Amy Robinson is a nationally recognized dog trainer living and working in Vero Beach, Florida, with her husband and adopted dog, Mac. She specializes in canine commands and good manners, and has appeared on television news shows and lifestyle programs. Her website offers more training tips: www.droolschool.com
School Days for Dogs, too.
By Amy Robinson, CPDT-KA, D.A.R.T
Autumn ushers in cooler air and changing leaves, and sleepy summer days cease. Schools open their doors and kids from kindergarten to college focus on learning. Your dog craves learning experiences, too. Exercise your dog’s mind and body to maximize his enjoyment and establish a stronger bond.
Re-educate and refresh- Reconnect with your dog through training commands and tricks.
Active commands are best when your dog has a burst of energy and a spark in his eye. Try the ‘chase me’ game, with you as the target. Attach a long leash to your dog and step outside where there is grass or other soft footing. Carry a toy or stick your dog will follow. Tease your dog by assuming a play posture, arms out, leaning down, feet planted wide. Say, “Come!” and jog away from your dog. When he catches up with you, spike the toy so he can pounce on it. A few repetitions will increase your dog’s speed and desire, and reinforce this essential skill.
A simple ‘lie down’ command can be the start of a fun trick: the ‘crawl’. Kids can accomplish this easily and it always gets them giggling. Use a tasty treat to lure the dog into a lying down position. Once he is down, keep the treat concealed in your hand, and slowly slide your hand along the floor, so your dog has to use his elbows to creep forward toward the treat. Once he moves just a few inches, open your hand and praise him. You can increase the distance gradually.
Walk it off: Leash walks provide your dog with stimulating sensory input. The anticipation on the dog’s eager face is evident when you pick up the leash. Each walk is a new opportunity for both mental and physical exercise, and the benefits for both of you are many: increased endorphins, calorie burning, light aerobic exercise, bone health, fresh air and more. Many of our dogs are a bit overweight and lack muscle tone. This can happen if we get lazy and just put the dog in the yard. Yard time alone can result in your dog acting territorial, engaging in frustration behavior like whining and barking, becoming hyper-sensitive to noise and weather changes, and digging under the porch or around the fence. Invisible fences have the same drawbacks.
Your dog simply wants to be with you, which explains why, even when the weather is grand and squirrels are active, the dog sometimes just stands at the door waiting to come back in. Inject new life into a leash walk by choosing a different area to explore. Climb in the car once a week with your dog and stroll around a shopping area or park. Bring treats along and ask your dog for easy commands to increase communication and make it an interactive affair.
Brain food: Some of our older dogs and pint-sized pups have physical limitations and long, woodsy walks are just not practical. Interactive games and brain teasers are sure to get his mind working and tail wagging.
For outdoor fun, lay a track in your front yard or on a nearby strip of grass. Leave the dog inside while you do this. Try putting a small amount of cream cheese on your finger, and lightly skimming the grass with it in an ‘L’ shaped pattern. At the end of the track, drop a dog biscuit into the grass. Now bring your dog out and encourage him to lower his nose at the beginning of the track. Tell him “find it!” and let your dog engage his most powerful sense to locate the prize.
Set up an intelligence test indoors to really get his brain cells humming. Show your dog a favorite toy or treat. Place it under a paper or Styrofoam cup, and lay a small dishtowel over the cup. Tell him, “take it!” and watch him work the problem. Some dogs will nudge with their nose, others will pluck up the towel in their teeth, some will bat it with their paws and a few will just try to chew their way through. Your dog’s approach will tell you something about his personality; whether he is the deep thinker, take-charge type, precise surgeon or canine mad scientist, you’ll find this more entertaining than reality TV.
Canine quality time: Your dog would love to have your attention all day, but changing fall schedules and after-school activities mean he’ll often have to entertain himself at home. After a walk, keep him out of mischief indoors with his own personal space and interactive toys. The old metal cage is officially over, and new options give your dog a luxurious space all to himself. Eco-friendly and decorator-inspired gates, pens and room dividers from Richell USA present an inviting and homey place for your dog to kick back in your absence. The Convertible Elite Pet Gate is super-versatile, changing easily to suit your needs. It works as a room divider, a gate or a pen with no tools or tricky assembly required. The look is rich, so it compliments a living area or bedroom. The Také Lifestyle Collection from Richell USA is on trend and modern with bamboo construction and sleek lines. The new Také One-Touch Pet Gate safely sections off a bedroom or hallway with style. Your dog doesn’t look cramped or jailed, and you’ll banish that familiar guilt that came with confining him to a standard cage. Offer an interactive toy, such as a puzzle ball filled with treats and kibble for him to coax out, and your dog’s alone time will turn into quality time.
Couch cuddler: After a fulfilling play session indoors or out, most dogs relish a nice couch nap. Small dogs especially enjoy perching on couch cushions. Now you can invite your dog into the comfort zone without stressing his joints. Jumping up from a hardwood or tile floor can cause your pint-sized pooch to slip and injure himself, and jumping down can result in fractures, but most pet stairs are too bulky and unsightly to use in living areas. The sleek new look in easy access is the Také 3-Step Pet Stool made from eco-friendly, durable bamboo. The Také 3-Step Pet Stool features slip-resistant steps, rubber feet to protect floors, and portability in a lightweight design. Encourage your dog to use the stool by placing a tasty treat on the first step. Praise him when he reaches for it. Now repeat this on both the first and second step. You may need to help your dog by gently placing his front legs on the next step up, but be patient. Soon even a tiny teacup will hop up to safely nap in your lap.
Autumn is the perfect pause between summer and winter, bringing crisp nights and shorter days to savor with your dog. The hustle of the holidays is approaching, and with it, more demands on your time. For now, follow your dog’s senses and dig into the best of the season.