Social Distancing and Canine Enrichment

by Ariel Wolf, co-editor for the Wire~News Magazine

The world is currently experiencing a lot of distress from the Coronavirus
(Covid-19) pandemic. The recommendation in the U.S. is “social distancing” with no unnecessary travel and no gatherings of more than
10 people to prevent the spread of the virus. This means that for the time
being, there will not be many (if any) dog shows, field events, training
classes, or informal dog play-dates. Our dogs are loving us being home
more, but without the ability to engage in their favorite activities, here are
some other fun activities you can try together:

  • 101 Things to Do with a Box
    Requires: A cardboard box of any size, bite-sized treats, clicker
    This is an exercise in free-form shaping. You present the box to the dog
    and click (or mark using a word like “Yes”) and treat the dog for
    interacting with the box. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sniff, a paw, or if the dog
    picks it up and tosses it across the room. If you have an idea of a
    behavior you’d like, such as all four feet in the box, you can click and
    treat every time the dog does a behavior that gets closer to your goal.
    This exercise will make your dog think about what behaviors you like and
    then building upon them is very mentally stimulating.
  • Find the Hidden Treasure
    Requires: Your dog’s favorite toy
    Show your dog their favorite toy and put it out of sight. You can cover it
    with a blanket, put it on a shelf, or under the bed. Tell them to find it.
    Make sure to help them search for it until they understand exactly what
    they’re supposed to be looking for. Once they find their toy, play with
    them! Rinse and repeat until one of you is tired.
  • Treat Trails
    Requires: Bite-sized treats and/or your dog’s kibble. A combo can be
    used for variety.
    In your yard or inside your house, place a trail of treats spaced about 3-
    6’ apart. If your dog is new to Treat Trails, consider spacing the first few
    treats more closely to help them get the hang of searching. For more
    difficulty, incorporate obstacles such as going around a tree in the yard
    or behind the sofa. End the trail with a “jackpot” handful of treats.
  • A Trick a Day Keeps the Boredom Away
    Requires: Bite-sized treats, clicker (optional)
    Spend 10 minutes a day training tricks. You can work on several tricks or
    work on chaining pieces of a multi-step trick, like opening the fridge to
    get you a beer and then close the fridge again. Trick training is a fun way
    for you and your dog to work together to accomplish a goal. You can
    even train helpful tricks, like picking up dog bowls after meals, fetching
    your slippers, or even finding your phone and bringing it to you. You can
    even earn Trick Dog titles. Learn more at:
  • Go Hunting, Hiking, or Biking
    Requires: Any gear you need, your dog, and the great outdoors
    Social distancing means humans should segregate themselves from
    each other for the time being. Dogs cannot catch Covid-19, and neither
    can birds. You can have a great time and be active outside with just you
    and your dog without worries of catching or spreading anything from
    other people.