Exercise the Mind...

Discussion dedicated to promoting the well-being of your dog through diet, exercise and general health tips.

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Exercise the Mind...

Post by emmabeth » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:34 am

Walking and running are good exercise for your dog, but do you exercise his mind?

If you have a dog who cant run or walk much, or a dog who gets so much running he is now so fit you can never physically tire him out.... you need to learn to exercise his mind!

There are toys on the market that are designed for this purpose:

Busy Buddy Toys (Squirrel, Twist n Treat, Waggle, Chuckle), Kongs, Buster Cubes etc

These dispense food with some effort from the dog. Some are easier and some are harder to 'work', and some will require more ingenuity from you when you stuff the treats into them.

Some of these you can smear soft cheese into, and Kongs can be filled with all manner of things, hard cheese then melted in a microwave, or thin gravy frozen over night to last your dog even longer.

When using treat dispensing toys you will often have to let your dog have an easy time of it at first, if its too hard to get the food out your dog may give up.

Also be aware if you are using these to leave with a dog that if your dog is very anxious about being left, they may be too distressed to play with the toy at all.

Intellibones/IQubes/Iqube cage..

These appeal to a dogs desire to rip things apart - the toys are in several seperate parts and fit together, in the case of the Intellibone, rings fit over the main toy, andwith the iqubes, soft shapes fit into a fabric cube and the dog must pull them out.

For dogs who like to pull things apart, these are great fun, and the two I have, have lasted 6 months already with regular play. You do sometimes have to go on a hunt if a sneaky dog has taken the squeaky shapes out and made off with them though!

Home made amusements:

In summer, freeze a bowl of water flavoured with a little chicken stock - you can freeze pieces of meat or fruit inside as well, and then plop out the giant icecube in the garden for the dogs to chew at during the day.

Wrap up treats in brown paper/newspaper and make your dog his own 'pass the parcel'... that he neednt share. Great fun for dogs who love to rip up paper. Messy for you, but beats wallpaper shredding or carpet digging!

You can also do similar with cardboard boxes (make sure there are no staples) for bigger stronger dogs.

Sandpits can be fun, and great for dogs who love to dig - build a sandpit and use childrens play sand - hide treats and toys in the sand and you can use this to redirect dogs who want to dig up your flowerbeds!

Mind games with you:

Clicker training is fantastic as mind games go - its like a game of hotter/colder, if you have an enthusiastic dog, then try free shaping him.

Get an idea in your mind of a behaviour you would eventually like to have on cue. Picture all the stages you can break that behaviour down into, and start by clicking your dog for doing just the very first stage.

For instance.. i want my dog to turn in a circle. The first stage of that is him turning his head to the left, so I wait for him to do that, and click/treat him.

I dont say anything, he has to work out what i want to get his reward. When he has sussed that it is turning his head to the left that earns the click, then i change the criteria slightly. Now i want a turn of the head that goes a bit further, so he is looking almost behind him rather than to the side.

Each time he gets a stage, we then move to the next one, so then the next time i want him to turn his head and step round a little.... then turn head and step round more... etc etc.

You know your own dog, so keep the sessions short enough that he doesnt lose interest, stop when he still wants to play. If he gets confused, stop and start again later on and consider breaking it down into smaller stages.

Find the toy.

Teach your dog to find a toy, at first make it easy and then make it harder and harder until he is having to look under cushions and behind doors etc.

Think about clicker training him to find named toys out of a small selection.

Consider training him to sit beside the item he has found, or teaching him to find an object with a certain scent on it!

Joined:Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:19 pm
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Post by DawnStorm » Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:58 pm

A game I've always played with my dogs is putting a small treat in one hand, holding out both and asking 'which one?' If the dog doesn't get it right the first time, it's try try again. I do this several times in a row--I always put my hands behind my back so the dog can't see which one will hold the treat.
Another game I used to play with my late lab mix involved putting her in my room and hiding her favorite ball somewhere in the living or dining room. She loved looking for the ball and I would let her play with it a bit before doing the whole thing over again. :)
My current crew:
Bruce the Albino Dobe; Flanders the Belgian Malinut; Leela, Scuttlebutt, and Felix, da kitties.
All much-loved but not spoiled!

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Post by ckranz » Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:39 am

emmabeth, I am suprised that you never mentioned 101 things to do with a "box"

Box is in quotes because it can be anything including the handler.

It similar to the free shaping exercise only there is no "set goal" of desired interaction.

You click and treat for everything your dog does with the object, starting with looking. As your dog start offering the same repeated behavior, hold out for something else.

The improved clicker skills of the handler also help to improve shaping skills, for things like free shaping.

This game really helps the handler develop percision and timing when clicking and treating. it is also mentally exhausting for your dog, especially when they get good.

Joined:Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
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Post by emmabeth » Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:58 pm

Good stuff ckranz - ive not put down everything I can think of as this thread is for everyone to add stuff to.

Get thinking people. List clicker 'tricks' here too ifyou like, we could even do a weekly clicker training challenge *(or two weekly or monthly or whateverly really)...

Anyone up for that (those of us who can video stuff could also youtube the results!).

Joined:Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:50 am

Post by NicolaLloyd » Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:17 am

I play a game with my boys where I get 3 plastic bowls in a line on the floor. I make them sit, show them a treat and then put it underneath one of them. I then mix them up by moving them out of order on the floor and then give them a "get it" command. It seems to really get them thinking as first of all they have to sniff out the treat and then work out how to lift the bowl up to get it. They really seem to enjoy it! Although I haven't moved on from this, I guess this is a good starting point for tracker training by getting their smell senses going.

I should mention that I do this one dog at a time - although my boys get on great it would be a pretty good opportunity for things to get nasty should one try and grab the treat that the other has worked so hard to uncover! I think it's also nice to have one on one time with each of your dogs.

As mentioned earlier, the "find the toy" game is a particular favourite for my youngest boy Bruce. I make him stay in another room then hide the toy - I start off easy and then make it harder as we go on. He really gets his thinking cap on while he's looking for the toy and is so happy when he finds it. I get him to bring it back to me but I like the suggestion of making him sit and wait... although it might be hard to achieve now that Bruce is used to fetching it! :roll: :lol:

Joined:Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:37 pm

Post by lablver2 » Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:43 am

Belgian and I play some mind games. He loves hide and seek. You need two or more people to do this. One person holds the leash and the other person hides. I always have the person hiding bring a toy or treat so Belgian is rewarded for finding the person. When the person says ready I let them call Belgian's name out once unsnap the leash and tell him to find it. He loves it.

I also will put a treat in my hand and make him sit. I let him take a quick whiff of my hand to smell where the treat is then he has to ges where it is. However I make him paw at it like he's giving me knuckles.

I also play soccer with Belgian and he loves it. He goes nuts for soccer balls.
Belgian: 6 year old English Chocolate Labrador Retriever.
"The more boys I meet, the more I love my dog"-Carrie Underwood

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Post by Huckleberry » Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:45 pm

When Wyatt was young, he had to have surgery on one of his knees. So because of it, he could not be a normal active JRT puppy. So I had to come up with games to entertain him and get him to thinking as well as socialized with people and other dogs. After he was released to being able to be free in the house, I taught him the search for it game, a favorite toy is hidden someplace in the house with him in the other room, then when I put it someplace I would release him to go find it. He loves this game and to this day if I tell him to go get something he goes off and gets it. I also us alot of the Control Unleashed games and the "Look at That" game is wonderful for getting their focus!
Huck-Miniature Australian Shepherd
Callie-All American

Joined:Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:07 am
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Post by maximoo » Mon May 25, 2009 6:22 pm

Hi All: More severe storms here and Max is bored. The grass is so soppy/soaking wet even when it stops raining he can
to go out to play.
So i wanted to try a game I heard about--wrapping something tasty in a lot of newspaper then put it in a box. I used 5 sheets of newspaper to wrap 1/2 a hot dog then put it in a shoe box. He opened the box in 10 sec and got the hot dog in under 5 mts. Anybody have any ideas to make this game harder?

I need games that'll keep him occupied at least for 20 mts stretches at a time if possible. He gets his KONGSICKLE right before bedtime so I don't want him to have another during the early eve.

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Horace's Mum
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Post by Horace's Mum » Tue May 26, 2009 5:10 pm

I use a lot of food toys in situations like that. Horus' favourite is his tug-a-jug. He liked it when it had its rope still intact, but then he chewed through it when I wasn't looking. Now it has 2 golf balls inside and I put a very small handful of kibble inside and 3-4 larger treats (maximum size for fitting through the hole) and it literally keeps him going for hours and hours. I did start with it easy though, using small treats until he got the hang of it.

There are lots of food toys around these days other than kongs - why not invest in one or 2 suitable for kibble and he can have part of his daily ration in it?

Joined:Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:07 am
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Post by maximoo » Tue May 26, 2009 6:38 pm

Hey There Mum of Horace : Funny you shld mention tug a jug. I just got him one 2 days ago. The 1st day he tossed it around for a while (it is rather noisy) but I don't think he got any kibble out. Later that day he chewed off the small round end :x He hasn't played with it since, but I will try again to get him interested. I think when he realizes food will come out he will want to play with it. I hate how noisy it is (I have tile floors) I am sure he'll chew the rest of the rope, so your golfball idea is excellent. I saw the bust-a-cube in the store, I don't think it will be challenging enough.

I can't play games with him all afternoon after I get home. I am wide open for more ideas that he can do on his own when it is raining/water logged outside. I also started giving him frozen marrow bones (they are presliced into 3/4 inch slices) He enjoys eating the middle but leaves the bone part behind. LOL... And he's done with it in like 10/15 mts.

I do play find a treat under the cup and under a towel. He enjoys that and I like how he is thinking and figuring out where the treat is. He actually picks the cup up, then drops it to expose the treat. He isn't interested in toys enough to try to find them (maybe he will be when he is older)

Anyway keep the suggestions coming :)

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Post by Fundog » Tue May 26, 2009 8:01 pm

Maximoo-- I got my girls a couple of ribeye bones (in the dog treats section)-- they are really thick, heavy, and several inches long (they look like femur bones, to tell the truth). They are basted to look and taste roasted, and they still have the sticky, gooey marrow inside. But the part my girls (and I) like about them best is, once they've done what they can with them and cast them aside, I pick them up and run them through the dishwasher. Then I fill them with custard-- a recipe designed just for dogs-- and freeze them. Later I give them these frozen stuffed bones, and it keeps them busy for a good hour! They like these even better than their Kongs, and they last longer, too! And the best part is, they are about half the price of Kongs/ Kong look-a-likes, but I can still reuse them over and over.

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Post by maximoo » Tue May 26, 2009 8:49 pm

Thanks Fundog That's a good idea. What do you mean by custard made for dogs? Is it something you buy or make?
I once bought a ham bone from Walmart and it made him sick. :evil:

Joined:Wed Dec 03, 2008 8:31 am
Location:A little gambling town in the high desert

Post by Fundog » Tue May 26, 2009 9:28 pm

The custard is my own recipe. It is more for dogs because it has a higher egg content in it, very little to no milk, and no sugar. Sometimes I might put something else in it too, that doesn't necessarily appeal to people when we think of "custard," like bits of vegetable or some meat broth. I also like to use peanut butter or shredded apple sometimes. Here's the basic recipe:

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup water or leftover vegetable broth, a splash of milk (milk is optional)
4 eggs
optional extras: 1 grated apple, a handful of vegetable, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup meat broth, a can of fish, etc.

Stir together in a large bowl, and microwave five minutes, stirring once. When it is done, stir it again, and spoon it into various dog-safe containers to freeze. (I even spoon some into toilet tissue rolls, to make "pupsicles"-- they don't eat the cardboard, but they have fun tearing it off the custard) I've also found it helpful to "cap" the ends of the containers with aluminum foil, to prevent everything falling out while I'm filling them. I just remove the foil before giving the item to the dogs.

BTW, the bones I got for them are NOT ham bones. They are actually beef bones, but the label on the package says "ribeye bone." The ribeyes come in two sizes-- small in pkgs of three, and large, packaged singularly. The large ones are the size I get, since they have the large hollow centers, and are too solid for my dogs to crunch up and devour-- that's why they survive the dishwasher. The smaller bones don't even survive my dogs' teeth, much less the dishwasher!

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Post by Fundog » Tue May 26, 2009 9:40 pm

Oh, a couple of more ingredient alternatives for that "custard" are a mashed up banana, or a spoonful or two of mashed up yams/sweet potato. Canned pumpkin would work as well. Basically, just use your imagination. Think nutrition, texture, and flavor. I've found that these high fiber treats are really helpful in making Dottie's stools easier to clean up-- she has somewhat loose stools, so I try to give her stuff to help firm them up-- it's been helping a lot.

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Post by scbelle » Tue May 26, 2009 9:49 pm

Hi! I have one of those hollow bones as well and Katie loves it. Mine is the perfect size to hold a cheese stick in. Katie works at it forever until I have to give the cheese a push closer to one end so she can finally pull it out :lol: I have made a version of that custard but did not think to put it in her bone. She'd have to have that outside if it thawed before she could get it all out though, quite the stickiest of stuff.
One husband, two kids, two cats, two gerbils, one dog, one me....FULL HOUSE!!

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