Hermes and Dash are Italian greyhounds. That means they are very fast, very cute (biased dog mom here) and they have very little fur for warmth. The winter months do a number on us. These two are use to going for 2 or more walks a day during the Fall and then it all comes to a halt as soon as the first snow hits. Oh, we try, but the last two walks (before they give in completely) are less than a block and end in my carrying two limping, frozen dogs home in my arms.
Well, after a week or so of listening to the demands of these two (telling me to entertain them) I decided to do a little research and find a "job" for them. What I learned was that exercising the brain of a dog is just as effective as exercising them physically. It satisfies their need for attention, it stimulates their brain, and it can actually wear them out just like a walk outside can.
The first and most important thing that the dog must know before starting is the "stay" command. If they can't wait for you to tell them what to do then you are going to be exhausted and frustrated and your game will not be a tail wagger. (See Dash's back foot? Yeah, he lept forward as soon as I hit the shutter button, but he's learning.)
Dash has no clue what to do with a toy, a ball, or anyone who says, "wanna play?" I decided to start with a ball and see how he handled that.
At first he just stared at me.
So, I showed him the ball and said, "hit it" as I touched his nose with the ball. I immediately said, "good boy!" and gave him a treat. After 6 or 7 times he actually started tapping the ball with his nose when I said, "hit it." Yay! When I stopped and then started again a minute or so later he wasn't exactly sure what to do, so we started over with me tapping his nose again.
On the second day, Dash became confident with the game and he eagerly waited for me to say the words. Once he got that down I made him sit and I rolled the ball to him saying, "hit it." He would run towards the ball and stop it with his feet and nose and then quickly look at me as if to say, "like that?" I'd give him a treat and we'd do it over and over. Now, he will stop a bouncing ball in action, (kill it dead actually) and then run back to me for his treat.
Hermes has a different game to play. This one is a dog puzzle (Trixie Flip Board). He got it for Christmas and he loves it. Ok, yes he loves it because treats are involved, but at least he's getting some mental stimulation at the same time. The trick to this one is to teach them one part at a time. There are sliders, levers and lids. The sliders and levers are to be operated with the dog's nose to reveal the treat and the lids are to be removed with their mouth. (Hermes insists that those lids are to be dug out with both feet and I haven't figured out how to get him to use his mouth yet. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them!)
These are the two games that we started with. I'm going to get a clicker trainer so that I can change things up so that they (ehem, I) don't get bored doing the same thing over and over and over and over and... I'll let you know as we find new winter games to play and I'd love it if you shared any that you like to play :O)
Enjoy your week!