puppy kindergarten
week 3 homework

Enrichment - Stuffable Toys

With the enrichment this week, I'm calling it "Stuffables," but I'm referring to any Kongs or Kong-like toys, as well as really anything you can smear food on! (Examples below)

Goals:

  • To encourage lapping and chewing – these behaviours are relaxing for dogs and can help them recover from stress (including excitement)

  • To slow down eating (great for those puppies that wolf their food down in one inhale!)

  • To help dogs settle themselves and soothe themselves

  • Help new or active dogs learn to chill when everyone else is relaxed and for bringing your pet places such as outdoor cafes

  • To encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of stuffables.

  • Using different types of toys with different types of fillings, the dog can get a real work out, developing different strategies for solving the puzzles

  • Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding each stuffable, determining its value, and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

 

Applications:

  • It’s great to have stuffables ready for after walks, games, training sessions, after people come home or after a more stressful event such as getting a fright, after barking and so on.

  • Have stuffables ready when guests come in, to keep your pet busy in another room while guests settle and to give to your pet so that they are busy when guests are present.

  • Stuffables can be great to give when you can’t supervise your pet, when you need them to be safe and busy, when you need them to entertain themselves and to settle themselves.

 

Tips:

  • Provide a comfy safe space for working - your dog's kennel, a bed, a spot on the couch (probably with a blanket underneath it), etc. - where they won't be interrupted or bothered.

  • Fill the toy with foods that encourage lapping and chewing.

  • If your puppy is new to this type of toy, use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!).

 

There are SO many - open your fridge or pantry and you'll find you can get a lot more creative than peanut butter and kibble! Head over to the blog post I wrote about this very topic for some inspiration and creative ideas: Click HERE

 

Option 1: Beginners

  1. Fill a Kong with a mix of dry kibble and treats.

  2. Plug the top of the Kong with something your dog can lick away (peanut butter, yogurt, apple sauce, pumpkin, baby food, pate, etc.).

  3. Give it to your puppy to enjoy and start figuring out!

 

Option 2: Upping the ante a bit

  1. Fill the Kong with a mix of your choosing - pick a few things from my blog post or from your fridge / pantry and stuff it in the Kong (or spread it on the toy).

  2. Refrigerate to help it harden a bit or to have it ready for when you need it later in the day.

  3. Give it to your puppy to enjoy and start figuring out!

 

Option 3: Brain Freeze

  1. Fill the Kong with a mix of your choosing - pick a few things from my blog post or from your fridge / pantry and stuff it in the Kong (or spread it on the toy).

  2. Freeze the toy to harden the mixture and help the toy last longer for your puppy!

  3. Give it to your puppy to enjoy and start figuring out!

 

Option 4: Pupsicles

  1. Prepare some Kong filling.

  2. Fill an ice cube tray, your dog's bowl, muffin tray, or silicone mold with the filling.

  3. Freeze!

  4. Pop a pupciscle out when you want to give your dog a frozen treat that is entirely edible! (Recommended that this is given outside...)

Socialization - Dress Up & Unusual Things

This week included a mixture of socialization items - anything you might wear or your puppy might see other people wearing and the things your puppy may see or interact with in their environment (particularly seasonal things!)

  • Large or long coats

  • Gloves and mittens

  • Hats of any kind

  • Scarves, ski masks, or anything that obscures part of the face

  • Any kind of helmet

  • Costumes (for any holiday)

  • Boots

  • Sunglasses

  • Rain ponchos (those are also great for the crinkle noises they make)

  • Flowing dresses or bathrobes

  • Teach your puppy that odd things they see aren't things to be concerned about!

  • Backpacks

  • Suitcases (both carrying and rolling them)

  • Plastic bags

  • Umbrellas (both opened and closed)

  • A stick (as a cane)

  • Your bicycle (pushing it and riding it)

  • Scooters

  • Roller blades

  • A wagon

  • A broom or Swiffer

  • Buckets

  • Seasonal garden and lawn care - lawn mowers, snow blowers, rakes, shovels, push brooms, etc.

The list goes on with anything you can think of!​​

Kennel or Crate Training

I almost always recommend that folks utilize a crate or kennel in some way with their dogs – particularly when they are leaving the house. Knowing that your dog is safe and sound in a kennel, instead of roaming the house, finding things to eat or destroy or get into, is excellent peace of mind. When we want to utilize a kennel, though, it’s important to introduce it slowly. We don’t want to toss Rover in the kennel for 8 hours and hope for the best because we want him to see the kennel as a fun place, a safe place, and as his own room or house.

I suggest Kennel Games as a great way to introduce the kennel and begin working with the kennel as a fun tool for a person and their dog to use (some ideas listed below).

Game #1 The Magical Kennel of Goodies!

This game is fun and easy and takes no extra time at all. When your SideKick isn’t in the room place a few rewards in their kennel - a favorite toy, peanut butter Kong, tasty (non-perishable) treats, etc. Leave the kennel door open and allow your SideKick to discover the rewards on their own. The kennel isn’t scary; in fact, it’s the bearer of delicious things and fun!

 

Game #2 Soup's On!

This is another easy game to play with your SideKick: Simply feed them in their kennel at meal-time. Start with the door open, but, usually, after a few days of this you’ll notice that your SideKick is so excited about dinner time that they won’t even notice if you close the door. If you do close the door while they're eating, be sure to stand nearby to open it just before they finish their meal to allow them to exit freely.

Game #3 The Treat Toss Game

Get a fair amount of pea-sized, delicious treats ready (maybe about half a cup total). Begin the game by letting your SideKick watch you toss a treat into the kennel. Let your SideKick enter the kennel on their own to retrieve the treat. Praise them for going into their kennel and call them back out to you when they've eaten the treat. Repeat this process for a few minutes or until you've finished the treats you prepared. Keep the game fun and light and watch your dog for any signs of discomfort or boredom (take a break if you see either - you can always come back to the game later or tomorrow).

Game #4 The Back and Forth Game

This is a game for some of those sticky spots or transition spaces we find our dogs aren’t crazy about crossing (whether entering or exiting) or we find they have some difficulty with: a doorway or threshold (inside or outside the house), entering or exiting a stairwell, entering or exiting a kennel, etc. Below is an example of the game at a doorway (to a house):

  • Approach the door to your home (at least in the beginning, you may choose to clip the leash on your dog, so they don’t run off before you’ve really had the chance to start the game with them).

  • Open the door and stand on the threshold – as best you can while holding the door open.

  • If your dog steps outside (or even takes a step forward toward the door and the outside), reward them with a tasty treat! You may hand it to them with the arm that is outside, drop it just outside the door, or toss it a step or two away from the door.

  • Encourage your dog to come back inside where they started and reward that, as well (again, handing the treat, dropping it, or tossing it for your dog)!

Rinse and repeat a few times, going back and forth, rewarding your dog each time! Ideally, we’d like to see your dog comfortably moving back and forth with gusto and excitement – possibly with just a hand gesture (pointing your finger one way or the other) or you may start adding a verbal cue (such as “Inside” and “Outside”). You may even see them start to do it on their own, hopping back and forth over that threshold without being asked and looking to you for a reward!

 

Game #5 Upping the Ante

Once your SideKick is racing to retrieve the treats you're tossing in the kennel, it's time to add another element: closing the door to the kennel. Start by tossing a treat into the kennel just like in the Treat Toss Game; when your SideKick goes into the kennel to retrieve the treat, close the door behind them for just 2-3 seconds. Repeat this game for a handful of treats. Bear in mind, when practicing, that the initial goal is to simply introduce the door closing - we don't want to close it for so long that your SideKick has the opportunity to get uncomfortable and bark or whine, etc. Start super slow and keep the door closing very brief in the beginning. Slowly add a couple seconds to each training session.

Game #6 Safe Space while your Pawrent is Busy

Once your SideKick is comfortable entering the kennel and with you closing the door behind them for a few minutes at a time, you can begin rewarding relaxation. Behaviors that indicate your SideKick is relaxed are lying down, rolling onto their side, stretching, yawning, resting the head on their paws, etc. You can get the ball rolling by asking for a Down and tossing a treat into their kennel when they lay down. Wait for the behaviors we just mentioned and toss a treat into the kennel when you notice them. After they have relaxed, and you have had the opportunity to reward relaxing, calmly open the door and give the Release cue you've chosen to exit the kennel. Repeat this a few times each training session. You might practice this while you're working and your puppy is in their kennel next to you; when you're doing some dishes or prepping dinner; when you're watching Netflix; when you're doing some chores (sweeping, starting or folding laundry, organizing the dining room table - we all collect stuff there we don't know what to do with, right?)!

Tips:

  • Avoid using the kennel for punishment or time-outs; we want the kennel to be seen as a good thing - not some place they go when they get into trouble.

  • I encourage you to use the kennel or crate even when you're home; it's important for your puppy to feel comfortable in it no matter what the circumstances and we don't want your puppy to associate the kennel only with your absences!

  • Include a toy or two in the kennel with your SideKick (possibly one of the stuffable options from above!); however, ensure that the toys cannot be chewed to pieces and won't have bits broken off and swallowed.

  • Encourage your SideKick to explore the kennel on their own and at their own pace.

  • Find the Goldilocks of places to put the kennel in your house: an area that isn't so high-traffic that it's loud and distracting, but not so low-traffic that it's isolating for your SideKick.

  • Promote calm behavior in other ways in the kennel:

    • Drape a blanket over the top of it.​

    • Play calming music, talk radio, Netflix, etc. any time your dog is in their kennel (not just when you're away from the home).

  • Take things slow.

    • Try not to toss your dog in the kennel for a full, 8-hour work day immediately after introducing them to it; instead, try to build gradually up to more and more time spent in the kennel.

    • There are a lot of steps between being able to close the door with your dog in the kennel and leaving them home alone for a full work day.

    • Plan out the steps you want and can take with your dog. Maybe you start with closing the door and heading toward the doorway to the room. Maybe you close the door and leave the room briefly. Maybe you leave out the front door and come back, etc. I call it painting by numbers to achieve our big picture, end behavior.

Puppy Playtime! (With other dogs and puppies)

Whenever two doggos are playing (regardless of age) there are a few guidelines I encourage us to keep in mind to avoid uncomfortable or negative interactions:

  • Supervision is key and absolutely required during play sessions - particularly if there are any toys, treats, or other high-value items in the room.

  • Most young dogs learn to play from their peers or other dogs, but some – due to lack of experience with other dogs or because that’s just how they are – don’t back down when playing a little rough.

  • Play works well between two dogs when their play styles match up and when both dogs can maintain a low level of arousal.

  • Dogs maintain lower arousal during play by using clear signals – almost like someone calling a timeout briefly; if the signals are ignored, human intervention is usually needed.

    • Play bows

    • Sniffing

    • Sneezing

    • Yawning

    • Itching

    • Licking

  • Whether or not interventions are necessary, periodically interrupt the dogs during playtime.

    • See if they’ll return to playing or if one or both dogs choose to go off on their own.

    • Sometimes one dog is having a good time while the other is not.

    • Teaches the dogs to take natural breaks before things get too intense.

  • Listen and watch for escalation in intensity of the play; intervene when necessary.

    • Watch for signs that one dog is taking the play fighting a little too seriously.

    • Redirect any behavior that is too aggressive - mounting, snarling, closed mouth biting or nibbling, biting at the neck/face/ears.

    • If one dog is hiding, redirect the other dog with a toy or another dog.

    • Be conservative and intervene long before any actual fights can occur.

  • What does an intervention during play time look like?

    • No yelling or shouting (do not “bark” back at your dogs); this may only increase the tension.

    • A noise or exciting phrase (“Let’s go for a walk!”) can be used as a distraction. Fun noises could be anything – crinkling a bag of treats, clapping your hands, squeaking a toy, etc.

    • Separate the dogs quietly and calmly.

    • Position the dogs away from each other, but they can stay in sight of each other.

    • Try to get your dog’s focus on you with a few simple training exercises or toys.

    • After they’ve both calmed, send them back to play again to see if they’re still interested (only if they have calmed down and you feel reasonably sure that they will not return to fighting quickly).

  • All of that said, too much play can lead to too much arousal AND we want them to see us as a source of fun and excitement still, so feel free to separate the dogs (for your sanity, if anything).

    • Play or train with the dogs separately (and switch off who plays/trains with each dog).

    • Give them bones, chew toys, stuffed Kongs, or treat-dispensing toys in separate rooms.

    • Use baby gates to separate them for a time.

    • Playtime can also mean mental stimulation - puzzle toys, teaching tricks, training, going new places or to the store, etc.