By Sally Gutteridge
It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and think that if the dog is walked and fed, then all is well in his world.
Ask yourself though, how well do you meet the needs of your best friend? Is your dog happy and does he get enough mental stimulation and fun?
It can be challenging to think of new dog games; new ways to stimulate his mind may not come quickly to yours.
The options for cheap, easy and fun dog games are unending.
Ask anyone that has ever worked with dogs about scatter feeding. We all disperse feed our dogs at some point because we know how the method combines fun with food. This only works if your dog eats kibble for some or all of his meals and I wouldn’t advice scatter feeding from a tin. Your home would become smelly very quickly.
This game works so well because it makes the dog think. It also makes using the brilliant canine scenting system a necessity. Dogs in the wild are never given a bowl of food for free; they have to catch or find it and seeking out food meets the innate need of your dog to gather or find his dinner.
This is an easy dog game, simply throw your dog’s kibble dinner around when he’s hungry. It only takes a few seconds, costs nothing but gives your dog 10 minutes of glee. First when he is grabbing all that he can and secondly as he uses that nose to find the last few nuggets of goodness.
An icy block
This is a wonderful way to keep your dog entertained and cool at the same time. Perfect for the summer months an icy block is an interesting take on the activity ball.
Just freeze a big bowl of water or stock with added treats inside and turn the frozen block out into the yard. Your dog will have to lick the ice away to free his desired treats. The icy block is every dog’s lazy summer afternoon dream, even better it’s free and easy too.
Search for fun
If your dog likes to fetch a toy, it is easy to teach him to search for fun. The idea is that your dog learns to use his nose instead of his eyes when retrieving his toy. Take a look at these easy steps:
1. Start by throwing the toy into an area where your dog cannot see it land then sending him to fetch his toy back. Practice this a few times and then hold his collar and increase the time between throwing the toy and sending him to fetch it. You can do this indoors, outdoors or both.
2. Throw the toy into increasingly complex search areas and introduce an associated word such as “find” as your dog begins to look for his toy.
3. Eventually, start to use the word even when your dog has not seen you throw his toy. You can hide the toy in different places and make the search longer and more complex as your dog’s learning progresses.
Search games are free and great fun for both of you. They also meet the dog’s natural needs, inclusive of sniffing for resources, so it will raise his mood and keep him happy.
As you can see you don’t need to spend a fortune to keep your best friend happy. In fact, it can cost nothing much at all to play fun and easy games with your dog. So why not give it a go?
Sally Gutteridge is a member of the International Society of Animal Professionals. She is a qualified British Military dog trainer and trainer of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. She is soon to be a fully qualified Canine Behavior Manager. With the rehabilitation experience of many broken rescue dogs and the careful training of many Shih Tzu dogs, Sally has written the definitive course on improving your dog’s behavior and your understanding of it. She shares her knowledge at Shih Tzu Web.