Dog’s Eye View: All in
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Recently I have had the pleasure of working with families who have just adopted dogs. What struck me about these folks was their willingness to jump in with both feet and start educating themselves about canine learning and behavior change.
My two favorite books for adopters are “Love Has No Age Limit” by Dr. Patricia McConnell and “How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves” by Dr. Sophia Yin.
The overwhelming sentiment expressed by the family members was that they wanted their dog to not only be well behaved, i.e. know what to do, but also enjoy life. They wanted them to be fully integrated into their family.
This is no small commitment. The reality is that adopted dogs usually come with some baggage. We may think that what we see on day one or three is the perfect dog.
Truthfully, the new family member could just be shut down. He might be experiencing some stress after coming from a shelter or even another home and is trying to understand what this new family is all about. There’s more information about this in the McConnell book.
I want to focus on another aspect of learning to live successfully with the new dog. More than just teaching the basics of the household rules to the adoptee is to embark on a program of enrichment. Many re-homed dogs come from a sterile, mind-dulling environment. Sometimes, this can be a reason why a dog is acting out or getting into trouble — boredom.
Have you looked into the myriad enrichment resources available to us now? Simply invest in “stuffable” chew toys, hollow beef bones and interactive toys that dispense dry kibble.
Rather than feed him out of a bowl, use that time to let him enjoy hunting for his dinner. Take a moment to hide his dry food around the house and let him to “find it.” Purchase some puzzle toys that challenge his mind.
“Snuffle rugs” are becoming popular. You can make these or purchase them. They’re a small rug made from strips of fabric that are used to hide your dog’s food. Dogs have the fun of “snuffling” around the fabric to find their food.
These rugs are sometimes used to slow down dogs that eat too fast as well. Go online to learn how to make one for your dog. It’s a great kid’s project too.
Teach that dog some tricks. Make or purchase some home dog agility equipment for your yard. Enroll in some basic training classes and yes, nose work — scent detection — classes for pet dogs as well.
I especially like nose work. This sport focuses on the great gift that dogs are born with — their greatly enhanced scenting ability. Every dog from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane can excel in this sport.
Our pet dogs are the ones that benefit from the strong relationship that nose work fosters. Nose work classes are available right here in the Yampa Valley through Total Teamwork Training, LLC.
I found a fairly new website called “enrichment” that has lots of neat ideas that can transform your dog’s not-so-exciting life into one of challenge and mind growth. As with all new ideas, use common sense when you introduce new activities to your dog.
So, a big part of adopting your new dog is the mindset of being “all in” when it comes to commitment. These new adoptive families are well on their way to enjoying a fully integrated and enriched life with their dog.
Speaking of which, my little adopted terrier mix, Lawrence, spent a good part of today demonstrating his nose-work skills at the Meeker Sheep Dog Trials. He was with his good buddies, Deuce, a Border collie, Max, a miniature pinscher and Ruby, a super sniffer terrier mix.
Lawrence is now stretched out on the bed, sleeping soundly. He’s “all in.”
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with over 30 years of experience.
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