As a training assistant at the shelter, I work with a lot of different kinds of dogs with a lot of different requirements. Some dogs have been there a long time and just need a friend to hang out with on the regular while they’re waiting for their forever homes. Some are young and untrained — and extra bouncy. Some are bored out of their wee doggie minds and are making up their own games in their kennels. These games usually involve ripping something to shreds or barking at everyone who passes. Not great for your adoption chances, there, buddy.
I mentored a woman at the shelter last week who’s taking OHS’s dog training prep school. Rachel was interested in what else you can do with a dog besides taking it for a walk and petting it in its kennel. The answer, to put it professionally, is a shit ton. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all the things you can do. With Danny and even as a trainer, I get into a rut, doing the same activities all the time, with every dog. Here are a few of the things Rachel and I tried with Roger, my current project dog, or talked about:
- Shaping, with or without a clicker
- Agility work
- Tellington TTouch
- Running (duh)
- Games like fetch and tug
- Hang-out time where nothing is required of the dog
- Basic manners – teach them if they’re new, reinforce them if the dog knows commands
- Teach tricks like shake, bang!, sit up and beg
- Puzzle games
- Crate training or mat training to help calm anxious dogs
Not every dog likes everything on this list. Roger, for instance, doesn’t like the sound of the clicker, so we gave up on that training tool pretty quickly. He also wasn’t too keen on agility, though we started with only one low hoop to jump through and a table to jump onto. He loved fetch, though, so we worked on learning the rules of the game a bit, including the all-important “drop it” command. Some dogs at the shelter have off-site hydrotherapy, which is Danny’s worst nightmare.
A tired dog is a good dog, and if you’ve got an active dog, it may take a little extra enrichment to tucker him or her out. But even getting them to use their brains to learn new tricks or figure out a puzzle with treats inside will likely require a nap afterward — no two-a-day runs required.