Category "Canine Enrichment"

9Sep2018

Dogs love to sniff and it’s incredibly good for them.

Here comes the science…

According to the most recent research, mammalian brains have 7 emotional systems, SEEKING being one.  Sniffing activates the dog’s SEEKING emotional system.

SEEKING is “the basic impulse to search, investigate, and make sense of the environment” and promotes

  • curiosity
  • anticipation
  • looking forward to good things  

SEEKING is a very pleasurable emotion.  It releases feel-good chemicals; endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, which, amongst other things, promote optimism.

The SEEKING system is the system that helps animals anticipate all types of rewards.  

The SEEKING system is incompatible with other emotional systems such as RAGE and FEAR, although the emotional state can change very, very quickly.

The SEEKING system is activated in children at Christmas time; anticipating all the presents they’re going to get.  The anticipation of Christmas is often more pleasurable than the presents themselves, just like sniffing out food can be more rewarding for dogs than eating the food.

Here are some games and activities to activate the SEEKING emotional system:

  • ‘Bimble’ walks
  • Scent work
  • Scatter feeding
  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt
  • Training
5Mar2018

I use lots of treats during training.  I don’t use shop bought treats as that would end up being pretty expensive and I’m not sure how healthy a lot of them are.

I dry meat.  It’s reasonably easy.  It’s pretty cheap.  Dried meat is easy to handle and doesn’t get your fingers smelly and greasy.

Good meats to dry are pig’s liver, chicken and beef.  Not so much pork or ham as it has a higher fat content and doesn’t always dry well and lamb’s liver, as well has being more expensive than pig’s liver, is more crumbly when dried.  I crush some garlic cloves and marinade the meat and the garlic in a food bag over night.  This might be a bit controversial as garlic is poisonous to dogs, but garlic is ok in moderation and my dogs love it, but you can leave it out if you want.  I then put the meat in the freezer, just so that it can start to solidify as this makes it easier to slice.  Once the meat starts to solidify, take it out of the freezer and cut it into thin slices.  Put the sliced meat in the oven.  Meat has to be cooked at at least 70 degrees centigrade.  I usually cook it at 80 degrees.   Check the meat every hour and once it’s about half dry, take the meat out of the oven and break it up or cut it into small treats, about 25% of the size of a lady’s thumbnail or smaller.  Put it back in the oven and bake until it’s dried right the way through.

The treats will keep in the fridge for ages if fully dried.

Don’t forget to take into account any treats your dog has had when considering their daily food allowance.

4Mar2018

These balls came from Tesco, but Pets at Home do a rubber ball with holes in it which is probably better.  I cut some strips of felt, folded some liver treats into the felt, loosely knotted the felt and put the felt into the middle of the ball, making sure to leave a bit of felt hanging out.  Dyfri’s good at these games and worked out quickly that she needed to pull on the felt to get the treats.  Celyn got the treats out, but I think it was more luck than judgement.

 

28Feb2018

I can’t take credit for inventing this, I saw it on Facebook.  The bottle was out in the garden, hanging from a washing line, but the only part of my garden that’s enclosed is where the dogs go to toilet and I don’t have a washing line, so I improvised.

I cut a small hole in the bottom of a 2 litre plastic bottle, put some kibble in it and suspended it from the staircase.

This is quite hard, but Dyfri’s a bit of a pro at these kind of things.  See the videos below.  The first attempt was with a bit of kibble, the second was with some frozen chicken treats.

The only down side is that Celyn also gets very excited at Dyfri’s attempts and barks the place down.

Patiently waiting for ‘hanging bottle’ to be recharged! 

30Jan2018

Another of my dog’s favourites. Snuffle mats are made from rubber mats with strips of fleece. You sprinkle treats or kibble in between the strips of fleece. It takes my dogs about 20 minutes to eat their food from a snuffle mat, as opposed to about 30 seconds from a bowl, and then they swap to make sure that nobody has missed anything and get about another 10 minutes enjoyment.

30Jan2018

The towel game is another really easy way to entertain your dog. Get a tea towel, place treats or kibble on the towel, roll the towel up, leaving some treats visible the first few times you do it, give the towel to the dog.

Dizzy, the dog in the video, had lost the use of his back legs, so this was a great game for him; his brain had to work out how to get the treats, but his body didn’t need to move much.

30Jan2018

The snuffle box is an absolute favourite of mine and so easy to make.  It involves a box, some scrunched up newspaper and some kibble (dog biscuits) or small treats.  Make sure that the edge of the box isn’t so high that the dog will damage his throat.  As you can see, Celyn preferred to get inside hers.  My first attempt was with 2 boxes that kitchen bins came in.  Celyn could even shut the top of the box so she could eat inside in peace!  The boxes lasted over a month when Dyfri’s started to rip, so I upgraded to 2 plastic boxes.

30% of a dog’s brain is used for sniffing, so snuffling is a very enriching exercise for them.