeders available on the market, but you can also simply scatter food in the garden or around the house or make your own DIY puzzle feeders but hiding food in carboard tubes, egg boxes and even old, rolled up towels. Be sure to always supervise your dogs when they’re using puzzle feeders, as we don’t want them ingesting anything they shouldn’t.

Agility
Agility is a great activity that can provide endless fun both for dog and human. Dogs shouldn’t be doing jumps until they are full grown (at least a year old) to protect their growing joints, but they can get started as soon as they’re old enough and they can start learning many of the skills needed for agility, such as directional cues, from a young age. They can also start getting used to pieces of equipment that don’t require leaving the ground, like the tunnel.
We highly recommend starting your agility journey under the guidance of a professional by booking yourselves some classes – it’s important that dogs are introduced to agility equipment carefully, so they can feel calm and confident and not injure themselves or give themselves a fright. Once you’re feeling confident, there are lightweight home agility equipment kits you can buy, as well as lots of clever people out there making custom equipment!
This is a great way to keep your dog fit, give their boundless energy some direction and work together as a team. You will build incredible distance communication skills and your dog will learn to respond to your cues even when they’re running at top speed – this is great fun and an invaluable skill, on and off the course.

Gundog Skills
While many of our dogs will never be involved in any kind of real hunting, our dogs are still animals with strong instinct. Many popular breeds of pet dog are, in fact, gundog breeds – such as spaniels, retrievers and pointers – but whatever the breed, your dog is still a dog! There are lots of reasons to teach gundog skills to any dog. Many of the activities which gundogs get to do, tap into innate behaviours that dogs enjoy doing. Many dogs, for example, will enjoy learning a formal retrieve.
On top of that, much of a gundog’s training is about being able to manage their own impulses while off the lead and in a highly distracting environment – this is an incredible skill, and taking the time to teach our pet dogs how to be steady around even very exciting things in the environment will not only benefit us (when they don’t run off after that rabbit!) but will benefit them, too. A dog who is able to manage their own impulses won’t be feeling frustrated when they’re held back from being able to do something – because no one needs to hold them back! 

Sensory Garden
Sensory gardens are becoming more and more popular among dog owners. We’ve talked already about how our dogs love to use their noses, but a sensory garden goes even further. As well as planting numerous safe, edible plants with different scents for our dogs to enjoy, we can also use different surfaces – such as wooden decking, grass, gravel and more – so our dogs can experience different textures. These will even make different sounds when our dogs interact with them. We can create varied levels, and a lot of children’s outdoor play equipment – such as tunnels, wobble bridges and more – are sturdy and safe for our dogs to climb over, under and through. We can even create a sandpit for our dogs to dig in. A sensory garden is a great way to give our dogs lots of enrichment at home and plenty of outlets for natural behaviours, and make sure they get to enjoy their garden as much as we do. They make a great home setting for many of the above activities, too!
 

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