This time of year for many is tough. It’s so hot you can’t even walk your dog after 9am! This is really difficult for higher energy breeds so I wanted to give you all some ideas you can do with your dogs indoors.
FIRST…just a little word of caution. A common misconception is that if you are okay with the heat, your dog is. This just isn’t true. Dogs do not sweat all over like we do, have thinner skin, need more frequent breaks in the shade and they have flesh for feet! Because of all these things, they are often less tolerant to humid heat and direct sun when doing activities. Please take those things into consideration during these hot weeks.
Now back to the fun part. You might be surprised how a little extra work during the day can help keep your dog mentally drained. I’m going to list a few ideas for everyone.
Come, sit, break for breakfast!
This is an excellent obedience drill to do with a dog any age! Use their breakfast if they eat dry kibble and walk around the room giving them a few pieces randomly. Just say your dogs name and then say “good” and give a piece of food. 3-5 repetitions and your dog should be following you around some. Once that happens have your dog sit, then say break and drop 5-10 pieces of kibble on the ground. Once your dog eats that food, say dogs name and come as you take a few steps back and repeat verbal commands “sit”, “break”, drop food. When your dog is doing this easily, when you drop the food, start to move away while your dog is eating. Once they eat the last piece of kibble, call them to you, come, sit, break. After 2-3 sessions you will be able to drop their kibble and move clear across the room. If they RUN to you, say sit and do a long pause before that “break” command with food. If they are slower, then they will need more encouragement and less distance between you and them. You can also do this with treats. 10 minutes tops and your dog will be getting physical exercise while working for their food! WIN WIN!
NOTE: this is a great foundation to build before teaching hide and seek where you drop food, then hide. Call your dog to you in a closet and give them food. Pretty soon you won’t need to call them, they will just seek you out.
Trick training! I don’t do a ton of trick training. Personally, I’d rather teach a dog to stand on something uncomfortable and build some confidence, but teaching a trick takes patience and can help you bond with your dog in a different way. I usually suggest sticking to one trick until it is really solid before mixing it up. Just head to youtube and find a trick that will be easy. If your dog already paws at you a lot, do something that involves their legs like high five. If your dog is great at “down”, then look for a roll over video tutorial. Practice this 5 minutes a day, once or twice a day.
Brush up an old command that has gone stale! One of the MOST common one I hear about is “off” from the couch. Grab 10 treats. Put your dog on the couch. Just say “off” and move back and hold out food like you are saying “come”. “Good” and reward with food. Guide them back on the couch. Repeat 10x. The next day, do the same thing, but only 5x. Then sit next to your dog and try pointing on the ground and saying off with food lure. “Good” and reward with food. The next day repeat the same sequence and start to give food randomly.
Get out some puzzle toys or some old boxes. I personally like to always save some old amazon boxes. I’ll pull them out occasionally and dump dog food or treats in them and my dogs dive in. This is great mental stimulation and builds confidence. I still have one dog that is a little shy of the noises the boxes make. So we always go slower and I make it easier on her. My other dogs I stack them oddly and really make it challenging.
Finally the most important one that is the most ignored is some slow obedience training. I know that one is NO fun, haha, but the reality is when we only do these higher drive exercises with our dogs, it nurtures too much pushy and forward motion work with food and we MUST slow them down. Take about 3 commands the dog knows. This could be place, down and let’s go, just for example. Put a leash on your dog. For 5-10 minutes anytime of day or after a fun and higher excitement exercise, go through a slow routine with your dog to help them calm down and to make sure you are also associated with calm behavior, not just food and fun. This is SO important! For example, say “place” and guide them on their dog bed (this needs to be commands they know already to start with, otherwise teach them some new ones!). Count to 3 in your head slowly while standing next to them. Then say “down”. Repeat the count once they are in a down. Then say “let’s go” and calmly walk in a small circle back to place. Say “place” and once they are on the dog bed count to 5 slowly. Get the idea? Mix up how long they stay, but never faster than that three count or you are just building excitement again. Hopefully your pup will do so well and calm down so much they will start to lay down automatically and/or not want to even do the “let’s go”. The goal is they do this slow and boring routine where they just want to nap, so let them!!!
I hope everyone takes this heat wave as an opportunity to get creative inside with your dog, challenge them and deepen your bond with them.
Sample video on Dog meditation exercise.