Find it!

After many months of medical procedures and recovery, Joanie is getting her spunk back as she continues to feel better every day.  While walks are great to tire her out, she can only handle so much physical activity – so she needs another outlet for her energy.  From the three days I’ve had her, I’ve found that Joanie really benefits from using her nose to exercise her brain and wear her out (like all dogs!).

The easiest and most fun way for us to do some informal nose work is playing “Find it!” in the backyard. Using string cheese, I throw little pieces all over the yard and send her sniffing after them. I try to put them in a pattern so that she can find her way to the next one (she’s got a good sniffer, but it’s not that good if the treat is too far away). Because she has to root through the grass a bit, it’s not a super easy find and usually takes some effort – which is great since I want her to work those brain muscles!

We even tried a few times where I was up on the deck and she was down in the yard. The string cheese is bright white so she can see sort of where I throw it, and the rest is up to her nose.  This also helps to get her down the stairs to the yard without me taking her down there. She’s not really needy, but she doesn’t particularly care to venture down on her own – which is sort of inconvenient when you’re a lazy FosterMom!

“Find it!” is a great game. Ten or fifteen minutes of this is equally as tiring as probably a thirty minute walk. The thing about physical exercise versus mental is that when we’re done with a walk, Joanie’s brain is still ready to go. She still wants to sniff and investigate everything. But after a walk and some nose work, she’s out for the count.

It’s been fun learning what helps Joanie relax around us and what she needs to keep her happy. Watching a dog settle down right before your eyes is really rewarding, especially when you’re not sure they’re going to get there initially (more about that later).  Joanie is just another perfect example of how enrichment can be helpful for any dog!


Clicker Training: “Kong”

Otis – like many other dogs that had limited exposure to the world as a puppy – is rather clueless about a lot of concepts. We take so many behaviors our dogs do for granted as “natural activities” that they’re just born knowing – like playing, sniffing out treats, working for food, etc. In reality though, dogs often need help learning these skills. Additionally, even though these behaviors might not come naturally to some pups, they can be so beneficial (see: Chick’s love of play on Love & a Six-Foot Leash).

I’ve written before about Otis’ mental block when it comes to retrieving food out of a Kong. If it didn’t just naturally come out, he’d stare at it then promptly give up. He got better when it came time to slurp up yummy, frozen peanut butter – but he just couldn’t figure out how to make solid kibble (or other treats, for that matter) fall out of the Kong.

This is where FosterGrandma and I stepped in. After my last post about Otie’s difficulties with food puzzles, you all gave me a ton of great suggestions about how to help him figure it out. I have yet to try, well, (oops – confession time) most of them, but what my mom and I did do with him was some clicker training. When in doubt with an insecure, unsure dog – clicker train!

Our intent was to teach Otis to use his paw to move the Kong and make the kibble fall out. He’s already been exposed to the clicker, so he knows to expect a treat upon it’s use. We started by clicking and treating any time he moved his paw towards the Kong. Then we clicked and treated any time he touched the Kong. Slowly he got the hang of it, and we were able to pair the verbal “Kong” cue with him touching the toy.

It got to the point that whenever he was stuck, we just said, “Kong” and it would help him get the kibble out. Then he started using it all on his own!

He hasn’t caught on to using it all of the time yet, but he’s better than he was before we practiced this command. Plus, now whenever he is stuck we can just remind him that “Kong!” helps to get the kibble out. Chances he realizes the connection? Not sure. But, for now, it is support to his pretty wimpy valiant Kong-tackling efforts.

Next up is to try the recommendation of sticking his absolute favorite treat down at the bottom so that he doesn’t want to give up on fishing it out, and we’ll see how he does. That and then only feeding him from the Kong so he’ll have to figure out how to get his whole dinner out or go hungry – though I’m a little nervous he would let himself starve, the silly pup! But that’s a project for another day. In the mean time, I’ll just be proud of his most recent accomplishment.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


Spending Time With My Foster Grandparents

I got some great news from fostermama yesterday. She told me I get to spend a lot of quality time with my foster grandparents in the next few days! I looooove my foster grandparents. I think all of you know how this goes: mama makes the rules, grandparents break em – always working in my favor!

My foster grandma is so nice to me… she also happens to the be the treat lady (see above). She likes to play “Which hand?” and that is a game I really like. It gets me using my sniffer and I always get a treat. I also hang out with her on the couch a lot. Her and I like to relax together. Perhaps do some reading?

So I’m really excited to spend the next few days with her and foster grandpa all to myself! But I really wanna know… where is fostermama going??

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


The Kong Dilemma

Otis can be hard to figure out. Sometimes I think he was deprived of oxygen as a pup or something (just kidding) because he can be a little… slow, but other times he catches on and figures things out quickly. I just don’t get him.

When he finally stopped being finicky about his meals, I started introducing the Kong in hopes that fishing for the kibble would give Otis an outlet for some mental energy. Turns out, the kong-with-kibble combo is not one Otis will pick up on quickly. The poor dude is totally clueless when it comes to figuring out how to get the kibble out when it doesn’t just fall out.

That means once Honey Bunches is done with any kibble that happens to fall out during consumption, he abandons the project all together. I’ve tried showing him that moving it makes the food fall out, but no luck (duh). Any ideas on how to increase his desire to play these games? He isn’t really the best at nose puzzles, which I think is one road block here.

I’m hoping maybe some more desirable treats in there will motivate him to put effort into getting them out; aka the point of the activity. He only worked hard for the kibble when he watched it go out of his reach (pictured below). If I put kibble out of his sight when he is not around he is totally clueless to it’s presence when he returns. I want to give him puzzles and work his brain a little, but I can only do so much until it’s up to him… any ideas?!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.