When it comes to dogs, it’s always the right time for playtime. And this is especially true when outside activities are canceled due to the CoronaVirus.
All companion canines need daily exercise to keep physically fit and mentally healthy. Regular activity also burns up calories and increases muscle mass and cardiovascular strength.
To play indoors, pick a room with enough space, and stash the breakables. Intermingle tricks and games with a few reinforcing obedience commands, and you’ll have a fun-loving dog with good manners by the time the Coronavirus leaves.
Obedience training requires your dog to use his brain and think. Knowing that he will be praised for making the right decision and corrected for making the wrong decision (and allowed the opportunity to make the right decision again) instills a sense of responsibility in your dog and demands that he use his noggin. Remember: dogs are bred to work. They’ve been blessed with super-human instincts and drives, and they need an outlet for those drives.
Improve your dog’s reliability
Create a list of situations, people, toys, places, food, objects, odors, and other animals that your dog may find distracting. The higher the distraction, the more likely your dog may not listen to you.
Rate the distractions on a scale of 1 – 10, with ten being the most distracting to your dog. For the next week, make a point of having your dog on a lead at all times when he is around any distractions that are a level 2 or higher. This will help you maintain more control over the situation. Avoid any level 10 distractions when first working on a new behavior or when polishing a behavior. Use these and other distractions in all your training of behaviors; this will help “proof” your dog.
Example: You have trained the sit in the living room where guests and family enter the front door. You command your dog to “sit,” and he complies, but the door opens, and up he pops. Now we need to start training him for such distractions.
Starting today your dog has to SIT for everything
SIT before getting into or out of the car. Incorporate SIT into your everyday life as often as possible. This is the first step in teaching your dog manners and restraint. If you teach SIT as a lifestyle, then your dog will know it as such instead of just as a trick. (Exception: If your dog is having problems with housetraining, on your first trip out to potty after an extended stay in the kennel, then you may want to skip the SIT command if it risks the possibility of the dog losing control of his bladder.)
Teach a trick
Find the toy
Teach the dog to find a toy that you’ve hidden. Put the dog in a sit/stay, then hide the article. Return and send the dog away to find it.
Teach the “Go Get (named article)”
Penny knows rope, bone, and toy. I put all three in the hallway and repeatedly send her to bring back the one toy I’ve chosen.
Here’s what you’ll need:
three small, identical buckets, cans, or cups; kibble or doggie cookies; a leash and training collar; and one hungry puppy.
Here’s what you do:
- Place your dog in a down-stay five feet from the area where you’ll set up the game.
- Next, place the three buckets side-by-side with the mouth on the ground (upside down). Leave about one foot of space between each bucket. Put a doggie cookie under one of the buckets. Now, return to your dog and give him your “release” command.
- Walk him over to the buckets and say, “Where’s the cookie?” and encourage him to smell the buckets.
- When he gets excited about the bucket with the cookie under it, praise him lavishly! Then, knock the bucket over and let him get the cookie.
- Repeat this process by hiding the cookie under a different bucket.
- Once your dog starts to get the hang of the game, you can add more complexity by spacing the buckets further apart. You may also add more buckets.
- I like to teach a dog to give an active indication when he finds the bucket with the cookie, such as scratching the side of the bucket or barking.
- You can also teach your dog to “sit” next to the bucket with the cookie. Initially, you’ll find that your dog will likely go back to the previous bucket that hid the cookie. Don’t lift the bucket until he finds the one that contains the cookie.
How often to practice these skills
A minimum of 15 minutes throughout the day of practicing. Always ending the practice on a high note. Vary the time of day and also where you practice. Include at least two practices a week outside in your yard.
Incorporate the commands into your daily routine. Use the commands to make your life easier.
Increase the time in the command by about 5 minutes until your dog can hold the command for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour with distractions.
Adequate exercise has a significant side benefit, too. Boredom, coupled with insufficient activity, can lead to destructive behavior-this means chewing and digging and excessive barking and howling. By increasing your pet’s reliability and mental stimulation, you can improve your relationship with your dog and reduce behavioral issues which may occur during this pandemic.