My Dog is Bored and is Driving Me Crazy – Enrichment During Social Distancing / COVID-19

By Dr. Sarah Shapiro-Ward

Enrichment describes all the activities our dogs do which fulfill their mental, social and physical needs. Toronto dogs are typically accustomed to getting their social time through daycare, dog walkers, playdates and dog parks. Physical needs are typically met via hiking, playing fetch or walking around Toronto’s streets and green spaces. Mental enrichment comes from interacting with their humans, solving puzzles and exploring their environment through their noses. With many of these activities curtailed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, what can we do to ensure our dogs cope?

 

Nosework

Sniffing is one of the most mentally enriching activities for our dogs – after all their sense of smell is around 40 times stronger than ours is! It may be counter-intuitive, but walking more slowly and providing your dog with plenty of time to explore scents with their noses is more enriching than walking briskly. Get the most out of your limited outdoor time by allowing your dog time to sniff!

There are also plenty of ways to get your dog’s nose working at home. You can take a formal scent detection class with us, for example.

Alternatively, try playing the “find it” game:

Level 1 (easy): Put your dog in her crate or have somebody hold her while you hide several treats around the house. As you open the crate door cue “find it!” and sit back as your dog uses their nose to search out the treats. If they are struggling after 30 seconds, offer a hint by pointing to the treat. 

Level 2 (intermediate): Ask your dog for a down-stay out of sight while you hide the treats. Cue “find it!” to release her from the stay.

Level 3 (advanced): Conceal treats in challenging locations – under the doormat, behind the sofa cushion, on a raised shelf – get creative!

(PS: We’re launching our Scent Detection class for Virtual delivery very soon!)

Food Puzzles

Food Puzzles are a well-known way of providing some mental enrichment for your dog. These are toys with compartments for concealed food – your dog must figure out how to roll, knock, pull or push the toy so that it dispenses the food. Unfortunately, many of our dogs figure out their food puzzles in record time, and what was a mental challenge quickly becomes just another slow feeder. Keep your food puzzles fresh and interesting by mixing them up!

Training

Training is one of the best ways to keep your dog mentally stimulated, and it has the benefit of improving your dog’s behaviour! Consider replacing lost exercise time with a dedicated routine of training to keep your dog busy and challenged. Work on your dog’s basics by joining us for Foundation Skills Virtual classes (more information: https://sites.google.com/whenhoundsfly.com/virtual) or consider taking a more advanced class with us. During this time, we are allowing anyone to audit our classes on a Pay-What-You-Feel basis (and if your situation is that you can’t pay, that’s ok!)

Set yourself specific training goals and celebrate with your pup when you reach them! Here are some training goal ideas:

  •       30 second down stay while I retrieve the tug rope from the other room
  •       Verbal cue differentiation: Dog lies down on “down” cue and sits on “sit” cue without mixing them up
  •       Recall from the other end of the house
  •       Leave-it, treat placed 10 cm away on the ground for 10 seconds
  •       Teach a new trick! E.g. roll over, play dead, fetch my TV remote, sit pretty etc

Dog Training During Social Distancing Covid 19 Toronto Shake a Paw

If you’re stuck for training ideas or struggling to meet your goals, we’d be delighted to help you via our 30 minute phone consultation service: https://www.whenhoundsfly.com/phone-consultation/
or Virtual In-Home Lessons https://www.whenhoundsfly.com/foundation-skills-in-home/

Canine Conditioning

Canine conditioning is a collection of exercises designed to increase your dog’s fitness, strength, body awareness (proprioception), and co-ordination. Many of these exercises can be done at home with some basic equipment.

Cavaletti poles: These are raised poles for your dog to step over at a walk or trot. This helps your dog develop a balanced gait and good coordination.

Balance Games: Teaching your dog to balance on wobbly surfaces or small platforms can strengthen muscles and improve body awareness.

Hind-end awareness: These exercises are designed to get your dog moving their hind quarters independently of their front legs. Two popular challenges are: Targeting a platform with rear paws only, commonly taught in dog agility to improve Dog Walk / A frame performance; and circling around a front-paw perch which can be used to teach heel position as shown in this video (Andre & Petey). Both exercises are excellent for body awareness and coordination.

There are plenty of other conditioning exercises out there to keep you & your dog busy!

Engagement Games

Engagement games foster our dog’s relationship with us through having fun together! These games include Fetch and Tug of War, but did you know there are lots of other engagement games to try?

Hide ‘n Seek: Hide from your dog in another room, closet, under the bed etc. Call them once and wait…. If they successfully find you, reward them with praise and a delicious treat! For an easy version of this, work with a partner to hold your dog as you hide. If your dog is more advanced, try putting them in a down-stay instead.

Come and Go: In this game, encourage your dog to run through your legs! Recall your dog, then toss a treat between your legs. Make the game harder by adding distance or more than one person! Here’s Stephanie and Mila demonstrating the game: 

Chase Me: Many of our dogs love to be chased, but we don’t encourage chasing your dog as this can adversely affect your recall. Did you know that chasing can be just as fun for your dog the other way around? Call your dog to your side and run away! When your dog catches up, praise and reward them. Playing chase-me this way around can actually improve your dog’s recall abilities!


In summary, with the requirements of social distancing, now’s the time to invest more in training and enrichment for your dog. Try some of these suggestions, or join us in the virtual classroom! After all, your dog’s can’t curl up with a book or binge watch a series on Netflix – it’s up to us!

 

Photo Credit: @bearthehappydog

How Do I Socialize My Puppy While Puppy Socialization Classes Are Suspended?

By Erin Britton:

May 11th  Update:

With curbside dropoff/pickup retail permitted – we’re pleased to now be able to offer Puppy Parties – curbside dropoff/pickup socialization – exclusively for our Puppy Socialization class st udents.

April 13th Update:

After reading this article, go check out our Pandemic Puppy page for newer information including our “10 Genius Hacks to Socialize Your Puppy Safely During Covid-19”.

COVID19 is disrupting more than just our human interaction; our dogs are affected too! Some puppies may be isolated during a critical socialization period. How can we continue to give our dogs adequate physical and mental stimulation, as well as positive socialization experiences during this time?

Socialization Done Right

Many people think of a pile of puppies running, wrestling, and playing when they think of socialization. In reality, teaching dogs to mind their social manners is only one part of proper socialization. 

Socialization done right teaches the puppy that the world they live in is safe and fun, through positive experiences with new sights, smells, noises, feelings, and environments.

If you are not currently affected by COVID-19, you MUST still bring your puppy out for socialization experiences:

  • Continue to bring your puppy on walks, exploring new areas, and seeing new dogs. Always supervise interactions closely, and be picky about which dogs your puppy will meet (do you know their vaccination and health status?)
  • Taking your puppy out for walks or outings each and every day still lets you expose them to other dogs in the following way:
    • Sight – Seeing various dogs, how they move, what they look like
    • Sounds – Hearing other dogs bark and make noises
    • Smell – Air scenting as they follow the trail of a dog that was by a few minutes ago
    • On-Leash Greetings – Best advice at this time from health officials would suggest this is not safe, as leashes could quickly get tangled, and then owner(s) would have to break social distancing guidelines to untangle leashes and dogs
  • As soon as permitted to by health authorities: Current Students and Alumni of When Hounds Fly can use our Facebook Group to set up play dates with other puppies from unaffected homes. Similarly, as soon as permitted, we will be hosting Puppy Parties for our students for supervised socialization sessions.
  • Puppies that have not completed their vaccinations can still observe other dogs at a safe distance. They should not be going into the dog park (which are closed at this time), but can be carried nearby to these environments and allowed to observe the sights, sounds, and smells of adult dogs.

 

From the American Veterinary Medicine Association:

  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19

Continue to use safety precautions when out with your puppy: 

  • Stay at a distance from people. Let the dogs interact on leash, if your puppy has sufficient vaccinations. Do not shake hands with other dog owners. 
  • Do not touch the other dog, unless necessary. 
  • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands (after coming close to other dogs and owners). Wearing gloves is a good physical reminder to not touch your face (even with gloves on!)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after walks.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

 

Every new puppy owner, whether affected by COVID19 or not, should practice a multitude of other socialization exercises that can be done in your home! The key is to expose your puppy to something new. It could be anything from a new surface (the bathroom floor) to your vacuum cleaner noise, from checking teeth and ears, to you wearing hats/scarves. In each case, the idea is for the puppy to be comfortable in that situation. 

 

Set Up for Success:

  • Know how to read puppy body language! If we don’t know what our puppy is telling us (I’m afraid vs. I’m fine), we run the risk of accidentally having a negative experience.
    • Need some help decoding your puppy’s body language? Check out this awesome website: ispeakdog.org
  • Allow your puppy to explore new things by choice. Do not force a puppy to go closer to things they are afraid of or unsure of. Allow them to back away if they want to.
  • Make the experience even MORE positive by giving your puppy treats and playing with them when they explore the new thing, hear the new thing, feel the new thing, etc.
  • To avoid creating fear, anxiety, and aggression problems, if your puppy is reacting with extreme fear with the new thing/situation, stop the exposure. 

 

Methods to Use

New sights, smells, and surfaces

Present a strange object such as a skateboard to the dog. At first, the dog may be scared of it, but when it musters enough courage to go closer to take a bit of a sniff, click, and then treat the dog for approaching it. 

Repeat this many times with this object, and many other objects, so that the dog’s confidence to explore increases. The same should be done for exploring surfaces and spaces, such as the bathroom floor, the stairs, crawling under chairs, etc. For people-shy dogs, this exercise can even be extended to being brave to go up and sniff strangers.

 

Here’s a great look at creating a positive experience with the vacuum cleaner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCNAv5aETho

 

Scary sounds

Sound Sensitivity is another key area to work on. Anxiety around thunderstorms and fireworks can be crippling. Use YouTube sound clips to socialize your puppy to scary sounds. Play the sound at a low volume, and feed, play, and engage with your puppy. When the sound stops, stop feeding!

We love the Sound Proof Puppy Training App! It has a great variety of sound clips to help you create positive experiences for your puppy. https://www.facebook.com/SoundProofPuppyTraining/

 

Grooming and Handling

Touch your dog or restrain your dog. If your dog remains calm, click, and then feed a

treat. If your dog flinches, pulls away, or generally seems uncomfortable, stop, and try again but

using a milder, gentler version of what you did previously. 

 

Looking for inspiration?

Check out this puppy socialization checklist, from Dr. Sophia Yin.

https://drsophiayin.com/app/uploads/2015/12/Socialization_Checklist.pdf

 

Other resources:

https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/puppy-socialization-stop-fear-before-it-starts/

https://www.clickertraining.com/dont-socialize-the-dog

 

In Summary…

In brief, during this period where Puppy Socialization group classes are suspended, you still have a lot of work to do. Puppies running around and playing with each other only represents a portion of the important work you are responsible for doing. You should still be teaching basic foundation behaviours, and you’ll want some advice on topics like nipping and biting, so that’s what our Virtual Classes, Phone Consultations, and 1-on-1 Lessons (Both in-person and virtual) are for. Take advantage of your free time and get to work!

 

Starting January 2020! Puppy Socialization Classes at Wellesley Animal Hospital

Wellesley Animal Hospital x When Hounds Fly

We are very excited to announce that we have partnered with Wellesley Animal Hospital to expand our reach and offer our Puppy Socialization classes on Sunday afternoons at their clinic at 535 Yonge Street.

Sessions start in January 2020, and we will be running a limited number of classes only on Sunday afternoons. So, to avoid disappointment, if you’d like to enroll your puppy you are expecting to join your family in January, please reserve your spot right away.

Of course, we will be continuing our daily Puppy Socialization class schedule at our Dundas West and Pape Village facility, but for those of you who live right in the core, this may be a very convenient option for you to also consider!

Get the details, and apply for admission:

whenhoundsfly.com/wellesley

2019 Winter Small Dog Socials (Updated)

In 2019, we are pleased to resume Small Dog Social play groups for alumni and dogs that are currently enrolled in classes at When Hounds Fly! This is an excellent opportunity to socialize and exercise your dog off leash in a safe, clean and supervised environment.

Play groups will be 45 minutes in length and supervised by an experienced associate instructor.

Cost is $20 per dog per session with a maximum of 5 dogs per play group.

Play groups are suitable for:

  • Alumni and Current Students Only
  • Dogs under 20 lbs
  • Dogs that are up to date on vaccinations (3rd booster minimum)
  • Neutered or Spayed if over 7 months
  • Dogs that are well socialized. Dogs that are disruptive, display bullying or aggressive behaviours will be asked to leave.
  • Dogs that hump other dogs excessively will be asked to leave.
  • Dogs that mark/pee constantly will be asked to leave.

Pre-registration and pre-payment is required for all participants. Due to limited space, no refunds will be offered for missed classes and cancellations must be no later than 24 hours before the scheduled play group.

Play Groups will be offered on select Sundays at both our Dundas West and Pape Village locations:

 

Dundas West Small Dog Socials Calendar

2019 Dundas West dates: January 27, February 3, 17, and 24 at 2pm

Pape Village Small Dog Socials

2019 Pape Village dates: February 10, March 3rd at 3pm

To sign up:

If you attended in 2018, your login is still there!  If you forgot the password, simply reset it and get started.

If you are alumni and have not attended, you’ll need a password to make an account and signup.  Please email the office at info@whenhoundsfly.com for that password.

Credits can be bought online once you have your login, and you can book your pup in!