Leroy loves to go to a particular dog park that I don’t like. I always grimace as I walk in the gate but Leroy smiles from ear to ear. I like to call the dog park the “Dirt Bowl”. There is only one undercover seating area which has an uncomfortable atmosphere around it and often its the unfriendly regulars who have claimed the bench and table. The dogs always fight to climb up onto the table to have the top dog position in the park and there is always a certain tension of a dog fight about to happen.
Needless to say I don’t like the people there and I often find the dogs to be manic, unfocused, aggressive and bored.
One day I rode down to the Dust Bowl with Leroy and rode around the small inside boundary track of the park. I had all the dogs following me and all the owners looking at me bewildered while they sat on their butts. All the dogs loved it and they ran and ran and for a little while the dogs had some sort of purpose in the park other than to hang around their seated owners and fight for the top dog position on the table.
Most of the dogs in the “ Dust Bowl” are bored and I believe dogs can be become bored with dog parks. They may not be on their dog lead but the dog park is just like a backyard only a bit bigger sometimes. I simply don’t think it’s enough stimulation for a back yard dog to go to a small dog park for an hour or less a couple of times per week with an owner who does not interact with it nor pay the dog any attention. Is it always held close to you so you can grab the dog collar if it seems to get too close to another dog. Yes the dog is getting out, yes it’s socialising but is it enough? I don’t think so, dogs need more than a small dog park for stimulation.
Most people consider dog games to involve a dog chasing a ball or stick but games don’t just have to involve throwing something to them to fetch, dogs need mental exercise too.
Dogs are smart and they need to exercise their intelligence. There are some great games to play with your dog that don’t really involve too much effort on our part, which is good if you don’t have a lot of time. I love to play the Where Is It game with Leroy and Madison. I simply take one of their favourite toys and hide it somewhere in the house or back yard and they just have to find it. Sometimes it can take them ages to find the toy or object but they keep searching and using their brain to find it. Now days you can buy lots of dog toys where food can be hidden and the dogs need to work out how to get the food out again and have to use their brain to work out what the best method of extraction to apply.
Simple training is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog. Teach them something other than sit, lay down or stay. Teach them to crawl on their belly or roll over. Teach them in a manner that’s fun for them to learn and of course be patient.A really easy and simple game is to put some dry food in one hand, show your dog which hand it is in, put your hands in front of them and ask them to find the food. Keep mixing which hand has the food in it and you will make their brain work to try and find the right hand with the food in it. While you do this you can also teach them to wait until you are ready for them to start to play the game.
I play a game with Leroy in the car called “Where’s the dogs”. I ask Leroy if he can see any dogs. He instantly looks around and tries to find any dogs walking or playing as we drive by. I have taught this game over time and now he will actively seek out dogs when I ask him and I can see he enjoys this observation game.
I am always making up new dog games to keep it fresh and interesting for them. I discovered they love it when I hide around the house or garden and they have to find me, it’s really simple for us but a huge amount of joy for them.
Please don’t be one of those boring dog park people who sit and ignore their dog, play some games with your dog while you are in the park, hide the ball from them, get them to find the treats in your hand or around the park.
Help your dog to learn to think and gain confidence because it’s really easy to do and you will be rewarded with a happier and more intelligent dog friend and you won’t look so boring at the dog park either.