Bored, Bored, BORED
It is probably impossible to overstate just how bored most family pets are – and that means dogs and cats. Predatory behavior in cats is usually easily recognized (they “playfully” pounce on wiggly things much to our delight) but dogs have evolved as predators and scavengers and while we see some similar behaviors the scavenging behavior lends itself more to being on the move.
But, what do the clever humans do? Well, they lovingly place a pile full of not very healthy “stuff” in a bowl and shut out all opportunities for natural – NECESSARY- outlets for the critters in their lives.
It is really important to recognize that most of the dogs that people decide to bring into their lives have actually been bred to DO something for a living. They flush birds, they hunt lions, they search for and kill any vermin they can get, they retrieve killed critters, etc. And? They are cute so they are bought, brought home and expected to be content to lie at our feet calmly awaiting an opportunity to do something – anything!
Yeah, right. The dog’s take may well be: The remote control! Hooray. Killed it! What a good dog I am! The “retrieved” mail that dropped through the slot may well have you wondering who sent that mess. The dog’s take may well be: Killed that invader and mom will surely be super happy! You may even find yourself saying to your neighbor: So, so sorry about your beloved kitty. Vermin? Not hardly – but the bored hunting type dog did what was ever so carefully genetically nurtured for many, many generations resulting in successful, productive behavior!
Get real folks. You have a DOG in your house. Learn what is NATURAL canine behavior and not only deal with it but get into enrichment programs and true care and concern for your canine buddy.
Lore Haug, DVM, MS, DACVB, a canine behavior specialist, formerly at Texas A,& M, recommends “that dogs receive their entire daily ration of food during training or from enrichment devices”.
Here are some of Dr. Haug’s suggestions:
Feed the dog from a Buster Cube or Roll-a-Treat ball
Place dog food or treats inside a cardboard box, old towel/rag or plastic jugs and allow the dog to tear the item apart to get to the food inside.
Scatter food out in the grass in the yard or across the floor in your house to make the dog search for each piece.
Stuff Kong toys full of various food items (or the dog’s meal) and freeze them overnight before giving them to the dog.
Divide portions of the dog’s meal into small Tupperware containers and hide them around the house for the dog to find.
Place novel scents in the environment using small amounts of spices, herbs, extracts, or synthetic animal scents (rabbit, quail, squirrel, etc., available from a sporting goods store).
Build the dog a sand box either by sectioning off a 4-5 foot square area in our yard or buying a child’s wading pool and filling it with sand and dirt.
Buy the dog a child’s wading pool and fill it with water. If your dog enjoys both water and digging you can alternate the substrate in the pool each week.
Place vegetables and fruits (e.g. melons, apples, lettuce, squash, watermelon, carrots, celery, etc) out in the yard or you can bury them in the sand box or float them in the wading pool.
Add sugar-free Kool-Aid, Gatorade powder, or bullion (or other broths) to water and freeze into a popsicle in a variety of sizes of Tupperware. You can add various pieces of food items to these: fruits, vegetables, cheese, dog food, meat, etc.
Hang rope or innertubes from a branch or other item in the yard for the dog to play tug with and increase the dog’s interest by putting food items inside
Give the dog old water bottles or milk jugs made of either cardboard or plastic. You can increase the dog’s interest by putting food inside. . Always remove the plastic ring and the plastic caps before allowing dogs to play with these items. Be careful to remove all these items when the dog is finished playing with them.
Some dogs will play with old tires either loose on the ground or hanging from ropes.
Training sessions are also forms of enrichment
Be sure your dog has both toys – squeakies, rope toys, stuffed animals, rubber toys, balls - and chewing items. The types serve different needs.
Wow! What a lot of wonderful choices open to us if we wish to enrich the lives of our dogs.
I take Dr. Haug’s suggestions one step further. Please, please do add raw meaty bones to the choices. Do NOT add Nylbones. Avoid rawhide. Try raw chicken feet instead. Be very careful to observe your dog’s interaction with ANY toy/chewy and remove the item before a dangerous situation happens. Dog’s often do love to bounce around plastic bottles, for example but toss the bottle once it begins to show signs of breaking apart. Dogs DO ingest plastic, sad to say.
Also – remember: A tired puppy is a good puppy! Exercise, exercise, exercise – within a pup’s limits, of course.