Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Rainy Day Games

Mother Nature has decided that Southern Ontario should be endlessly rainy and unseasonally cold. Maizy and I are no stranger to having adventures in the rain, but even we have to call it quits at some point... Like when there are tree branches blowing past you like tumbleweed at the dog park. Yeah, that happened this weekend.

Soaked after a game of fetch in the rain.
Maizy recently has decided that she is an adult dog now, and is actually much quieter. Something seems to have clicked in her brain over the last month. However, she is still a very active dog and staying inside and snoozing on a rainy day is not her forte. She needs exercise - both mental and physical - regardless of the weather.

So what can you do with your dog when its pouring outside?

Fetch Plus

Fetch is an excellent game for rain days. While you may not have as much space, it will still get your dog moving. Not to mention it's a great way to reinforce behaviours such as 'drop it' and 'bring it here'. But for an extra tired dog, you need to spice things up, hence the "plus" part of this game:

  • Incorporate your 'sits' and 'downs' into the game. Before throwing the ball, ask the dog for a sit or a down, and when they comply reward by throwing the ball. Mix up the commands: Ask for sit three times, down twice, then go back to sit. This will make your dogs responses quicker. For a real brain work out, ask your dog to sit and stay while you throw the ball. Only allow them to chase when you give the 'get it!' command.
  • Ask your dog to fetch up and down the stairs. This one is pretty simple but it's a tough work out for the dog. It will work on their body awareness as the navigate up and down the steps. Make sure you don't over do this one - it gets tiring quickly!
  • Work on fetch with household items. Does Fluffy frequently steal your socks? Grab a sock and play fetch. This reinforces Fluffy giving you the item, so in the future you won't have to chase the dog around trying to retrieve the pair of panties that she decided to parade around the house.

Targeting

Targeting is a great way to get your dog moving and thinking. It's fairly easy to teach and can be simple or difficult. Basically, the idea is to get your dog to touch a target with his nose. The target can be anything - a sticky note, your hand, a container lid. This is very easy to teach using clicker training, but it's not nessecary to use a clicker. 

I'll go over the steps to train this behavior quickly, but for more in depth information check out this article.

Step 1: Select your target. It can be something like your hand or a container lid. Make sure it's visible to being with. We started with the lid of a sour cream container and are now using a smaller, less visible mason jar lid.
Step 2: Place the target in front of your dog. When your dog touches the target with his nose, reward the dog. If your dog isn't investigating the target, place a treat on top. Repeat until this is easy for your dog.
Step 3: Once your dog had Step 2 down pat, start to add your verbal command. Maizy and I use "touch!"
Step 4: Begin to move the target farther away from the dog.

Here's a video of Maizy practicing targeting. This is quite difficult because she doesn't know where I've placed the target, only the general area, so she has to search for it.

video

Rally-O

This one requires a fairly large area, so push back those couches and clear a space. Rally-O is a great way to work on obedience. Basically there are a number of "stations" which make up a course. The stations ask for a specifc behavior or group of behaviors. You can download and print out the signs from the Canadian Association of Rally-O as well as learn more about Rally-O.




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