Up & Down – pacifying and energising activities for dogs
To really benefit from enrichment and entertainment, dogs need both pacifying and energising activities – if we bring them up (energising) we also need to bring them down (pacifying) again.
This can be applied in real life too, and not just in games. If your dog gets particularly excited by something such as the doorbell or seeing another dog, make sure to give him the opportunity to engage in a pacifying activity afterwards to help him calm again.
Use your dog’s regular food for pacifying and energising activities in fun kibble games:
We have a training challenge for you today (and tomorrow)!
Each game will take 30 seconds to 10 minutes depending on which games you choose.
Your dog will be doing lots of the work!
Children will enjoy preparing some of these games but please take care – it’s not recommended that your dog associate high activity and excitement with children so best choose games that the kids can participate in carefully.
Just ask us if you need help!
Today choose at least one energising activity and one pacifying activity that you and your dog will enjoy.
Play with your dog:
- 1-2 minute pacifying activity
- 30 second energising activity
- 1-2 minute pacifying activity
Have a few rounds of that sequence today (always beginning and ending with pacifying activities) – be creative, mix and match activities and time it so that pacifying activities coincide with your natural settling routines e.g. family dinner time, watching TV.
Beginner Level ideas:
- repeat Thursday’s game (I play this one with my dog every day!)
- bring a yummy lined (frozen) Kong toy or chew on your walk today and give to your dog about halfway through in a calm and low-distraction place; settle for about ten minutes (check your phone, bring a book…) – take a break!
It’s a good idea to provide your dog with a pacifying activity after your walk too.
Advanced Level ideas:
- teach your dog to start and stop your favourite game on cue – have an obedience break of at least two behaviours
- play jazz up/settle down:
Get your dog all excited and wound up for a five count.
Ask your dog to lie down or settle and be quiet.
Once your dog is quiet, get him all wound up again.
Have an assistant (the kids might love this job!) time how long it takes for the dog to settle.
Repeat – record your improving times.
When working on pacifying activities use your dog’s regular food to avoid too much excitement.
Lapping & chewing are calming for dogs and a great (and more acceptable) outlet for destructive behaviours.
Providing your dog with a stuffed or lined chew toy can encourage him to settle, lap and chew so helping him to relax too.
Of course we are big fans of Kong toys!
Simply lining a Kong toy with something yummy and freezing it can be a great way of keeping your dog busy and chilled, easily.
Make a homemade pacifier for your dog; and it makes a great summer treat too:
- line a lunchbox with a plastic bag or film
- add some food, treats, chews to the lunchbox
- add water or low-salt stock
- turn it out but don’t give to your dog if he is already hot or cold
Choose chews for your dog carefully and know your dog’s chewing style. Your dog chewing anything may be potentially harmful in a particular situation so be aware of ways to reduce the risks.
It’s never a good idea to give your dog cooked bones or very hard bone (e.g. weight bearing bone, heavy antlers etc.) as these can cause damage either when ingested or during chewing to teeth.
Natural chews are generally best but always check and monitor their condition. Look for signs of splitting or splintering, and keep an eye on their size appropriate to your dog.
Chews such as gullets, ‘pizzles’ and scalp have become more widely available.
Cheaper rawhide type chews can be dangerous if swallowed so if choosing rawhide look for chews that are constructed from one piece of hide, that are not bleached or coloured and keep a close eye on your dog as he chews them.
If in doubt, ask your qualified veterinary healthcare team before allowing your pet to chew!
Settle exercises will help to teach our dogs to take up a more relaxed position on cue, so as to help him chill out while you relax too.
Don’t worry, we will be working on settling and calming exercises during our program so you will have lots of practice.
Self-control exercises help to boost your dog’s frustration tolerance and patience. Asking your dog to think first before acting will help him to calm himself in exciting situations.
We will be working on lots of these exercises during our program too.
These are the easy ones – dogs are very good at getting excited! That means we have to work harder at teaching our dogs calming behaviours.
So, we will use these energising activities to help teach our dogs to calm too.
Chasing and catching food rewards is a great way of getting your dog activated and is perfect for rainy days when outdoor exercise may be limited.
Always work within your dog’s physical capabilities and take care of the sorts of surfaces you ask your dog to run, jump and turn on.
Games like Chase the Kibble, Catch the Kibble or Goalkeeping are simple and require very little activity on your part so are perfect if you are feeling under the weather.
If you have a fit dog, having them chase kibble or food rewards up and down the stairs can tire them quickly.
Energising Food Dispensing Toys such as Kong Wobblers are some of our favourites.
You can get lots of different variations too and most pet shops stock them.
You can make your own too!
Cut a couple of holes in a Pringles container (or Bisto gravy granules or similar), add kibble or treats and tape on the lid.
Add kibble to a plastic bottle and seal up the lid. Cut a couple of holes along the body of the bottle.
Allow your dog to roll their puzzle to release the yummies.
Practicing training exercises such as tricks and manners in short sessions each day gets valuable practice in while providing both physical and mental challenges.
And of course you will get lots of practice during this program!
You can also introduce energising activities with toys. Games such as tug and fetch are great fun for both dogs and humans BUT if we are going to play games, there must be rules.
Rules help prevent some of the problems that can be associated with too much high-arousal, repetitive activity (see Tuesday’s post).
Teach your dog the rules of these games first, so that the fun stays fun:
- the game starts on cue only
Use a cue word or action that lets your dog know the game is going to start.
Rules that may be in place in ‘real life’ may not be in play during a game and other rules may be enforced so letting your dog know it’s time to play will reduce confusion.
This can also help to prevent your dog being frustrated or nagging at you to play.
- the game ends on cue
Teach your dog to give up his toy on cue and end the game so life can go back to normal. This is a good time to provide your dog with a pacifying activity to reward him for ending the game and to help bring him back down from his excitement.
Teaching a ball-addict to give up a ball on cue can require some training:
- have lots of obedience breaks
When you first start teaching the rules of the game, have an obedience break after every ball-throw or 3-5 – count of tug.
Ask your dog for two or three obedience behaviours and then reward him with the opportunity to play again.
Teaching Tug (with rules) is an excellent way of improving your dog’s self control, responsiveness and having fun!
- dog touches human = game over
Define your rules in terms of what you find acceptable and then make sure to consistently have those rules in play during the game.
Because play is exciting dogs can lose a little control so may grab at clothing or your hands, for example, they may jump up more than usual or bump into their human companion.
To keep excitement under control as much as possible it’s a good idea to be pretty strict early on and relax as appropriate as your dog improves.
Generally, it’s a good idea to end the game if your dog’s mouth catches your clothing or skin. Just stop playing, put the toy away and be very boring and still. Wait for your dog to calm a little, ask them for an obedience break and then start the game again.
Play for a shorter time and keep the action a little more low-key this time to help prevent your dog losing control again. As you practice more games-with-rules you will be able to increase the length of the fun part!
Remember, you are always training your dog – even when playing:
Today’s training games are certainly a little more challenging and you and your dog have done great!
Well done – the last plan of the week is coming on Saturday so be sure to let us know how you are getting on 🙂