The vet’s office: Working like a dog
The importance of keeping canines active
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Most dogs need an outlet for their energy. Dogs who are not stimulated enough physically or mentally can come up with their own activities. Humans do not necessarily appreciate these activities.
There have been many dog sports and games created. Training is great for bonding as well as providing mental stimulation. Mental stimulation can be more tiring than exercise for some. If you have an interest in more active sports, check with your veterinarian to verify your pet is healthy enough to participate safely with you.
Obedience is the foundation for any activity. The fundamentals include sit, down, heel, come, and stay. Competitions can showcase your pet’s skills, and the higher levels include retrieving and jumping. Not into competition? These skills make walks more enjoyable as pets may be easier to manage while out and about.
Teaching tricks is a form of obedience and works your pet mentally. Shake, roll over, learning toy names and retrieving them, hide and seek, put toys away — get creative. Imagine a dog that will pick up and bring something you drop. It is a win-win situation.
Active sports include hunting, agility, lure coursing, tracking, and flyball.
Hunting does not need to involve guns and shooting birds. A hunt can be simulated with bumper retrieval on land or water, multiple bumpers at once, or directed retrieves.
Agility requires equipment training to prevent injury. Once learned, dogs usually love the challenge of the ever-changing courses.
Lure coursing involves chasing the “prey,” like a toy, on a pulley system. This satisfies dogs’ need to hunt and chase.
Tracking involves teaching your dog to follow a scent along a path to find items and people, similar to search and rescue.
Flyball is a relay race where dogs go over four jumps, hit a spring-loaded box to retrieve a ball, and race back over the jumps. It is fast-paced and fun, but training is needed for safety. Sledding, skijoring, and weight pulling are also options.
Unable to keep up with your dog? Backpacks with weights will burn extra energy on walks. Dogs can carry their own water.
Another activity that works the dog but not you is “nose work.” Dogs are trained to different scents and then have to seek out the scent hidden in objects such as boxes.
“Barn hunts” involve the dog searching for a rat through a maze. The maze is typically hay bales, and the rats are safe in a secured tube.
Once your pet has been cleared for activity, the next step is finding a trainer to help. There are many local training options or places just within a short drive. Your veterinarian or local kennel club should be able to help find a trainer.
Let the games begin.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.