DIY Dog Toys for a Rainy Day

It’s a rainy weekend afternoon and the last thing you want to do is take the dog for a long walk through mud and puddles, so you need to find another way to keep her occupied. It’s exactly that kind of day today so I thought I would share some ideas for fun interactive toys you can make for your dog using things you have lying around the house.

Of course you can use any interactive dog toy to keep your dog occupied, but it’s always fun to try something different and all these toys are essentially free and are a good way to recycle things you no longer need, there’s nothing to lose!

Empty milk bottlesMilk Bottle Mania

You will need:

Empty milk bottle (choose a size appropriate for your dog and throw away the cap)

Small-ish treats or your dog’s food

What to do:

1. Fill with treats and shake to get your dog interested

2. Enjoy the madness that ensues as your dog bats the milk bottle around to get the treats.

Toilet Roll Treat Toyempty toilet paper rolls

You will need:

Empty toilet roll or paper towel roll

Dog treats or chew

What to do:

1 At one end, fold two sides of the toilet roll in to seal it

2 Fill with treats or a dog chew for a longer lasting treat

3 Fold in the other end and present to your dog to destroy

empty cardboard boxBox of Doggy Delights

If you get a delivery which comes in a large box, let your dog enjoy it before you recycle it. Fill the box with treats, toys and scrunched up newspaper and help your dog rummage around to dig out its favourite treats and toys.

T-Shirt Tug and Treatdog-tugga-toy

Cut up old t-shirts or tea towels into strips to make a tug-toy with a twist. As you braid or twist your strips into a tug-toy, work in treats along the way. Your dog will have to chew and tear at the toy to get the treats out, which is great fun and will help clean its teeth. This is also great for introducing reluctant dogs to games of tug.

Puppy Piñata

Dogs love tearing up paper, and with this toy there is even a reward for them inside.

Yoneed:empty paper bag

Paper bag

Newspaper

Treats

String

What to do:

1. Stuff the paper bag with treats and torn up newspaper.

2. Twist the top of the bag closed and tie a long piece of string securely around the top.

3. Suspend the bag above the height of your dogs nose so he has to reach up and ‘catch’ the bag to get the treats.

As a variation on this game, thread string through the small hole at the top of a Kong and add a large knot to secure it. Stuff the kong well and suspend at nose level.

And finally, remember: before you throw anything away, ask yourself if it could be a dog toy!

afraid to throw things away

Advertisements

Older and Wiser: Tips for Living with a Blind Dog

Most of us don’t like to think about our dogs getting older and the heartbreak which will inevitably follow. It’s easy to be in denial about a dog aging and cling to the idea that they will live forever and attempt to ignore the signs of aging. It’s also common to put stiffness, slowness and disinterest down to your dog being old and leave it at that. While it is sadly impossible to turn back the clock for your dog, by accepting that he is getting older you put yourself in a position to make changes that will make his last years as fulfilling as possible.

Age brings new difficulties and problems for dogs and owners; in these posts I will look at ways to alleviate the problems and help your dog get the most out of their golden years.

What to Do if your Dog is Going Blind

If you know your dog is going blind there are things you can do now to help him or her adjust:

03092012_Damien_speech_bubblesTrain Verbal Cues

You might think your dog knows verbal cues, after all we all teach our dogs ‘sit’ ‘stay’ and so on. But would your dog respond if he couldn’t see you? Often people train their dogs with hand signals as well as verbal cues as dogs tend to respond to these more readily. Even if you have not taught hand signals, dogs still pick up on our body language, position, facial expression and context as well as verbal cues when working out what we want them to do. If your dog is going blind he is going to lose all these visual cues so the sooner you can teach him to respond to verbal cues the better.

To retrain your dog using verbal cues simply insert a verbal command before you use the gesture or hand signal which he already knows. Try to use verbal commands which sound very distinct and alter the tone you use for each command as dogs respond well to tone of voice. Each time you ask your dog to ‘sit’ for example, give the verbal command with as little body language as you can manage, followed directly by the hand signal and a treat when he obeys.

The dog will come to learn that the sound ‘sit’ is always followed by the hand signal and will start to sit when he hears the cue. Gradually lengthen the time between the cue and the hand signal until your dog is reliably sitting after the verbal cue. At this point you can begin to phase out the signal.

Train New Commands

blind-dog

It will quickly become apparent that you can teach your dog commands to help him cope with not being able to see. ‘Stop’is important if your dog is about to get into a dangerous situation, as is a ‘down stay’ from a distance if he can achieve it. ‘Up’ and ‘down’ for steps are also very useful. The onset of blindness is also a good time to brush up on leadwalking; trying to ‘steer’ a blind dog through a busy street is not easy and if he is responsive on the lead it will be ten times easier! It might be a good idea to start using a harness, which will give you more control: you can even get harnesses that let other people know your dog is blind. If you are going to let your blind dog off the lead it should be in a safe place and he must have cast-iron recall (unless he’s so slow you can easily catch  him). Remember he doesn’t know what’s in front of him, and it could be a river, electric fence or a busy road.

Keep his Environment Familiar

Blind dogs adapt surprisingly well to their surroundings and acquire a mental ‘map’ of places and routes they know well. Having said that, if your dog is already familiar with the layout of your home, changing it frequently will be stressful for him, so try to keep redecorating and new room layouts to a minimum.

Help him Navigate

plan_revised_111710Think about investing in stairgates if you dog is no longer confident navigating the stairs. You can also consider dabbing scents such as essential oils in different parts of your house such as steps, doorways and top and bottom steps of thestaircase, or use these specially designed scented stickers. (Ever since BlindDog wandered into our neighbour’s house one summer, we keep a potted herb by our door so she knows which house is hers.) You could also use plants in front of obstacles in the house and garden so the dog brushes the plants before he hits the obstacle. Putting down woodchippings would work well to indicate outdoor obstacles (trees, washing lines etc) and rugs or carpet tiles for indoor obstacles: the dog feels a different texture underfoot and learns to change direction.

Finally, try to be consistent about which doors are kept open or shut and try not to leave things lying around. It’s not fun for your dog to be constantly tripping over and walking into things (although I can’t promise never to have laughed. Sorry!)

Communicate through Sound

PONTING_1911_Dog_Listening_to_Gramophone_Antartica

Your dog is going to have to learn to navigate and communicate through sound, and you are going to have to learn not tobe embarrassed by this in public! You can train your dog to come to you or follow you by either clicking your tongue or fingers as in this video. This is also a good way to alert you dog to your presence, or to wake him up so you don’t startle him. It could also be a good idea to attach bells to other pets, small children and even yourself so your dog knows when they’re nearby.

Your dog is relying entirely on sound and smell to locate you, so using loud distinct sounds will be useful over longer distances. Try clapping to get your dog to come to you, or train him to a dog whistle. Incidently, clicker training also works well with blind dogs as they respond to the clear sound and it helps them know exactly when they’ve done the right thing.

Finally, it is important to remember that a blind dog has lost a secondary, not a primary sense and with a few adjustments and a little practice, most blind dogs can live full and happy lives.

Check back soon for more posts with advice on living with elderly dogs.

Lessons from BlindDog

Many people find it useful to turn to the teachings of Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus and others for direction and guidance. Like many dog owners I know that inspiration, enlightenment and sound life philosophy are often closer to home. Here are the philosophical teachings of BlindDog:

  1. Greet the dawn with much barking, for it is an new day and with the new day comes breakfast.
  2. Bite the hand that feeds you: it is the most efficient way to get the food.
  3. With a warm bed, a steady supply of food and belly rubs, anything is possible.
  4. If you run into a wall, door or other obstacle, do not be downhearted. Turn by 90 degrees and the way will become clear.
  5. Value worldly possessions above all else and be diligent about concealing the choicest chews, bones and empty food cartons.
  6. Sit and you will be rewarded.
  7. Patience, and a worried stare, is a virtue in the face of food that is out of reach.
  8. Value those you love and emit a continuous, high-pitched whine if something prevents you from being right next to them.
  9. When out of the house, spread your philosophy on every available lamppost.
  10. When in doubt, have a nap.