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Enrichment for your dog on a rainy day...without busting the budget

The life and times of a dog home boarder

Welcome to our first blog post. Over the coming months we'll be sharing some of our hints, tips and on the job knowledge concerning all things dog. We don't claim to be trainers, behaviourists or hold a PhD, but we do have extensive day to day, hands on experience which we hope you may find useful. Whether you're a dog owner, a dog lover, or just curious about dogs, we hope you'll find something interesting and helpful here. So sit back, relax, and enjoy our first blog post.

Where's the summer gone! Well this year has thrown us a curved ball in terms of summer weather (there doesn't seem to be any). Last year we invested in lots of items to keep dogs cool (for a future blog post), and which are now gathering dust.

So what to do on a rainy day especially when you have some fair weather dogs boarding and need occupying? Time to get creative!

Dog looking for toys
What to play with?

Toy enrichment...

The world of dog toys, there's so much choice but these can become expensive especially if you have a dog who loves to chew and rip toys to shreds. One tip we have for dogs who love soft toys is visit your local charity shop. You can often find lots of used children's toys which are very inexpensive and which can be great fun for your dog. Not only are you supporting charity but you can make some huge savings.

But be careful. Look for soft toys that have no beads (usually found in legs, bottoms and heads of toys) and for those which have no plastic eyes (or batteries). And those batteries can be very deeply hidden - we thought we had a ghost after hearing some random groaning for a few hours - it turned out to be a teddy bear which made a very odd groan when sometimes moved (I won't tell you where I finally found the batteries - poor bear. Some quick DIY surgery sorted him out and we never heard him groan again). Beads, plastic eyes, batteries and even loose ribbon can all be choke hazards and can quickly turn play time into a vet visit if swallowed. If you are handy with a needle and thread, remove any plastic eyes or beads and stitch the toy back up. Your dog won't care if your not the next fashion designer or you sew like Picasso paints (we have some very quirky looking toys where bits have been sewed back on)... Most dogs love to destuff a toy, but some also can be prone to trying to eat the filling, so always supervise your dog when playing with stuffed toys and ensure they don't get too carried away.

Dog on his back holding a kong bone
Fun with a Kong bone

Treat enrichment

Something that everyone can do without spending money. Take a portion of your dog's food allowance if you feed kibble and have a treat hunt! This is great fun, interactive and gets your dog using their natural instincts and super sensitive noses to find out a tasty reward. Kibble can be hidden all around the home, behind cushions, on the stairs, in different rooms and under safe objects. If your dog is not used to these types of games you may want to encourage them to find the treats, so play with them, give them a helping hand and enjoy some human/canine bonding at the same time.

If you don't feed kibble, then there are lots of other foods you can try. Look for a healthy option if you can and try foods like chopped apple (minus pips), carrot, broccoli or even red peppers. You might be surprised what your dog likes. Just remember if you are introducing new foods to do this in moderation - you don't want to be left cleaning up from an upset tummy! For the meat lovers, tiny morsels of chicken breast or chopped up hotdog sausage usually goes down really well too. Although cheese is a huge favourite, it's not something we use for this type of activity. Cheese is very high in fat and some dogs cannot tolerate cheese very well at all, particularly if they are lactose intolerant.

Scattering food is also a great way to feed your dog a meal and getting them to work for their food (obviously if you feed a wet food you'll be better off using a Kong or a licki-mat - unless you have a passion for carpet cleaners)!

Puzzle toys

There are so many treat and puzzle toys on the market. Some aid to clean teeth, others make your dog think to find a solution, often they are quite pricey and dogs will become bored if you don't 'mix it up'. Grab an old tea towel, tie a knot or two and stuff in a few treats. It's great fun! Taking a muffin tin or yorkshire pudding tray, drop in a few treats and then cover with a few tennis balls for the dogs to nudge out with their noses or paws. Whatever you choose to use just bear in mind you dog should succeed in getting the prize - it's fun to be challenged but not frustrated with an impossible task!

Do you have an Amazon addiction - (we should be inviting our Amazon driver to Christmas dinner, he's almost part of the family). Use the boxes to hide treats under or a favourite toy. The paper wrapping is also great fun for a lot of dogs to rip up and shake, but again be careful. If you have a chewer rather than a ripper, paper and cardboard can form a hard ball when chewed and has even been known to glue teeth together. Always supervise your dog.

Golden retriever carrying a cuddly toy
Getting ready to shake that toy...

Grooming can add enrichment (if done right)

One to not overlook, and a great way to bond with your dog and keep them beautifully mat free (and your groomer if you have one, will love you for it). This is where you can spend some quality time and give your dog a good check over too whilst you are doing it. You might be surprised what's hiding in fur - grass seeds particularly in the summer months can cause big problems, particularly in ears and between the toes. Maybe you find some unexpected lumps and bumps that you wouldn't normally notice hidden under all that fur.

Not all dogs like to be groomed, so be gentle, take the time to make it into a pleasurable experience and use lots of praise and rewards. Don't spend too long if you're dog is not used to being groomed. Keep it short, stress free but above all enjoyable for your dog. If your dog is uncomfortable stop - try again later. This should be a calming, pleasurable and an enriching experience, not a battle with a brush, which can make your dog associate grooming with something unpleasant and want to avoid it in the future. It's better to build this up slowly with your dog being happy to being groomed (and looking forward to all those tasty treats)!

So that's all for now. Over the coming months we'll look at lots of different topics, some in greater detail. We'll be posting about building a dog friendly garden, how to make a garden dog wash, dog hair and hoovers, dog friendly disinfectants, reviewing some of our dogs' favourite toys, enrichment toys, diets, exercise and tips for dogs with limited mobility or on crate rest.

Man with cavachon dog lying on the floor
One to one attention
DID YOU KNOW...A dog’s nose print is unique, much like a person’s fingerprint.

(American Kennel Club)

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