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Keep Fido Mentally and Physically Active – Boredom Busters, Enrichment Exercises & More!

What is Boredom?

 

Science has only recently began to look at boredom and understand what makes people bored.  A 2012 review of boredom research entitled The Definition, Assessment, and Mitigation of State Boredom Within Educational Settings: A Comprehensive Review (Vogel-Walcutt, J.J., Fiorella, L., Carper, T. et al.) suggested that boredom is a combination of a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction, frustration or disinterest and an objective lack of neurological excitement, all of which result from a lack of stimulation. (Kubota, 2016).

Do Dogs Suffer from Boredom?

Animal welfare lecturer Charlotte Burn, from The Royal Veterinary College,  observed dogs left alone at home before publishing an essay entitled Bestial boredom: a biological perspective on animal boredom and suggestions for its scientific investigation, in which she states that Chronic inescapable boredom can be extremely aversive, and under stimulation can harm neural, cognitive and behavioural flexibility.”  She told The Times: “They often yawn, bark, howl and whine. Some sleep a lot – a sign of apathy. Some of this is anxiety but often they are just really bored.” 

Take Your Dog to School

A bored dog, lacking appropriate mental and physical stimulation may get himself into trouble by looking for ways to entertain himself. “Animals in barren conditions seek even aversive stimulation, as if bored.” (Burns, 2017).  Problematic behaviors such as digging, incessant barking and inappropriate destructive chewing may be a dog’s way of alleviating boredom and easing anxieties.

Provide Mental and Physical Stimulation for Your Dog

Some simple changes might go a long way in helping overcome boredom and alleviating anxiety by providing both mental and physical stimulation for the pet.

Here are some suggested ‘boredom busters’:

  • Make sure your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced. A poor diet may not only affect your dog physically, it could also negatively affect their behaviour.
  • Take your dog to school – Learn how to engage and motivate him!
  • Teach your dog some fun tricks – Check out this A, B, C of Apprentice Tricks video for some ideas!
  • Provide interactive feeding and chew toys.
  • Provide a doggie sandpit – an appropriate place for the dog to dig.
  • Provide a doggie paddling pool – a great place to cool off and have fun in the hot summer months.
  • Play fun games with your dog. 
  • Teach your dog how to relax and provide him with a comfortable place to do so.

    DogSmith Slumber Party – The Perfect Doggy Vacay!

  • Vary your walking routine.  Taking the same path every day is monotonous for everyone.
  • Arrange a playdate with a suitable doggie friend.
  • Arrange a Slumber Party or Sleep Over for when you are away.
  • Hire a certified pet care technician to spend time with your dog while you are out at work – to feed him, take him for a walk, play with him…

Fun Games

There are lots of options for fun games you can play with your dog, many of which can help proof some of your cues.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Practice cues such as take it, drop it, sit, down…. while the dog has fun chasing a soft toy on a flirt pole.
  • Play a game of fetch.
  • Play fun scent games like the Find the Hidden ? Game (Insert word of choice e.g. Treats/Vegetables/Ball/Stuffed Toy/Car Keys). Start by ‘hiding’ food in plain sight and gradually increase the level of difficulty.
  • Enjoy a fun game of hide-and-seek. Simply go hide and then call your dog. Start by hiding in a place where you are easy to find and gradually increase the level of difficulty as your dog gets better at the game. This is a great way of proofing your recall cue. Please, remember the recall word is a very important cue and deserves double reinforcement.  What betterthan a fun game and a high-value reinforcer every time your dog comes, no matter how long it takes him to find you.  Please note, if it is taking a very long time, you should probably make the game easier as you want your dog to enjoy the game and have fun finding you, not get frustrated and give up.  
  • A fun tug session is also a great choice!

Interactive Feeding Toys

Whether you would like to keep your pet occupied while you are out; need your dog to be quiet while you make an important phone call; want a good way of slowing down how quickly your dog eats; want to give your dog a job in the form of an opportunity to ‘scavenge’ for his food; want to provide a suitable alternative to chewing up your furniture or nibbling on your ankles … an interactive feeding toy or appropriate chew toy is going to keep your dog busy while also providing great mental stimulation.  I recommend all pet guardians provide their dog with an interactive feeding toy.  My favourites are the KONG Classic, KONG Wobbler, West Paw Zogoflex Toppl or West Paw Zogoflex Tux. Nylabones are also one of my favourite recommendations for those in need of a good, long-lasting chew. 

KONGS and Nylabones come in a range of sizes and chewing options.  KONG options include the KONG® Classic, KONG® Extreme, KONG® Puppy and KONG® Senior. There are also KONG balls, bones, toys on ropes, rings, tires and many more rubber KONG toys. There are Nylabones for soft chewers and Nylabones for extreme chewers.  They come in a variety of shapes and flavors such as peanut butter, bacon, cheese, chicken, Philly cheese steak and more, so there is sure to be one that your dog loves.  Whether purchasing a KONG, a Nylabone or any other interactive feeding toy or chew, please choose the appropriate size and chewing ‘strength’ for your pet. Puppy teething rings are another ‘must buy’ but something a simple as soaking a face cloth in water and popping it into the freezer, means that you always have something on hand to help soothe a puppy’s sore gums.  Please always actively supervise and, if unsure as to whether the pet might try to swallow something, keep hold of it while they enjoy a good chew.

Stuffed KONGS

Stuffing a KONG is not only good for your dog, it is a great way of using up your surplus (doggie appropriate) groceries!  One of my dogs’ favourite recipes is a mixture of cooked sweet potato and flaked chicken mixed with leftover veggies and kéfir. I simply stuff the KONG and pop in the freezer for an extra challenge!

If you and your dog are just starting out with interactive feeding toys, keep it simply by simply stuffing with some loose high-quality kibble, small chunks of meat and cheese or a few small treats. Encourage your dog to play with the toy and offer plenty of praise as he starts moving it around to get the treats out.

Here’s a favourite recipe – the KONG ‘Summer Picnic’

KONG® Classic

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cream cheese

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Split the mixture between your KONGs and freeze for a greater challenge.

You can find the Kong ‘Summer Picnic’ and lots more stuffing recipes on the KONG website here

Doggie Ice-Cream

Another of my dogs’ favourite recipes is banana ice-cream. I blend the ingredients and pour into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, the doggie ice-cream is served in a West Paw Zogoflex Tux (the perfect size for an ice cream cube!). This is suitable for both feeding toy novices and pros.

Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups kéfir or plain low-fat yoghourt
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (organic if you have it)

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until it’s mixed. Pour the mixture into ice trays and freeze.  Serve in a Zogoflex Tux.

One of my dogs’ and my canine clients’ much-loved low-fat alternative to banana ice cream is fish sorbet.  This is how we make it:

West Paw Zogoflex Tux

  • Three-quarters fill an ice tray with water.
  • Flake in some tuna, sardines, mackerel or salmon.
  • Add 3 crushed blueberries or other favourite fruit such as apple, banana or melon to each cube.
  • Freeze and serve in a Zogoflex Tux.

 

Please note that some food can be toxic or otherwise hazardous to dogs. No onions, sultanas, grapes, raisins, xylitol (artificial sweetener), chocolate, macadamia nuts or cooked bones. This list is not exhaustive.  For more information on foods that could be unsafe for pets, visit the ASPCA’s People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page.

 

Training Classes

Attending group training classes is a great way of providing both mental and physical stimulation for your dog. If you are new to training, we advise a pet dog manners course – The DogSmith Small Paw Etiquette Puppy Class is a fantastic choice for those of you with young puppies.  The Pet Dog Ambassador programme is a great choice for dogs of all ages. Fun Scent Games and Trick Classes are also highly recommended as both get a big thumbs up from dogs and guardians!  If you or your dog are likely to be unhappy in a group class situation, we highly recommend private training sessions with a qualified force-free trainer.

When Should You Call a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant?

telephone-dogWhile implementing the above recommended ‘boredom busters’ is going to help provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog, if you have a dog with specific behavioural challenges such as: Aggression toward people; aggression toward dogs or other animals; leash reactivity and impulse control problems; excessive barking or digging; destructive behaviours; growling nipping and snapping behaviours; attachment or separation anxiety problems; shy or fearful behaviours; abnormal behaviors, such as excessive licking, air snapping or obsessive tail chasing; hyperactivity…  we urge you to contact a certified dog behaviour consultant as soon as possible.

 
 
 
 

More Information

The DogSmith

 
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The DogSmith offers force-free, learning-theory based dog training programmes coupled with professional pet-sitting and dog-walking services.

Whether you’re a dog owner looking to solve a specific behavioral problem, a dog lover simply wanting to strengthen and broaden your relationship with your dog, or a family wanting the best care possible for your pets while you’re away from home, the DogSmith is the only call you’ll ever need to make.

Listen to a five minute podcast about the DogSmith and our training and behavior services. There is a difference between the two.  Alternatively you can contact your DogSmith who will help guide you in your choice of services.

You can locate a local DogSmith here.

 

The Pet Professional Guild

The Pet Professional Guild is a membership organization representing pet industry professionals who are committed to results based, science based force-free training and pet care.

You can locate a PPG Professional Member in your area by clicking here: PPG Member Search

 

 


How to Stuff a KONG Toy

What’s a KONG?

The KONG is a nontoxic, dishwasher-safe rubber toy with a hollow center. When stuffed with food, it provides dogs with a healthy outlet for their natural desire to chew and lick. KONGs come in many sizes, from very tiny to extra-large. Some are made for puppies with baby teeth, some are made for regular chewers and some are made for dogs with powerful jaws. There’s a KONG out there for every dog!

Why Give Your Dog a KONG?

Nature made dogs to hunt, forage, scavenge and work for their food—not have it delivered for free in a bowl! One reason dogs develop behavior problems is sheer boredom, resulting from a lack of physical exercise, problem solving and outdoor exploration and investigation. To make your dog’s life more enjoyable, you can give him fun “work” to do when he’s home alone or when you can’t play with him.

Food puzzle toys give dogs a chance to work for their food. These toys are sturdy containers, usually made of hard rubber or plastic, that can hold food or treats. They usually have holes on each end or on the sides. A dog must work to get food to come out by shaking, pawing, rolling, nibbling or licking a puzzle toy. The effort dogs make to get their food from these toys eases boredom, reduces destructive behavior and lessens the anxiety they can feel when alone. In addition to the KONG, here are some of our favorite puzzle toys:

  • The Tug-a-Jug, the Twist ‘n Treat and the Squirrel Dude by Premier Pet Products
  • The Buster® Cube
  • The Tricky Treat Ball
  • The Atomic Treat Ball
  • The TreatStik®

How to Use a KONG

You can stuff KONGs with almost any kind of food your dog likes. Feed him his meals in a KONG by mixing his regular kibble with a little canned dog food, cottage cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, canned pumpkin or mashed banana. After spooning the mixture into the KONG, you can use a bit of cream cheese or peanut butter to seal everything in. You can also fill your dog’s KONGs with special snacks to supplement his diet. See the recipes below for creative KONG-stuffing ideas.

Start Out Easy

Dogs don’t automatically know how to use food puzzle toys. They need to learn how. When you introduce your dog to the KONG, you’ll need to make it easy for him to empty it so he doesn’t get discouraged and give up. Use small pieces of kibble or treats that will fall out of the KONG easily.

Make It Harder

When your dog learns how to use the KONG and can empty easy KONGs quickly, you can make his job more difficult. He’ll love the challenge!

  • Use bigger pieces of food. Wedge chunks of fruits and veggies and larger biscuits inside the opening of the KONG.
  • Put a few cubes of cheese inside the KONG. After stuffing it with the cheese and some of your dog’s regular food, put the KONG in the microwave for just five to eight seconds so that the cheese gets sticky and soft. (Be sure that the KONG is completely cool before you give it to your dog.)
  • Hide your dog’s KONGs around your home. Dogs love finding hidden food and unpacking stuffed food puzzle toys! Try putting your dog’s breakfast in KONGs and hiding them right before you leave for work in the morning. Your dog will have a great time working for his meal while you’re away. (A word of warning: Some dogs can make a bit of a mess while enjoying KONGs. If a KONG has soft or wet food inside it—or if your dog tends to drool a lot when chewing on things—you might want to give him KONGs only when he’s in his crate, outside or confined in a room with flooring that’s easy to clean, like tile or linoleum.)
  • Make a KONGcicle! They’re great for spring and summertime outdoor enjoyment. First, put a dab of peanut butter at the bottom of the KONG to seal the small hole. Then turn the KONG upside down and place it in a cup. Stuff the KONG with kibble, canned food, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, banana or anything else you like. Pour a little chicken broth or gravy into the KONG and freeze it overnight.

KONG Stuffing Recipes

Here are some of our favorite recipes. Give them a try—or make up special recipes of your own! Just be sure to avoid foods that can be dangerous to your dog, like onions, garlic, avocados, macadamia nuts, bread dough, grapes and raisins, moldy foods, artificial sweeteners, fatty cuts of meat and chocolate. If you’re unsure about what’s safe to feed your dog, contact his veterinarian for advice and please see our article, Foods That Are Hazardous to Dogs.

Main Courses

The Basic KONG

You’ll need:

  • A special treat for “dessert,” like a cube of freeze-dried liver or jerky
  • Your dog’s kibble
  • Canned dog food
  • Sticky sealer (a blob of peanut butter, processed cheese or cream cheese)

Drop the special treat into the bottom of the KONG. Then mix together your dog’s kibble and a few spoonfuls of canned dog food. Spoon the mixture into the KONG. When the KONG is filled, seal all the food inside using a dab of peanut butter, a smear of processed cheese or a little cream cheese. If you find that your dog can lick the KONG clean within just a few minutes, try freezing it overnight before giving it to him to satisfy him longer.

Meat and Potatoes

You’ll need:

  • Ground turkey, chicken, lean hamburger or cubed chuck steak or roast
  • Potatoes, brown rice, cooked oatmeal or crumbled whole wheat bread
  • Kidney beans and grated raw or lightly steamed veggies

Combine equal parts meat and potatoes or grain. Stir in a spoonful of beans and a sprinkle of raw grated or steamed and mashed veggies. Freeze the KONG overnight or serve it warm.

Chicken Stew

  • 1 whole chicken or fryer parts (breast and thighs)
  • Potatoes or cooked brown rice, oatmeal or millet
  • Vegetables: Some that dogs like raw (grated or finely chopped) are parsley, carrots, zucchini, lettuce, bell peppers (green, red, orange and yellow), fresh corn, celery, tomatoes and beets. Some veggies that dogs enjoy steamed are green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes and hard winter squash.

In a soup kettle, cover the chicken with water, lightly salt and spice to taste, and add chopped veggies—celery, carrots, diced tomato, bell pepper, etc. If you’re using potato, add that to the stew as well. If you’re using grains, cook them separately. When the stew is done, you’re ready to combine everything. Put equal parts of meat and grain or potato in a large bowl, along with a tablespoon or two of the vegetables. (The vegetables should amount to about five percent of your dog’s meal.) Then spoon the mixture into a KONG. If you’re going to freeze the KONG, you can add some broth as well.

Itchy Dog KONG (for dogs with allergies on restricted prescription diets)

Because dogs with food allergies usually can’t have regular treats or chews, it can be challenging to come up with ways to add variety to their diets. Using KONGs to feed your allergic dog can help spice up his life. Just be sure to check with his veterinarian or dermatologist for a list of approved foods before you get started. The following recipe includes ingredients that many dogs with food allergies can eat. You’ll need:

  • Your dog’s prescription kibble
  • A few spoonfuls of water or prescription canned food
  • Grated, steamed or raw asparagus spears, broccoli, zucchini and/or carrots
  • A few chunks of apple, banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, a strawberry, some blueberries or a section of orange
  • A hypoallergenic biscuit, formulated for dogs with food allergies (ask your dog’s veterinarian about where to find these)
  • Baked russet or sweet potato
  • Vegetarian refried beans

First drop the fruit into the bottom of the KONG for dessert. Then mix together your dog’s kibble, the wet food or water, and the veggies. Put a spoonful or two of the mixture into the KONG. Then put a chunk or two of potato in. Repeat, layering the mixture and potato until the KONG is almost filled. Finally, cram the biscuit into the end of the KONG. Seal everything in with a dab of the vegetarian refried beans. Serve warm, at room temperature or frozen.

Snack KONGs

Warm Veggie Delight

You’ll need:

  • Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, peas and/or carrots (use any or all of the above)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Chop the veggies into chunks, grate them or steam and mash them. Put a few veggies into a KONG. Sprinkle in a spoonful of cheese. Repeat, layering the veggies and cheese until the KONG is full. Then microwave the KONG for five to eight seconds, just until the veggies are warm and the cheese is soft. Make sure the veggies and cheese aren’t too hot to eat before giving the KONG to your dog. To challenge him, you can freeze the KONG after stuffing and microwaving it. (The melted cheese will be hard to get out after it’s been frozen with the veggies.)

Western KONGmelete

You’ll need:

  • One egg
  • Cheese
  • Bell peppers and tomatoes

Grate the bell peppers or lightly steam them. Chop the tomatoes into chunks. Then scramble one egg with a sprinkle of cheese. Spoon the cheesy egg and the veggies into a KONG. Seal the KONG with a small chunk of cheese. Serve warm.

Fido’s Fruit Salad

You’ll need:

  • Cottage cheese or yogurt (only use plain or naturally sweetened yogurt—not yogurt with artificial sweeteners, which can be toxic to dogs)
  • Apples, banana and melon (any kind)
  • One small marshmallow

Cut the fruit into chunks and put them into a KONG until the toy is about two-thirds of the way full. Holding the KONG upside down, spoon cottage cheese or yogurt into the remaining space. Finally, finish by putting a small marshmallow into the KONG. Serve at room temperature or frozen.

“Pupkin” Pie

You’ll need:

  • Canned or freshly cooked pureed pumpkin
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese (only use plain or naturally sweetened yogurt—not yogurt with artificial sweeteners, which can be toxic to dogs)
  • Cooked oatmeal
  • Low-fat graham cracker

Put a spoonful of cooked oatmeal at the bottom of the KONG to seal the small hole. Then put two spoonfuls of pumpkin into the KONG. Follow with a spoonful of yogurt or cottage cheese. Repeat, layering the pumpkin and yogurt or cottage cheese until the KONG is almost full. Then cram a few pieces of graham cracker into the end of the KONG. Serve warm or frozen.

The Nutty Monkey

You’ll need:

  • Half a banana, cut into slices
  • Peanut butter
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Plain, vanilla or strawberry yogurt (only use plain or naturally sweetened yogurt—not yogurt with artificial sweeteners, which can be toxic to dogs)
  • A spoonful of wheat germ

Put a blob of peanut butter into an empty KONG to seal the small hole at the bottom. Add a few roasted peanuts. Mix the banana slices with a few spoonfuls of yogurt and the wheat germ. Then spoon the mixture into the KONG. Seal the KONG at the top with another blob of peanut butter. Serve at room temperature or frozen.

Late-for-Work KONGs (As Easy As It Gets)

Running late? If you’re busy and don’t have time to create culinary works of art, you can simply take a few seconds to try the following ideas. This is KONG stuffing at its fastest!

  • Keep a stash of halved bananas in your freezer. When you’re on the run, just grab a banana half and slide it into a KONG. Or slice an apple into wedges and insert one or two of those into a KONG.
  • Cram a large dog biscuit or two into a KONG. If necessary, squeeze the KONG when inserting the biscuits to change the shape of the hole and fit them in.
  • If you feed your dog raw food, try purchasing frozen raw medallions, which easily pop into a KONG. Just turn the KONG upside down on a counter, large hole facing up, and push the medallion into the KONG using the heel of your palm.
  • Use a squirt of Cheez Whiz®. Just insert the nozzle into the small end of the KONG and squeeze in some cheese. You can also use a similar product made by the KONG Company, called KONG Stuff’N Paste, which comes in liver and peanut butter flavors.
  • Smear a spoonful of peanut butter or cream cheese (preferably low-fat) on the inside walls of a KONG. If you think that your dog might finish licking out the KONG too quickly, consider preparing a few peanut butter or cream cheese KONGs in advance and leaving them in your freezer for quick use when you’re in a hurry.

Bon appétit! For more great recipe ideas and information on serving sizes and ensuring complete nutrition with home-cooked meals, we recommend Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn, DVM; Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Canine Gastronome by Arden Moore; and Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Donald Strombeck, DVM, PhD.

Sourced full article from

http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/76/How-to-Stuff-a-KONG-Toy.aspx