So we’ve cracked the two most dreary, difficult months of the year and now it can only be onwards and upwards into Spring. Or is it?
Did you make New Year’s Resolutions that now seem unattainable? Me too. There are lots of reasons why resolutions are hard to keep but it’s often because everyday routine is so hard to break. We get in from work or other chores and there are a million and one things to do and then we’re just so tired that we can’t fit in that extra play session. I get you, it’s hard.
But like New Year, Spring is a time for new beginnings, the promise of renovation, hope and change. So don’t worry about it if you haven’t been able to keep your Resolutions – now is the time.
I’m hitting publish on this month’s blog from a little village called Stazzema in the mountains of Italy, the homeland of Ruben and Lao. It wasn’t a planned trip. We found out recently that there was a problem with our house here and so we made last minute plans to zip over. Besides stressing about the house I was worried about taking time away from Dogwood just when I was getting loads of good stuff done. But I had to accept that setbacks happen and there’s often nothing you can do and you just have to get on with it. Like with dog training. Everything’s going great and then another dog comes out of nowhere and your dog has a meltdown, or your recalls are perfect every time… until your dog forgets their name as they’re too busy helping themselves to a horrified family’s picnic (yep, both true stories).
So we dropped Fifi and Lao off with their granpawrents and hopped on a flight. And guess what? Surprise surprise it’s lovely to be here. I’m with family, eating pizza and drinking Prosescco (well, at least I will be later!).
When things don’t go to plan with whatever it is you’re working on with your dogs, whether it’s resolutions, training or play - learn from it, find the pizza and Prosecco in the situation and move on.
Make the most of the setbacks. Be kind to yourself, give yourself a break.
My dog isn’t interested in toys.
Last month we talked about Hide, Seek & Search games for dogs that are reluctant to play.
Thank you for your emails telling me that you found these guides useful. Several of you told me that you would like to play with toys with your dog but they have little interest in them.
This month, let’s look at Chase games.
If you would like to play Chase & Retrieve or fetch games with your dog but they don’t seem interested in the toy when you throw it, we need to increase the toy’s value in your dog’s eyes. We can do this using toys which are designed to hold food.
Toys to play Chase with
Kongs or other stuffable rubber toys work well as many dogs will already be familiar with them. You only need to coat the inside of the object with a tiny slither of something yummy so that your dog finishes quickly and the game can be repeated.
We love lotus balls! A lotus ball is a toy designed like a lotus flower whose petals open so that food can be stuffed inside. The petals velcro back together to form a ball shape which can then be thrown or rolled. Not all of the petals have to be closed at first – one can be left open to help your dog find the treat. The noise of tearing open the velcro makes this an excellent toy for dogs who love to rip things, simulating hunting.
1. Show your dog the toy and let her watch you put the food inside. Let her sniff it and then roll the toy along the floor - not too far.
2. Your dog should follow it and will be rewarded by being eating the food. When she reaches the toy say ‘Good!’ or ‘Yes!’
3. Repeat this so that your dog associates the toy with food and will soon enjoy chasing it along the ground.
4. Practice this until she becomes excited at even the sight of the toy and chases it every time you roll it.
5. Only when you’re sure your dog will chase the toy every time, roll it along the floor and as she runs after it, say ‘Go!’
ONCE YOUR DOG SAILS THROUGH THE PREVIOUS STEPS EACH AND EVERY TIME, YOU CAN MOVE ON.
1. This time we’re not going to put any food in the toy. Roll it a short distance, say ‘Go!’ and when your dog gets to the toy say ‘Good/Yes!’ (you can use a clicker if you are both familiar with one) and give her a high-value food treat.
2. She is now associating chasing the toy with getting a treat from you - this is what we want! Continue the above step, gradually increasing the distance that you roll the toy.
3. Troubleshooting: if she doesn’t run after the toy or only does a short run, don’t do anything at all. Don’t say ‘No’ and don’t say ‘Go!’ again. Just wait. When she realises she’s not going to get a reward she may head for the object again. (This is a very good time to say ‘Yes,’ ’Good’ or Click and reward.) If she doesn’t, calmly try again, throwing it a shorter distance this time. You may need to build up the distance more gradually.
4. Take it on the road! Practice in the garden, on a walk or at Dogwood. Don’t be disheartened if you need to go back a few steps, it’s normal to have to make it easier again in more distracting environments.
I hope you found this useful. Don’t let those setbacks get you down folks and remember that there’s pizza and Prosecco to be found in every misfortune!
If there’s anything we can help you with, or if you’d like to have a chat with me about anything in this blog please get in touch. I reply to every message and I particularly love to talk about play and enrichment.
See you next month and buon appetito!
P.S. Did you see the article in the Metro about dog walking as a lucrative side-hustle? It was basically saying that becoming a dog walker in your spare time could be a ‘cute’ way to make £9,200 a year. Erm, no.
You don’t need a PhD to be a dog walker but you do need to invest time (to study and gain experience) and money (thousands of pounds is completely normal).
Imagine leaving the key to your home and your beloved pet with someone who is only in it ‘to save for a wedding, a big holiday or a deposit for their first home.’
According to the Metro it’s not all about the money, no, it’s also ‘brilliant for your daily step count.’
So there you go: good for your bank balance and your step count. Not a mention of First Aid courses, insurance, DBS checks or qualifications.
Choose your dog walker carefully; they should be able to provide evidence of all of the above at the first meeting. If you would like to find out more about our customised 1-1 Walking service please click the green button below.