It’s cold outside, dark early, and you and your dogs are going stir crazy! So what are some fun games you can play with your dogs (and cats!) to keep them entertained? Here’s a list of our favorite games:
1) Teaching your dog to wait for a treat: Start with your dog in a sit (or position they know already), give the wait command, and then release (we use “OK” as our release word) and reward with the treat. As they advanced, you can add in new positions (sit, down, stand), add in how long they have to wait, and even make it harder by placing the treat on the ground and release to the treat on the ground. This is a good life skill-we ask our dogs to wait at all doors, before getting out of the car, their crate, etc. Just a hint-you may want to start on leash when placing the treat on the ground so your dog cannot self reward!
2) Snuffling for treats: Dogs love to use their noses, so let’s teach them to search for treats! We start with placing a few treats on the ground (carpet and grass work great as they have to work a little harder for the treats!) Snuffle mats work great for this as well! Here are some examples of snuffle mats
You don’t even need treats for this-you can have your dog search for their regular kibble. Once your dog understands sniffing the food out, you can make it harder by hiding the food in tissue boxes and other rooms. We even use the snuffle mats to feed our dogs their regular meals!
3) Cups and treats: Place treats in some cups, leave some empty, release your dog to search out the treats. Once they have mastered this, progress to turning the cups over and see if they can sniff out the right cup! You can move onto hiding the food in different containers and have them search it out!
4) And as usual there are lots of food puzzles/toys out there that can occupy your dog! We love kongs with frozen treats inside, food balls that have to be rolled around to dispense the food, wobbler toys, and more!
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital