TO­GETHER TIME

En­rich your ca­nine’s life by turn­ing ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion into an op­por­tu­nity to learn.

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY GIL­LIAN LIM

rather than sleep their day away un­til their paw-rent comes home, our furkids pre­fer to live ac­tive lives filled with play­time, so­cial­is­ing and en­ter­tain­ment. Bored or un­der-stim­u­lated pups will find al­ter­na­tive ways to burn off ex­cess en­ergy, be it by gnaw­ing on fur­ni­ture or raid­ing the laun­dry bas­ket. If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­culty find­ing out what makes Fido’s brain tick, here are some fuss-free ways to keep both your dog’s brain and body in shape.

WORK­ING FOR FOOD

Turn ev­ery meal into an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence by chang­ing how your pup­per eats! Switch out that food bowl and keep your furkid’s nose and brain en­gaged.

To start, place your pooch’s favourite treat un­der a blan­ket or laun­dry bas­ket. “This game helps timid dogs ex­per­i­ment with un­usual ob­jects and be re­warded for their bold­ness, thus build­ing their con­fi­dence,” writes Kyra Sun­dance in 10-Minute Dog Train­ing Games. You could also tease your pooch by pre­sent­ing him with his favourite treat or toy, show him as you put an up­turned laun­dry bas­ket on top of it, then en­cour­age him with an an­i­mated “Go get it!”. Just be sure not to make things too com­pli­cated too soon, as Fido could get frus­trated and not want to try again. Kyra’s tip: When he shows in­ter­est in the bas­ket by nos­ing or paw­ing it, help him by slightly lift­ing a corner of the bas­ket.

SO­CIAL BUT­TER­FLY

Pups aren’t meant to be lone wolves—they learn best in a so­cial net­work. “Not only are dogs tol­er­ant enough to live in a group, but they thrive by watch­ing oth­ers solve prob­lems they could not solve on their own,” writes Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods in The Genius of Dogs. This not only gives our dogs the so­cial­i­sa­tion they need, but also si­mul­ta­ne­ously pro­vides them with com­plex men­tal stim­u­la­tion.

For starters, al­low your dog to make friends with other ca­nines while on its

daily walk. Make trips to the dog park or or­gan­ise su­per­vised play dates with other furkids. You could even go for obe­di­ence classes or bring your pup to the beach for some time in the surf! A wider ex­po­sure to new peo­ple, dogs, ob­jects and places will help Fido hone his so­cial and ad­just­ment skills.

THE FURRY IN­TEL­LEC­TUAL

There’s no limit to what your furkid can learn, and there are so many quick games you could play at home to train your pooch’s cog­ni­tive skills. Get your furry com­pan­ion to hold eye con­tact with you—this trains his men­tal fo­cus and self-con­trol—or stuff treats in a muf­fin tin, cover it with ten­nis balls, and watch as your dog sniffs them out—this trains his scent­ing abil­ity and logic skills.

Hone his me­mory skills by putting a treat in one of two iden­ti­cal pails and if he goes to the wrong pail, don’t al­low him to check the other pails. Place him back in the start­ing po­si­tion and start all over. “This game is sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult for dogs, but pro­vides ex­cel­lent train­ing for their fo­cus and me­mory,” writes Sun­dance. “Even when your dog has mas­tered the two-pail game, he will find it quite dif­fi­cult to be suc­cess­ful with three pails.”

When start­ing out with choos­ing the right game for your ca­nine, be it whether to train your pooch’s me­mory and logic, or abil­ity to re­trieve, jump and bal­ance, think about what your dog was orig­i­nally bred to do. Retriev­ers were born to fetch and thus love a game of ball; herd­ing breeds such as Bor­der Col­lies and Aus­tralian Shep­herds ex­cel in agility cir­cuits; and hunt­ing dogs such as Labradors and Spaniels do well in track­ing and field tri­als.

FEAST FOR THE SENSES

Tex­tures, scents and sights aren’t lost on dear Fido—it’s es­sen­tial to en­hance our pup’s sur­round­ings into an al­len­com­pass­ing ex­pe­ri­ence through in­tro­duc­tions to nov­elty and op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn. “Dogs should be al­lowed to investigate their en­vi­ron­ment as much as pos­si­ble,” writes Dr Lisa Ra­dosta in a study ti­tled Ca­nine En­vi­ron­men­tal En­rich­ment pub­lished in 2014. “They can gen­er­ally be di­vided into the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories: Vis­ual, au­di­tory, tac­tile, ol­fac­tory and gus­ta­tory.” Bring your furkid out for drives, or add mint and cin­na­mon to pet toys to en­cour­age sniff­ing. You could also leave the tele­vi­sion or ra­dio on, play mu­sic and out­door sounds to pro­voke your pup’s cu­rios­ity, or give it a mas­sage with di­luted pet-safe laven­der oil.

“The im­por­tance of do­ing sen­sory en­rich­ment is that our pets are al­most al­ways kept in­doors with us,” shares dog trainer Mau­reen Tay from KasPup UniFURsity. “By bring­ing them out­side of the house or in­tro­duc­ing new senses to them, it helps to en­hance the qual­ity of your dog’s life by re­duc­ing stress, anx­i­ety, and bore­dom. This keeps them oc­cu­pied, which they like very much and it also helps to keep them tired as well.”

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