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Boredom Busters: Activities for You and Your Dog

Boredom Busters: Activities for You and Your Dog

Posted by Megan on 1st Mar 2024

How can we keep our dogs occupied and entertained? It is no secret that the lifestyles of most of our pet dogs often diverge significantly from the working roles they were originally bred for. However, just as we carefully select biologically appropriate diets for our beloved pets based on their origins, their behaviour often reflects their ancestry too. In order to maintain our pets mental wellbeing as well as their physical health we must ensure they are receiving adequate mental stimulation through a range of engaging activities. Most dogs thrive on the opportunity to "work" especially alongside their owners, as numerous breeds, are inherently eager to please.

Those who have owned working line dogs will understand that years of instinct persist, even if they have never worked or been trained in a specific task. Collie owners can attest to the feeling of being herded, while Terrier owners benefit from a rodent-free home and garden after their dog has completed a successful hunting session.

Tapping into your dog's natural instincts for a "job" or sport can significantly impact the success of training in that area. Here are just a selection of the activities available to unleash your dogs full potential:

Canicross - This one isn't for the faint hearted! This adventurous activity involves cross-country running with your dog, offering an excellent outlet for high energy breeds whilst strengthening the bond between you and your canine companion. Teamwork and close observation of your dogs body language are key to a successful run.

Scentwork - Stimulate your dog's mind by encouraging them to use their nose. Most dogs have a natural affinity for this activity and find it very enjoyable. It is great for dogs of all ages and can be an amazing option. If, for whatever reason, long walks are not an option. This involves teaching your dogs different scents and learning to alert you once they have found it.

Gundog classes - Gundog training doesn't just have to be for those working their dogs on shoots. A lot of the skills taught in Gundog classes are highly transferable to real life skills for your dog including heel, loose lead walking, retrieves and focus on their handler.

Dock Diving -The ideal sport for keen swimmers and toy-obsessed dogs. This sport is unfortunately not one you can just have-a-go at in your garden so can be trickier to get involved. However it is immensely enjoyable for dogs that cannot get enough of the water.

Play Tug - A good tug of war game with your dog is not only a highly enjoyable owner oriented game for your pet but it also offers them a full body workout. They will have to engage their muscles from their face and neck all the way down to their tail, all whilst maintaining focus on their owner and practicing their impulse control making it a mentally and physically demanding game. Plus if using a natural rope dog toy there is the added benefit of teeth cleaning.

Treibbal - You may have seen this one referred to as urban herding. It is still relatively new to the UK, however it focuses on some breeds' natural herding instinct. In this sport, dogs and owners have to work as a team to guide large inflatable balls into a goal with the dog pushing the ball and the owners offering instruction, this can improve your dog's focus and impulse control.

Agility - One of the most well-known activities for dogs and owners. This incredibly popular sport sees a vast range of different breeds navigating round the course in the fastest possible time.

Hoopers - A low-impact alternative to agility, hoopers emphasizes distance handling skills to complete the course, making it suitable for various dog and handler abilities.

Puzzle Toys - We are incredibly lucky to have an array of puzzle and enrichment toys easily available in pet shops and available to order online. These are great option to get your dog thinking and problem solving. There are also amazing online resources for DIY enrichment using things lying around your home such as towels, egg boxes and baking trays. This can be an easy, cost effective way of engaging your dog. My dogs favourite is some pumpkin puree spread over a LickiMat (See our blog on the benefits of pumpkin here.)

Flyball - Another well known option. In this fast-paced team sport, dogs and handlers work together to replay tennis balls over hurdles. Any breed can take part as long as they are a tennis ball lover and have a passion for fetching.

Barn Hunt - As the name suggests this builds on your dogs natural hunting ability. Your dogs will need to search an area, navigating hay bales, tunnels and other obstacles to find the "rat". As you would expect this sport is very popular with Terriers however all dogs are able to give it a go as the dogs search by scent rather than movement.

Dog Shows - Dog shows, offer a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow dog lovers who share your passion. Not only do they provide a platform to learn more about your own canine companion but they also allow you to discover new and fascinating breeds you may have never encountered. Even if circumstances prevent you from bringing your own dog, the wealth of knowledge, chance to forge meaningful friendships and potential to walk away with a goodie bag makes attending a rewarding experience for both you and your dog.

You will notice that a lot of these activities have an emphasis on teamwork. Working with your dog whether it be in a sport or just training a few tricks at home will help strengthen the bond and relationship your dog has with you. Activities can help many dogs build their confidence and provide a great social aspect for the owners.

If you are interested in trying any of these activities make sure you research how to safely participate. Some activities are of course not suitable for some age, breed or fitness level of dogs so ensure you choose activities depending on what you and your dog are capable of. If you are unsure where to start find a local club who will be more than happy to help you learn the ropes. Some clubs will even host have-a-go sessions or demonstrations at dog shows.

Even if none of these activities suit you or your dog it is important to include your dog as often as possible in your daily life. Dogs are naturally curious, so exposing them to a range of environments with new sights and smells can enrich their lives more than you may realise.

So, what will you and your dog get up to at the weekend?