Dogs Off Leash
Wow, it has been a frightening week for dog people in vicinity of the Crate Escapes. One of our cherished Crate Escape too pups got away from a dog walker and ran. Two days later, her owners found out she had died. A dog in the Charlestown vicinity also escaped from a dog walker and luckily found her way home by herself. A Belmont Crate dog went missing on Friday, was found by a dog recovery organization on Saturday and was returned home.
There is lots to talk about around these stories. We all INTEND to keep our dogs safe. As pointed out by the above ‘dogs gone missing’, intentions are often not enough. Hearing about these dogs will probably keep us vigilant for a few days…. what will it take to keep it up?
Several things we can promise our dogs and ourselves; don’t talk on the phone or text while walking your dog. Listening to music might be borderline dangerous; it certainly can be distracting. Is it possible to take a deep breath, and walk with our dogs, enjoying the sun, hating the rain, just being with them for the 1/2 hr.? We are definitely doing a service by taking our dogs for walks instead of just letting them out in the back yards, but if our attention on them loses focus, then what?
And, Check Out Your Dogwalkers! Get solid recommendations and make sure they are bonded and insured.
It is safe to say that even the most dedicated, over protective dog person has been distracted while walking their dogs. Hopefully this will help us recommit.
*** The article below is somewhat long….. you can scroll down to the five games. The wolf ancestry is interesting, however!**
Five Easy Games to Challenge Your Dog
What are some creative ways to use feeding time as a way to stimulate your dog’s body and brain? Though dogs vary widely in appearance, from the petite Chihuahua to the towering Mastiff, they share 99.8% genetic similarity to their common ancestor, the wolf.
The .2% difference has made a significant change in the way a dog looks, thinks and acts to differentiate itself from his ancestors. Dogs look and behave more like juvenile wolves than adults, more closely resembling a wolf pup in their physical and behavioral characteristics.
As much as dogs have differentiated themselves from wolves, they still retain characteristics and habits of their ancestors. My pug, Bruce, takes the stuffing out of any toy possible. While he seems like a far cry from a predator, he still has the wiring to de-stuff, much like a wolf would pull apart a carcass. He also instinctively chases after moving things, like squirrels, much in the way his ancestors would have spotted prey and ensued chase. Bruce instinctively joins in a group howl, even those initiated by people, because the sound triggers a natural response to vocalize back. Even though Bruce looks and acts more like a puppy, his behavior still has ties back to his wolf ancestry.
Most unwanted behaviors dogs display in the home are actually instinctual responses, as they were used by their ancestors to increase the chance of survival and reproduction. For this reason, digging, vocalizing, chewing, chasing and jumping are all normal behaviors for a dog. Part of my job as an animal trainer is to help pet parents find better ways to channel a dog’s natural behavior, because when proper outlets are lacking, problems arise.
One area where many canines’ need is not being met is in the way they are fed. Canines are meant to hunt and scavenge for their food. Yet, instead of a multi-step process, many dogs are fed a one step meal out of a food bowl.
Wolves are predators spending endless hours securing a meal; going through a predation process that takes brain power, physical energy and time. Dogs retained aspects of wolf behavior and are similarly created to hunt and work for their food. Even as dogs evolved from wolves thousands of years ago, they had to work to scavenge for food at the edge of human establishments. Scavenging in and of itself is a process, taking time and effort. Even as canines were genetically modified into the breeds we know today, these canines were often bred for working purposes, like herding or guarding livestock, thus they expended energy and worked to earn their keep.
From an evolutionary standpoint, our dogs are made to hunt, scavenge and work for their meals. Yet, take the average house dog, and you’ll find there’s little of this going on. Perhaps it’s the Labrador who devours his entire meal in 30 seconds flat, or maybe it’s the picky Shih Tzu who nibbles throughout the day in his food bowl. Regardless, eating out of the bowl evokes mindless and minimal effort consumption.
The lack of physical activity and mental work involved in an average dog’s meal creates problems. Many behavior problems occur in dogs because they are under stimulated and under worked. Our dog’s bodies and brains are meant for activity and challenge, but with too few outlets to release their energy, the dog may release their activity into something less desirable, like barking at anything and everything or too exuberant of greetings. Dogs are also bored from lack of activity, thus it’s understandable why they opt to chew on furniture or create their own job, like herding the kids. Furthermore, without stimulation and challenge, brain function can decrease, contributing to problems like early canine brain aging.
The great news is, there are easy tactics you can take to challenge your dog when they eat, and in turn, give your dog an outlet to act more like a dog. Below are the top five ways to stimulate your dog’s body and brain when they eat:
- Opt for food puzzles instead of a bowl. With food puzzles, dogs use their mouth and paws to manipulate the toy until food comes out, expending mental and physical energy in the process. The variety is endless; from puzzle boards to balls. You can even create your own food puzzles, like using a muffin tin and placing kibble in each space, then covering the openings with tennis balls.
- Use cavity toys: These toys are hollowed in the middle for stuffing with treats or kibble and a softer base to hold it together, like peanut butter or pumpkin. They resemble the natural behavior of de-stuffing prey, and take time and energy to consume. To make the puzzle even harder to crack, the concoction can be frozen.
- Hide your dog’s food puzzle or cavity toy for added mental stimulation. Hide the toy under a bowl, a towel or behind an object for the dog to find using their sense of smell. Just give a cue, such as “find it” and then send them out on the hunt. Start off easy with the puzzle only partially covered and increase difficulty over time.
- Get your dog to work for his food. Premeasure kibble or use treats to divvy out rewards in a training session. Even trick training stimulates the mind. Rather than mindless eating, using part of a dog’s meal in training sessions encourages complex thinking and builds better behavior.
- Send your dog on a treasure hunt. Scatter your dog’s meal out on high grass for them to search out using their sense of smell, closely resembling the scavenging process of their ancestors. Scattering kibble challenges a dog to search out food and keeps canines mentally and physically engaged for long periods of time. Evoke a long distance chase by placing kibble and treats inside of a ball thrower and launching the treats for the canine to chase down.
Ernie’s Brother, Emmitt
Hi, I was rescued 8 years ago from a high kill shelter in Seattle. Ernie asked me if I would tell you about Crate Escapes’ program, Chews A Cause. We are requesting that you donate gently used dog items to Crate Escape, and we will give the donations to a rescue organization in the Greater Boston Area. We have partnered with Last Hope K9 Rescue. They have a great operation, and find foster and forever homes in New England for many homeless dogs.
You may also donate items from a Wish List they have on Amazon. The link is: