4 activities to help your dog calm down and concentrate
Is your dog hyperactive, excitable and impossible to wear out? Would you like him or her to calm down and concentrate a bit more? Here are 4 of my favourite doggy activities to help you and your dog relax.
Dogs need something to break the boredom. We humans turn the telly on or pick up a book to pass the time. Your dog can’t. Dogs are just like furry children. Any parent out there will verify that bored children are more likely to get themselves into trouble. But, a relatively short session of quality time spent baking, crafting, gardening etc will transform the child into a calm, relaxed person who listens better….Well that’s the idea anyway Guess what, it’s the same for dogs – but baking is out of the question, so what can your dog do instead?
These 4 activities are brilliant boredom busters and can be adapted for dogs (and people) of any age and level of fitness.
This is a 15-20 minute activity that doesn’t need any special equipment. It stimulates all 5 of your dog’s senses and builds a really close bond between you.
All you need is
Rucksack (or bag)
A random object preferably something your dog hasn’t seen before. A hairbrush, a teddy bear, wooden spoon
Something smelly in a sealed container. Try to find a new and interesting smell. For example, something from the laundry basket, fresh or dried herbs, seashells.
Something tasty in a sealed container. Carrots, cooked meat or fish, hardboiled egg, cheddar cheese – anything your dog doesn’t normally get to eat provided it’s not one of the human foods that are dangerous to dogs
A chewy snack or toy – one that will last a while pig’s ears are great so is a stuffed Kong.
A flask of coffee for yourself (optional)
You can take a rucksack walk in your garden, in the park, in the shopping precinct, beside a lake, anywhere that your dog feels safe and you can both relax.
Put the dog on the lead and walk slowly to your chosen spot. Let your dog stop and sniff, this is all about both of you being relaxed and taking in your surroundings.
Now draw your dog’s attention to the rucksack.
Unzip the rucksack slowly – just like unwrapping a precious present. Then together, you and your dog can study every object. Keep your voice quiet and your movements slow. Only have one object out of the bag at a time and save the treats and the chew until last. Let your dog sniff, snuffle nudge and touch until everything has been thoroughly examined. There’s no hurry.
When it comes to the treats, you can make a real meal of it. (pardon the pun) Take out the food container, creating as much mystery and intrigue for your dog as you can.
Partially open the lid of the food container and let your dog sniff – just as you did with the smelly thing. Now take a piece of food out. Hold the food in your fist and let doggo sniff your hand. When he/she sits nicely in expectation you can open your hand and let your dog enjoy the treat.
Try different ways of sharing the treats. Maybe lay some on the ground, or put one on your knee and ask the dog to wait for your cue to eat it.
Lastly, pour yourself a coffee, sit back and enjoy the view while your dog enjoys his chewy treat. Take some quality time together before wandering back home.
You’ll both feel better for it.
10-15 minutes (depending on the dog)
Your dog’s body is mainly just a transport system for his nose and his brain. Our canine companions are designed to sniff out rewarding stuff (e.g. food). And although technically our pets don’t need to forage or hunt, they still enjoy it.
Here are 3 suggestions for simple scentwork activities
Scatter some tasty treats into a mini version of a child’s ball pit. Not got a ball pit? (me neither!) Scrunch some newspaper into balls and use them to fill a large shallow box or tray. Dogs love snuffling about to find the snacks.
Scatter-feed in the garden – a particularly useful tip if you have a greedy dog who normally bolts their meal down. Simply sprinkle some of their daily dried food ration on the lawn. Your dog will have to use his nose if he wants his dinner….just like his wild ancestors did all those centuries ago.
Snuffle mat. What a fabulous investment these are. Great for those times when you want 5 minutes peace but Fido wants attention. Simply hide some treats or kibble in the snuffle mat and let your dog rummage around to find them.
Here are my boys enjoying their snuffle mats.
The magic hand game
5 – 10 minutes
This very short game really does ask your dog to concentrate hard. I promise you that you’ll be bored before the dog is. It’s great as a standalone game but can also be used to help an excitable dog calm down before a training session.
All you need is a handful of bite sized treats.
Have your dog sitting by your side. Fill your hand with delicious snacks. Let your dog sniff your hand so he knows what you are holding.
Lift your hand so that it is about 30 cm above the dog’s nose. Any jumping up delays the start of the exercise. This game doesn’t start until that furry backside is planted on the floor.
When your pup is sitting down and focussed on your hand, drop one of the treats. He or she might catch it, if not, let him or her find and scoff the treat. When doggo is back with you and sitting down again, drop another treat.
Repeat until one of you gets bored. Vary the intervals between treats so that the dog has to remain focussed.
15 mins – several hours depending on fitness levels
Every so often I like to take my two labradoodles on what I call an “adventure walk”. We explore places that are not on our regular walks. We might go to the woods, find a new park, or search online for dog friendly places to visit. Depending on the day we might stop at a dog friendly café. Sometimes we’ll take a picnic.
It’s all about different experiences which of course is the key to successful socialisation. It’s also the perfect opportunity to put all that dog training into practice.
P.S. be careful not to over-exercise young puppies. There are useful guidelines here
If you are not sure that your dog has the confidence or the social skills for an adventure walk, please please please give me a ring. I can help you to overcome any problems and expand your dog’s horizons.
Dog Training classes
One thing that really thoroughly exercises your dog’s brain is a training class. A learning session with a dog trainer is designed to introduce new challenges for a dog and because they are set up for success, they build self-esteem at the same time.
Every dog owner I’ve ever worked with has reported that their pooch goes home after the class and sleeps soundly for ages. Even better, they are still chilled out the following day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 1-2-1 training session or a doggy life skills class. All that concentration, focus, learning and praise is what your dog needs to help him calm down and concentrate. It really is an investment.