School’s in Session!

The kids are now back in school and there is no one to play with our dogs or cats during the day anymore. Do our pets get bored when we are not home to interact with them?

Of course, they do!

I wish I had realized this back when I was just starting out as a dog owner. It sure would have lessened the number of crazy messes I had to clean up; chewed shoes and books I had to throw out and furniture and blinds I had to replace!!!

These days, I understand that keeping both our dogs and our cats occupied, not only makes them happier and better behaved, but an active mind also helps your pet live a richer and longer life, too. Healthy minds equal both happier pets and happier owners.

Here are some of the suggestions I came up with while researching this topic. My sources were an article from Petco’s website www.petcoach.com called, “10 Ways to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog”; an article from www.wideopenpets.com called “10 Games to Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated”; and an article from www.vetstreet.com called “10 Tips to Keep Your Cat’s Brain Forever Young.”

For when you are not home:

  1. Buy some interactive toys and rotate which one you leave out. For dogs, and now cats, too, there are a number of toys which you can hide food in that your pets must solve the puzzle of how to open in order to get their treat. A great place to look for these kinds of toys are chewy.com or on www.amazon.com .
  2. Build an indoor obstacle course that you put up before you leave and change every few days. You can hide treats to be found within the course. These can consist of boxes, containers, chairs and blankets, kids’ crawl through tunnels, etc. For kitties, they love things to climb up on, hid inside of or stuff toys into or under such as cat trees, paper bags, open drawers, and small boxes. Your imagination is the limit!
  3. Set up kitty and/or puppy “TV” – give your pets access to a window that they can view outside activity through such as birds at a bird feeder/birdbath for your cats and people walking by with their dogs on the sidewalk for your dogs.
  4. Keep your pet toys put up and rotate which ones are left out each day.

For when you are home – inside interactive activities:

Dogs:

  1. Make your dog work for their treats. Start simple like picking which fist the treat is hidden in then move to hiding the treats in the room (i.e. under a pillow on the couch), and finally hide treats in other rooms of the house.
  2. Teach your dog several tricks or simple commands such as sit, stay, lay down, roll over, shake, high five, etc. Our dogs love to please us and are stimulated by learning new tasks.
  3. After your dog has learned a variety of tricks by specific command, then use the command, “new trick” and wait to see what trick they give you. Reinforce whatever they give you the first time but not the second time. Only reinforce NEW tricks until they have run through their entire repertoire!
  4. Play hide and seek with your dog by ‘hiding’ behind doors, under blankets, in the tub, etc. and calling them to you.
  5. Teach “names” for items starting with one and building from there using the command, “Give me the _____,” and rewarding for attempting at retrieving the correct object.

Cats:

  1. Play daily with your cat with not only store-bought toys but homemade cat toys like wads of paper or foil, socks stuffed with catnip, ribbons or string to drag on the floor, big paper bags to climb in and out of, etc.
  2. Shine light beams or laser beams on the floor or low on the wall and move them near your kitty and watch what happens.
  3. Pick up puzzle toys for cats that dispense treats.
  4. Teach to walk on a leash and go ‘exploring’ outside.

And for those times when you can get outside with your pups:

  1. Change your dog walking route (where you walk) and routine (when you walk) on a regular basis to keep it exciting and novel.
  2. Do some outdoor games that will be fun and provide exercise for your furry friend like the classic – retrieving a stick or ball or catching a Frisbee.
  3. Periodically go to places where your dog can socialize with other dogs like a dog park or Huntington Beach’s dog beach.

In summary, remember your fur children need their ‘education’, too! Put a little extra time and effort into your interactions with your pets and it will pay off in their increased contentment and your decreased problems when you come home at the end of the day.

 

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