Exercise with your dog through indoor play on a rainy or cold day

indoor dog exercise

indoor dog exercise

A exclusive by Teresa Barker

We all need exercise to stay healthy, no matter what the weather forecast says, especially dogs! Here’s some indoor games you can play to get your pooch off the couch, get moving, and to keep him from being bored on dreary days.

  • Hide and seek with favorite toys
    This game may start with teaching your dog how to sit and stay. Start by having him sit and stay while you place a favorite toy (squeaky ones are a favorite in our house) where he can see it, but away from him (like across the room). Use your release word (ours is “OK”) and let him go fetch the toy, making sure to allow enough time to celebrate the reward of waiting patiently, by dancing around with his toy in his mouth. You can make this game more and more complicated, incrementally, by moving further and further away with the toy, around a corner, to another room, up a flight of stairs and eventually by hiding the toy in places where your dog could eventually find it. When hiding the toy, think about a child’s Easter egg hunt. Don’t make it too hard, you do want your dog to be successful, eventually!
  • Keep Away
    There are many variations on this game. With two people, you can simply toss a toy or ball back and forth to each other, letting your dog chase it in each direction. We’ve even gone as far as to use tennis rackets and a tennis ball in the garage, for greater distance. Be sure to “accidentally” drop the ball once in a while, to keep your dog a part of the game.
  • Agility Training
    You can get very creative at home with simple props, like a hula hoop. Start by using a piece of kibble to coax your dog to walk through the hoop, as it rests on the floor. Once your dog is used to walking through the hoop on ground level, lift it off the ground one inch at time. By the end of a very rainy week, you might have your pal leaping through the hoop a couple of feet off the ground!
  • Puzzles and Toys
    There are many treat-dispensing and puzzle toys on the market for dogs now. These toys are mentally challenging, requiring your dogs to ‘figure out’ how to get the treat out from it’s hiding spot. Look for sturdy toys that will withstand heavy chewing.
  • Fetch
    A hallway with doors closed makes for a perfect runway for a game of fetch. A straight stairwell does, too. Use a plush ball or toy to avoid the ball going in all directions and to get the most distance out of running to fetch.

Mental exercise, as well as physical exercise, is an important part of your dog’s health. It’s fun, relieves boredom, and can be extremely bonding for the both of you!

November 1, 2019 |

The Importance of Routine for Dogs

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When we lost our almost 19-year old American Eskimo, Kandi, several things became apparent in our pack. Because of her declining health during the last 5 years of her life, attending to the daily needs of an aging dog began to create sets of ritualistic behavior for my entire family. Even though much of our actions centered around caring for Kandi, each of our other 3 dogs accepted these procedures as part of their daily routine. After her passing, much of the need to carry out our daily routines stopped. While we all mourned the loss of Kandi, our other 3 dogs – in some ways – were even more deeply affected.

For years, before bed and first thing in the morning, I had to carry Kandi down the steps so that she could go outside. She also got a "treat" every night for her daily medications and I would play with the other dogs while waiting for Kandi to do her business in the yard.

Three days after Kandi’s passing, when getting ready for bed we noticed our big girl, Sunshine, waiting by the back door. Even though all the dogs could easily get outside on their own through the dog door, she was waiting patiently. As I started to walk her outside, I noticed a huge smile on her face and the other dogs jumped up and started running down the steps too. After some before bedtime play, they got their treat like they used to get when Kandi was getting her medication. The next morning we started doing all the routines over again and the dogs have started slowly becoming their normal joyful selves.

We have always knew that routines were important for dogs, but we’ve learned that even if your daily rituals don’t happen to have them at the center of attention, daily repetition goes a long way in shaping your dog’s behavior and bringing much joy to their life.

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April 7, 2014 |

It’s All in Your Face! How Dogs Can Read Us

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A exclusive by Teresa Barker

Have you ever been told, “You look sad?” Well, it’s not just your friends who can see it on your face, your pooch knows too! We’ve all felt that our dogs can sense what kind of mood we are in, but now one of the ways in which they determine this has been proven. A study performed by Dr. Kin Guo of the University of Lincoln in the UK has found that dogs really can read our facial expressions.

The “left-gaze bias”
Dogs, humans, and even monkeys, exhibit a behavior called “left-gaze bias” when they encounter faces. It has been proven that dogs, especially, use this assessment process when they encounter human faces. In his studies, Dr. Guo presented the dogs in his study with images of dog faces, human faces, monkey faces, and inanimate objects. When human faces were present, dogs used what as known as left-gaze bias when studying the image.

So how does it work?
Well, to start, the human face is more expressive on the right side than the left. So when faced with a face head-on (pun intended) a dog will shift its head to use the left eye more than the right, to view the right side of the human’s face. The information brought in from the left visual field is processed on the right side of the dog’s brain, which is better equipped to interpret human facial expression. Whew. Dr. Guo has the details from the study which he performed on 17 dogs, if you want to go deeper, but here’s a study you can perform right at home with your own dogs.

First, make sure that you have your dog’s attention in a non-forceful way. Next, make eye contact with a neutral, non-expressive face. Finally, give a wildly-excited, dramatic happy face (like you do with infants to try to get them to smile) without any words or sounds. See if your dog starts to wag his tail. I bet after a few rounds of this home study, you will be unable to stifle your laughter, and your dog will be licking your face. That’s official enough for me!


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March 29, 2014 |

Basic Leash Training for Dogs (and You)

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dog leash training

dog leash training

Nothing can ruin a pleasant day like going for a walk with your dog dragging you behind him as he pulls you and tugs your arm out of socket. If this sounds all too familiar, it might just be time to try a few positive reward system training techniques to help both your dog and you have a nice time on walks.

1. Before training, get some energy out

Play fetch in the yard or have open free-play before you attempt to wrangle in all of your dog’s energy and teach him proper etiquette. This will help him to focus better and make the training more success-oriented, which is good for both of you.

2. Start with leash training in your own home or yard

Before you venture out into the great unknown of your neighborhood, start with baby steps. You will find that when you start in familiar territory, your dog is less distracted than if you were to start training right outside the neighbor’s house with the barking dog in the window and the kids playing in the yard.

3. Grab a handful of small treats or kibble for rewards

Small, healthy snacks, or kibble, are a great way to get and keep your dog’s attention. Start by making sure that your dog is aware of the snacks and have him start in a seated position next to your side. Then reward. See, it’s already fun! When you observe your dog paying attention to you, reward! Reward at random intervals and try to keep your dog’s attention at all times.

4. When you walk, make sure your dog walks alongside of you

And, when you stop, your dog stops too. The real reward of walking nicely on the leash is actually forward motion. If your dog starts to pull, stop walking, get your dog’s attention and start over. If your dog is walking nicely at your side, give frequent rewards while in motion, so it registers in his brain that he’s exhibiting good behavior. Your dog should be walking at your side, not 4 feet in front of you with you holding your arm outstretched to keep from falling over.

5. Stay the course

The stop, start, stop, start method of rewarding can be a frustrating process for humans. You may only get 3 feet successfully on your first training session, but it’s important to stay patient and keep practicing. Start with 10-20 minutes of leash training at a time to keep your nerves from unraveling. I promise, the feelings of frustration walking with a dog that pulls is much greater than the frustration that you might feel during the training process.

Learning good leash behavior is a skill that is mutually beneficial for you and your dog. It will allow you to bond and get exercise together, and will protect your rotator cuff in the process. If your dog just doesn’t seem to be picking up what you’re laying down, consider enrolling in a basic obedience class. There’s help around the corner!

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January 22, 2014 |
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