121 Animal Therapy

The Ridings,
Level Mare Lane
West Sussex,
PO20 3SA
Tel: 01243 543121

Jane’s Boredom Busters

Good morning all!

I hope everyone had a good Easter.

What a lot of changes there have been in the last month or so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have finally decided to try and do a weekly blog.I hope I will be able to provide you with some useful ideas and tips that you can use at home with your dogs and cats or other pets.

Most of us have at some point or other, been in the situation where we have had to reduce or even stop our pets exercise, due to injury or surgery.Over the years one of the biggest constants as far as owners are concerned, is how hard it is to restrict exercise for the dog and the owner often finds it almost impossible.The boot is now on the other foot!Most of us are now finding out how stir crazy we can become when our freedom is restricted, we probably all have a much better idea now, as to how our dogs feel. 

How many times do we have to tell you “It’s for your own good - if we take it off you keep touching your face with your hands”?

This has prompted me to produce ideas that hopefully some of you will be able to use at home, to keep the dog mentally active.I don't know if any of you have recently taken up new subjects to learn whilst you are at home for extended periods and without the structure of a job.Certainly in my case, I find studying interesting, but it also tires me out mentally.The same applies to your dogs, if we can come up with new ideas of things to teach them, they will not only enjoy the process, but also it will tire them out.I expect you will have come across some of these ideas before, but hopefully there are some new ones too.Obviously they are not suitable for every dog, as it depends where they are currently in their rehabilitation.If you are in doubt at all, please contact me before doing something that is too much for your dog as it is at the moment.

So here goes:

Jane's Boredom Busters (BB) - episode 1

As most of you know we have golden retrievers.Someone told me a few years ago, that they and labradors are life support systems for stomachs!If our dogs have food from a bowl, it is as if they had a high-powered suction pump to enable them to clear the bowl in seconds.They have two meals a day and are prone to putting on weight (as is their owner).As a result, anything I do needs to take into account, that I don't want their weight to increase.With kibble as their food, it is weighed out in advance for each meal, otherwise they end up with too much.I take some of this and put it aside to be used during their BB exercise and training.

When we have the beautiful sunshine that we have seen over the last few weeks, I find that they enjoy spending time the garden, and try to scatter feed them outside.This involves throwing the food outside over a reasonably large area, so they have to search for it if they want to eat.Initially they weren't overly impressed with this idea, but have come to thoroughly enjoy it, and have started to learn to use noses too, rather than just looking for the kibble.

With money being tight and access to shops very limited, the recycling bin can be a real treasure trove!Have a look and see what you can find, plastic bottles of different shapes and sizes, cardboard boxes, egg boxes, loo rolls, newspaper etc. can all be turned into useful items for your dog.

Also look at anything you have sorted out in your spring cleaning which could also be used. There are other ideas already on the Belly Rose story.

The plastic bottles can be used in several different ways. 

  • You can put pieces of kibble into the bottle, and the dog has to pick it up and shake itto get the kibble out.
  • You can cut a hole or a slit in the side of the bottle, leaving the lid on and again the dog has to roll it round until the pieces of kibble fall out.
  • You can make a frame with different bottles hanging on it and some may have lids some not, you can put holes in some and not others so that it is a little bit like the mobiles that you have for children, and the dog would need to knock it with its paw or its nose or whatever was appropriate to get the treat to fall out
  • With a milk bottle you also have the option of hanging it on a door handle or coat hook or gate with a piece of rope attached to the handle of the milk bottle.The dog then has to pull the rope, turning the milk bottle upside down and releasing the treat.A bungee strap is often the simplest way of attaching it to the gate or hook.
  • If you are any good at sewing or know someone who is, you can use the leg of an old pair of jeans to cover a plastic bottle, with or without a small stone in it.They usually love the noise of crunching the plastic bottle, but if you don't mind the extra noise and they enjoy it adding a small stone or to can increase the fun!You can replace the plastic bottle whenever needed.
  • Cardboard boxes are also brilliant for hiding things in – food, toys or scent - initially with the lid open, but the better they get at finding things then the lid can be shut and you can also add screwed up newspaper to make it harder.Once they get the hang of it, they can be outside the room while you hide the item or items and then let them come in and search the room.You can put the toy in the cardboard from the loo roll and then hide that in the box.Once you get started, you will be able to vary the theme quite a lot.
  • Loo roll centres and kitchen towel centres can be used as they are, or made into different toys or places to search.
  • Egg boxes and cookie tins are also popular.With the egg boxes you can start by just putting a piece of kibble in, which can then progress to having something like a ball on top so you could have an box with 6 balls, but only one piece of kibble under 1 of them.With the cookie tin, you can freeze liquid in it - bone broth or similar works well, and then it takes quite a while for them to lick it all out.
  • Lots of you will already use Kong's and other ready-made "brain games" and lick mats.
  • Training is a really good one.It does not matter the age of your dog, you can teach an old dog new tricks!It can be very basic or more complicated depending on your dog's age and mobility.Border collie's and German shepherds tend to be very quick learners, other breeds vary more, but all can and generally enjoy learning.It could be giving the toys that they already have names, and teaching them to get them from the toybox or to put them away in the toybox.It could be touch games or training them to do something different whether it be just for fun, or for something that is going to be useful for them and for you in the future.
  • Most of the dogs coming to me for rehab, will have been given exercises to do as part of their rehab.This would be a really good time to progress with those.If anyone needs new exercises, leading on from where they had got to when they last came here, please let me know and I will give you some updated individual ones for your dog.
  • If you have a garden and a ladder, you can put the ladder on the ground, and get the dog to walk through the ladder, which will encourage it to pick its feet up as it goes over the rungs.
  • Especially good for dogs who are less aware of what some of their limbs are doing, is making a sensory walk.This involves making a path of different surfaces all of which will feed back to their proprioceptive system, and hopefully with time, will start to send the right messages back to the brain.This can be done inside or outside.You can use carpet, vinyl, plastic grass, genuine grass, paving slabs, cushions, wood, wobble mat, shingle, paddling pool or ball pond, sand, bath mats - basically as many different textured surfaces as you can find.
  • Very important, we all check our social media on a regular basis, our pets like to check theirs too.Their D-mails are all the sniffs that they have, to find out who was where and when!Try to ensure that they get their quota.

It is critical to prevent them from becoming bored.Variety is the spice of life as they say, so don't just stick to 1 or 2 things, change them on a daily basis!

I think that should give you plenty of ideas to be going on with.I will come up with some more for you next week.Anybody who has different ideas is very welcome to share them on the new 121 bulletin board, and can upload a picture of their dog doing it if they like.You can also show your dog doing any of the above or your designs for recycled products.

Hopefully the result will be happier pets and happier humans, both of whom have had to work hard at either making the "Boredom Busters" or using the end products!I look forward to hearing how you get on.

Jane’s Boredom Busters episode 2

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