Indoor Fun

Between the pandemic, rising temps, and the dust from the Sahara, our outdoor activities have been curtailed through June. In pursuit of new ways to keep Sasha entertained–and exercised–I turned to the American Kennel Club’s website and discovered cool tips and tricks for indoor fun. I compiled a few of my current favorites here. Enjoy!

Search & Snuffle

If you’ve been following Sasha’s story, you may remember that the coffee bean grinder initially terrified her. (See, for example, posts here and here.) These days, she knows coffee time equals treat time and comes running in to wherever I might be to claim her prize. I usually roll a tiny treat across the oak floors so that she has to search for it. Great game for kitties, too! When I’m tossing a treat for Buddy The Wonder Cat, I make sure it lands in an open area so he can pounce and pat and knock it all about before he eats it.

Snuffle mats are another way to keep your dog mentally stimulated. As I mentioned in previous posts, snuffle mats can be a great way to distract your pup while you’re working at home. And with you close by, you’ll both enjoy the activity.  Some like to hide the breakfast kibble in a mat and let them forage for their food. There’s a rich variety of mats available online, and you can easily find sources with a quick Google search. Personally, I prefer the “use what you have” approach. I alternate between an old, loosely woven throw rug, a blanket from Sasha’s crate, and a large bath towel. This morning I used an extra-large old towel and rolled it very tight, tucking treats in at random intervals. It took her nearly ten minutes of concentrated attention to discover the treats.

Scent Games

Snuffle mats can be a great introduction to scent work. I like to give Sasha time with the Muffin Tin game (supervised by Buddy The Wonder Cat, of course.) I’ll hide a bit of hot dog or cheese in a few of the cups, while others use this as a way to make dinner time fun. Here’s a great video from YouTube showing how it works:

 

For more fun ideas, check out https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/indoor-scent-games-for-dogs/

Ready for more advanced scent work? Here’s information about the sport of Scent Work, courtesy of the AKC:

Fascinating fact: Dogs have a sense of smell that’s between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours! The sport of Scent Work celebrates the joy of sniffing, and asks a dog to sniff to their heart’s content; turning your dog’s favorite activity into a rewarding game. It is a terrific sport for all kinds of dogs, and is a wonderful way to build confidence in a shy dog.

In so many dog sports the handler is in control but this isn’t true in Scent Work. Neither the dog nor handler knows where the target odor is hidden. The handler has to rely on the dog, and follow the dog’s nose to success. In Scent Work, it is the canine who is the star of the show.

The sport of Scent Work is based on the work of professional detection dogs (such as drug dogs), employed by humans to detect a wide variety of scents and substances. In AKC Scent Work, dogs search for cotton swabs saturated with the essential oils of Birch, Anise, Clove, and Cypress. The cotton swabs are hidden out of sight in a pre-determined search area, and the dog has to find them. Teamwork is necessary: when the dog finds the scent, he has to communicate the find to the handler, who calls it out to the judge.

Learn more online.

Shape Up!

Whatever your dog’s age, you can help them stay toned and limber with conditioning exercises. Use whatever’s handy around the house as props, and grab some yummy treats. If you’re counting calories or just not a fan of treats, use your happy voice, or reward your pup with a favorite toy you’ve tucked away and bring out only on special occasions.

Sasha and I have just begun working on the “step stool stroll.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The expression “Yeah, no” seems an apt description, at least for my efforts here. Give it a try and see for yourself. Here’s info from the AKC:

The idea is for your dog to walk around a step stool with their front paws on the stool and back paws on the ground. Although it may sound easy to you, dogs generally lack rear end awareness—where their front paws go, their back paws follow. This exercise really gets your dog thinking about what each paw is doing. If you have a small dog, try using a large book that has been duct-taped closed. For large dogs, an upside-down storage bin can do the trick.

Start by teaching your dog to place only the front paws on the prop. Once your dog is comfortable, encourage movement to either side while the front paws stay elevated. You can do this by luring your dog with a treat. Or you can shape the behavior by capturing any back paw movement and slowly building to a 360-degree turn around the stool.

There are more exercises and “how to” instructions available online. Check them out!

Multiply the fun with dog agility!

And finally, here’s something for the humans in the household. Learn about dog breeds and sports while strengthening math skills–a great idea for these learn-from-home days. According to the AKC:

Math Agility features fifteen playable dog breeds, as well as 60 different breed cards to unlock. To advance in the game, players solve quick math facts, with the option of focusing on addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Players take twelve tours across the game’s map to compete in different agility trials across the United States, eventually ending up at the National Championship in Perry, Georgia. Tours are available in three skill levels, appealing to students of various ages and academic levels.

 

I hope you found the information and ideas presented here useful. Whether indoors or out, there’s plenty of ways to keep you and your dog active and happy!

The Value of Purpose-Bred Dogs

While researching information for my Waterside Kennels series, I’ve learned a lot about dogs in general and about the people associated with breeding and training dogs. Sadly, some of these people are all too often motivated by profit. This has given rise to a veritable cottage industry populated by backyard breeders, puppy mills, and stores who may sell puppies (for hundreds of dollars–or more) from people who have limited or no knowledge of bloodlines, standards, or even breed-specific temperament.

In contrast, responsible breeders work diligently to maintain clean, well-managed facilities, follow industry standards for healthy breeding stock, and work hard to preserve breed characteristics. If you’re interested in finding a responsible breeder, the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a list of breeders as well as tips to help you make an informed decision.

If you’re not sure which breed might be best for you, you can compare breeds, talk to breeders and owners, and watch the dog in action.

For an example of a purpose-bred dog, check out this story of a coon hound that demonstrated her ability to apply tracking skills in a totally unexpected situation.

Coon Hound tracking

Read more about Billie in an article authored by Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz and published online at akc.org.

It’s Hot!

Photo courtesy of The Canine Chronicle

Check the Old Farmers Almanac and you’ll see we’re in the middle of what’s known as the Dog Days of Summer. The term was coined long before the Almanac was first published in 1792. Some credit Greek mythology while others track the term back to the ancient Romans. Whatever its source, you might find it a struggle to stay cool in the sweltering heat. And just imagine how your dog feels! Here are a few simple strategies that can help you and your dog enjoy your summer adventures:

Walk early in the day. Our summertime strategy is to walk Sasha in the morning before the temps rise. Even then, she tends to move from one spot of shade to another, and she’s not shy about stopping when she’s had enough.

An important reminder: pavement will always be much hotter than the air temperature. Press your palm against the pavements for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot to hold your hand there, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Here’s a helpful infographic from the Grand Strand Humane Society:

Carry water with you. You don’t need anything fancy–just something you can easily carry. I keep two squeeze bottles on hand for Sasha that clip on my belt.  When she wants a drink, she will plop down on the grass and wait for me to flip the bottle and squeeze water into the drinking tray.

Grab the hose. Drag a small wading pool to a shady spot and add a toy or two to entertain the pups while they cool off. Your pups might also enjoy lawn sprinklers. In our house, Buddy The Wonder Cat (who loves any kind of moving water) introduced Sasha to the fine art of chasing the in-ground sprinklers, which helps them cool off while giving them plenty of exercise. We keep a supply of old towels on the patio and enjoy their silly antics. We usually all end up needing a bath, but it’s worth it to keep them cool and happy!

 

Want more ideas? Check out these great resources:

Help your dog beat the heat ( AKC’s tips for keeping your dog cool in summer)

Exercise when it’s too hot outside (Ideas to exercise your dog in hot weather)

**Happy Summer!**

Happy Birthday!

In AKC time, Sasha is five years old today! We chose July 4th for her “official” birthday in declaration of her independence from the old and in celebration of her new life. She’s now formally recognized by the AKC as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.

For those new to the story, here’s a quick recap of how her AKC name came to be:

We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a double play on that last word. We included Summer because she has a warm, sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.

As I write this, Sasha is sprawled beneath my desk, taking refuge from the incessant bang of fireworks. In previous years, we resorted to noisy fans and cheerful music to block out the fireworks. This year, other than sticking close to me (which, let’s face it, is basically a habit of hers), Sasha seems unconcerned. Progress!

Ticks!

Like many parts of the world, summer in the Ozarks brings out the ticks. That’s why I keep my Sheltie on prescribed tick preventative and check her daily checks after walks. Still, nothing’s 100% effective when it comes to repelling these blood-sucking critters. That’s why, when Sasha showed signs of lethargy and her now-and-then limp became more pronounced, I had her tested for tick-borne disease. Sure enough, she tested positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She’s begun a regime of antibiotics, which wreaks havoc with her digestive track. I’m happy to report we seem to be through the worst of it and she’s responding well to treatment.

This graphic, courtesy of Dogs Naturally magazine, shows the different ticks that transmit this disease: 

Ticks, flies, fleas, sand flies, and mosquitoes are all parasites that can transmit what’s known as “Companion Vector Borne Diseases.” Go here to see an interactive map that provides a global perspective of disease occurrence diseases by type of parasite. You can narrow your search by country or state, as well.  This site, by the way, also includes general information about ticks and preventative measures.

Here’s a graphic courtesy of The Dogington Post, which highlights places you’ll want to check. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation is another helpful resource. Learn all you can, and be prepared!