I’m pretty sure my dog is trying to get me fired!
Buster waits for me to join my Zoom conference call, then runs around my house like crazy. I tried to put him in another room while I was working, but he barks all the time. Yesterday he disappeared into our room and came back triumphant, waving my husband’s boxers in my boss’s face. Please help me!
Dear Zoom Disaster:
It looks like your dog is under-stimulated. As a professional dog trainer specializing in canine behavior, this is a common problem. Try using a combination of enrichment activities and foraging toys spread throughout your workday.
First, separate her dog’s food into four equal portions, using the first portion for your morning walk. We call this an enrichment walk and its purpose is not to rush around the block, but rather to slow down your pace and allow your dog to enjoy the experience using all of their senses. Keep your leash loose and use the dog food to reward your dog when he looks up after reading the local dog notice board and comes back to your side. Enrichment walks are truly a wonderful way to mentally stimulate your dog.
When you’re ready to start your workday, take the remaining three servings of your dog’s food and put them in separate foraging toys. Found online or at your local pet store, these toys are designed to tap into your dog’s foraging instincts and engage their mind.
Whatever foraging toy you choose, make sure it suits your dog’s unique urges and disposition. As always, you want to watch your dog and make sure he doesn’t accidentally chew and swallow a piece of the toy.
A simple homemade enrichment toy is to use a muffin pan filled with kibble. Place tennis balls on the cups so your dog has to push them aside to reach the food. Do you have a shallow kiddie pool that is not in use? Fill the empty pool with toys and balls and sprinkle your dog’s food inside and he’ll have fun finding the kibble. During the summer, fill the pool with water and let your dog “dance” for treats. I even used an almost empty jar of pet-safe peanut butter and let my dog spend the afternoon buffing it until it shone!
The idea is simply to encourage your dog to “earn” food throughout the day in a way that rewards him for being quiet and using his mind.
If you want to exercise your dog’s brain even more, you can add 10 minutes of obedience training to your lunch break. I like to do the following: First run through my dog’s obedience skills, being as aggressive as possible. Sit, sit, stand, sit, stand, for example. Then I work on stay and come, which adds up to a lively game of hide-and-seek, where I place my dog in a living room, move to another room, and call him to me.
Finally, to bring him back into an excited mood, I spend the last two minutes gently massaging my dogs ears and shoulders before pulling out their next foraging toy and heading back to work.
Above all, remember to reward your dog’s successes throughout the day. If your dog is calm and relaxed, notice his good behavior and reward him with a treat. If he thinks about barking at you and calmly sits next to you, reach out and give him a pat. If they come back from your room empty-handed, praise them because some things are best left to your boss’s imagination!
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For more information, visit customk9servicedogs.com or email [email protected]