How do you mentally stimulate your dog / dog playing alone

(22 Posts)
MrsSkrebensky Fri 09-Apr-21 10:36:51

I have a one year old lurcher who loves playing outside especially with his dog friends and their owners.
At home I would love to be able to leave him to play by himself or give him a toy that will keep him entertained for a little while if I have something I need to do.
He's not really interested in a Kong but loves chewing wooden sticks (the ones you can buy for dogs). What he wants to do all the time is play with me - usually something like tug or something boisterous. I feel bad when he comes to see me with a toy in his mouth looking hopeful. He has a long morning and afternoon walk and sometimes a shorter evening walk.
I'd really appreciate some ideas - what sort of things do you do?
TIA

OP’s posts: |
sunflowersandbuttercups Fri 09-Apr-21 10:49:39

Natural chews are a really good option - they can be a bit smelly but mine loves them and they're really good for them too.
You can also get brain games/toys - so treat balls that you stuff with treats and he has to knock it around to get the treats out, or puzzles where he has to figure out how to uncover the treats.

You can make them yourself too - Canine Enrichment is a great resource if you're on Facebook smile

tabulahrasa Fri 09-Apr-21 11:17:18

What are you putting in the kong that he’s not interested in it?...

I’d second the canine enrichment on Facebook.

A lot of dogs don’t really “play” alone tbh

BigHairyPaws Fri 09-Apr-21 14:31:52

I think it depends on the dog's interests. Mine doesn't like Kongs either - regardless of the many delicious foods I've tried to cram in there.

Mine is a bit of a digger and clearly enjoys it. So a favourite here is to get a big, old blanket and roll/scrunch it up with treats throughout. So he has to paw/dig away at it to get all the treats out. Loves it.

Cardboard boxes - the kind from amazon with brown paper packing inside - also with some treats in there somewhere so he has to destroy the box to get at them.

Empty bottles or other random shaped objects are also popular. Remove bottle tops and plastic rings before giving them and they do need supervision incase they chew off mall bits of plastic. My dog just throws them about until they are bashed up.

Getting a good sit/stay while I dash about the house hiding treats and then releasing him to go off and sniff them all out. Sniffy games very popular and tedn to chill him out. In the summer this happens in the garden for adding fresh air smile

However, he doesn't really PLAY by himself in the strict sense of the word. Much more likely to snooze away when nothing is happening. To get there it helped for there to be clear indicators that I was not up for playtime. e.g. headset and sat at my desk. Over time he's learned that it is pointless asking me to play during those times - but that takes practise smile

MildredPuppy Fri 09-Apr-21 14:45:15

We put treat in a paper bag or a pringle tube.
Also if he enjoys tugging games that involve him tugging a draw to get a treat might interest him.

tabulahrasa Fri 09-Apr-21 14:52:53

“Mine doesn't like Kongs either - regardless of the many delicious foods I've tried to cram in there.”

That’s pretty rare IME though... you get the odd dog who does actually go, yay little rubber thing, but mostly they’re only interested in them because they’ve got food in them.

But I asked because people seem to put weird things in them like banana or yoghurt, my dogs have always insisted they’re not in fact edible anyway, I’ve had the odd foster who’d eat stuff like that, but mostly I use wet dog food.

Singlenotsingle Fri 09-Apr-21 14:56:11

There's a gadget that will throw the ball so you don't have to. The dog learns to put the ball in the hole, then waits for it to come shooting out. . Could be useful?

moosemama Fri 09-Apr-21 14:57:57

My Lurchers have been very different. One loved a Kong stuffed with sardines, the other couldn’t be bothered, but adores his Kong Wobbler and treat dispensing ball. He also loves his Trixie Snake.

Toys wise, one would only ever entertain a tennis ball, the other played endlessly on his own flinging soft toys around and chasing them, but wouldn’t even look at a tennis ball. We bought the ‘unstuffed’ toys generally, as he did tend to get through them.

Both enjoy/ed lots of the canine enrichment games with boxes, cardboard tubes, scrunched paper etc and me hiding treats for them to find. My old boy loves his snuffle mat, licki mats and brain training games.

Definitely have a look at the Canine Enrichment FB page, as others have suggested.

Also, have a look at Kikopup’s YouTube videos on capturing and encouraging calm behaviour and the settle, as you can then develop that into clear times for when it’s appropriate to play and teach him to settle when you’re working. He doesn’t need to be full speed all the time, in fact he would benefit from a mix of exercise, brain training and relaxing/rest.

GooodMythicalMorning Fri 09-Apr-21 15:00:42

My dogs are not interested in kongs either, love peanut butter but put peanut butter in a kong not interested hmm

BigHairyPaws Fri 09-Apr-21 15:04:32

It all honesty * tabulahrasa* I don't think he enjoys having to lick the food out. I tried a variety of sizes in the early days and all he ever did was lick half heartedly at the bit of food that was exposed and then leave it. The best I got was using wet food with dried meat stick pushed in the top like a flake. But then he ate the 'flake' and walked off grin. He's the same with any licky mat type toy - so I have concluded that licking is not for him. Give him something that needs chewing or digging and he's in!

I have had other dogs who were more natural lickers and so seem to enjoy those things a bit more.

Brewdoggydog Fri 09-Apr-21 15:19:28

BigHairyPaws

I think it depends on the dog's interests. Mine doesn't like Kongs either - regardless of the many delicious foods I've tried to cram in there.

Mine is a bit of a digger and clearly enjoys it. So a favourite here is to get a big, old blanket and roll/scrunch it up with treats throughout. So he has to paw/dig away at it to get all the treats out. Loves it.

Cardboard boxes - the kind from amazon with brown paper packing inside - also with some treats in there somewhere so he has to destroy the box to get at them.

Empty bottles or other random shaped objects are also popular. Remove bottle tops and plastic rings before giving them and they do need supervision incase they chew off mall bits of plastic. My dog just throws them about until they are bashed up.

Getting a good sit/stay while I dash about the house hiding treats and then releasing him to go off and sniff them all out. Sniffy games very popular and tedn to chill him out. In the summer this happens in the garden for adding fresh air smile

However, he doesn't really PLAY by himself in the strict sense of the word. Much more likely to snooze away when nothing is happening. To get there it helped for there to be clear indicators that I was not up for playtime. e.g. headset and sat at my desk. Over time he's learned that it is pointless asking me to play during those times - but that takes practise smile

I do all of this with mine! He couldn't give a monkeys about the Kong or the lickimat but loves it when I hide treats/kibble for him to find. "Find it" is definitely his favourite game! I make it quite hard so it takes him a while to find them all. We drink a lot of sparkling water in our house and one of his other favourite "games" is when I chuck a load of empty bottles in the garden and he just bounds around spraying them everywhere. If I can, I'll involve him in the task I'm doing- I'll put the washing basket at one end of the kitchen and he'll bring me each item to put in the washing machine.

If I really need him to sit and be quiet, he'll get a natural chew, but I try and save that for when we want to watch TV after dinner and he's getting a bit tired and hyper!

Brewdoggydog Fri 09-Apr-21 15:20:02

Oh sorry, should add he's not a lurcher though

tabulahrasa Fri 09-Apr-21 16:20:33

“I tried a variety of sizes in the early days and all he ever did was lick half heartedly at the bit of food that was exposed and then leave it“

Lol, bless...

I’ve had the odd one who does seem to feel like it’s an awful lot of effort, but they usually come round when they realise it’s the only way of getting to the food.

BigHairyPaws Fri 09-Apr-21 16:28:34

That'll be where we went wrong. It was never his only way of getting food! grin

#bigbrownbeggingeyes

Postdatedpandemic Fri 09-Apr-21 21:11:54

Kong - stand on bench, drop kong, food splattered all over floor and walls - hmm

Had bad concussion last year and Postdog paid some of the price. I built obstacle courses around the house, taught her tricks and made her search the house for her dinner. Once her brain was worn out she slept well. Dry food into toys and then toys into toy box with all her other gubbins kept her busy for half and hour. Pointer, so high octane.

MrsSkrebensky Sat 10-Apr-21 15:30:34

Thanks for all your great advice and suggestions. The FB group looks very interesting.
Yeah, Kongs with peanut butter, salmon mousse, chicken broth (very messy), all just ignored. I love him dearly but I don't think he would get into canine mensa.
He does love bottles but only if you screw the lids on tight and his challenge is to undo them. Needs supervision though so not ideal.

I'm definitely going to try the food in boxes and hide and seek in the garden. Have tried settle before but now have a raised bed so will pursue it some more.

It is hard because even though he is never left alone, he needs constant interaction unless he is sleeping so I have been trying to work in the evening when the house is busy.

I really appreciate all the replies!

OP’s posts: |
Sparkle79 Sat 10-Apr-21 16:06:08

@Brewdoggydog love the laundry idea. Can I ask how you trained this and what sort of age you trained it?

tabulahrasa Sat 10-Apr-21 16:34:15

“he needs constant interaction unless he is sleeping”

It’s worth remembering as well, if your dog is well exercised and you’re doing stuff to keep him mentally busy and playing with him... it is fine to also just ignore him as well.

Brewdoggydog Sat 10-Apr-21 18:11:14

@Sparkle79 there's probably a few ways to do it. I didn't really set out to do it but he used to be a nightmare around the washing. It's basically fetch! I threw socks into the basket, telling him to "go get it" then called him back and "out" for a treat. After a while he was bringing me things from the basket. Only treat from the basket though or they might be on the look out for rogue clothes! He'll sort the laundry too, which is me pulling things out of the washing bin and him putting it to the basket to go in the machine. That's really just "take it" and "out". My friend's dog can separate lights and darks! He likes to "help" around the house so tidies his toys away into a box, again just "take it" and "out", but I just have to say "tidy" now.

I can't remember exactly how old he was but he wasn't quite a year old.

Sparkle79 Sat 10-Apr-21 18:26:43

@Brewdoggydog thanks. He loves fetch but we haven't quite nailed "bring" or "give" yet so once we get those will move onto the laundry as I think he'd enjoy it. He does love a sock grin

Nettleskeins Sat 10-Apr-21 18:33:56

If he has had two good walks he may be in the habit of asking for attention when he actually needs to settle down and sleep..ignoring is important sometimes, not solitude just keep doing what you are doing workwise and let him settle beside you. I wouldnt leave him with lots of toys except a snuggle toy...you should be the one to initiate games NOT him. Put toys away till you choose the moment, not have him making random demands.

sunflowersandbuttercups Sat 10-Apr-21 18:54:27

It is hard because even though he is never left alone, he needs constant interaction unless he is sleeping so I have been trying to work in the evening when the house is busy.

Does he need it, or has he just got into the habit of asking for it?

Very few dogs need constant interaction - in fact, I'd say it's not good for them to have attention from us all the time. I'm home with mine most of the time but he gets ignored as I have to work and get things done that don't involve him.

Learning to settle alone is a great skill for a dog to have.

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