Back to ‘normal’ – helping our pets to readjust

Following a period of such change for ourselves and our pets we wanted to give some suggestions on how to keep your pets happy and fulfilled as life changes for us once again. With more of us returning to work and with the children back at school, lets think about what we can teach our dogs in particular.

All dogs love learning, we just need to find out what they like the most, have a look at what your dogs ancestors where originally breed to do and use that information to play games and hone in on their natural skills. During this process you will find that behavioural problems reduce as a knock on effect, your dogs will have a better quality of life and the bond with you and your family will be amazing.

Some key things to think about:

VET CHECK – Make sure your dog is fit and able to do the activities you want to try with them.

OLD DOGS CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS! – In fact, it’s really important they do! Learning slows the process of senility and can help them cope with losing other pets in the house.

REWARDS – Keep rewards varied and remember to match the rewards to the difficulty of the task and environment.

HOW MANY REWARDS? – When training something new, rewards should be given every time until the dog as learnt what is required. We can then change to intermittent rewards but always give lots of praise using social approval. Lastly, to keep things solid and fun, change to a random reinforcement schedule.

PROOFING – It is important that you teach the new skill in at least three different places such as the home, garden and a quiet walk. Teach from scratch and then start bringing in distractions. This way your dog will know what you mean wherever you are, they will stay motivated and enjoy.

KEEP THINGS PRODUCTIVE – Lastly it’s a good idea to play for around a minute before and after teaching something new so they are in a happy mood and they finish the task by doing something they do well.

All dogs have great noses and enjoy using them, even those that are brachycephalic (short nosed) so why not try playing a search game! Simply hide treats around the house and garden and let your dog find them. Just remember where you put them, nothing worse than old stinky cheese! If you feed your dog dry food you can simply throw their breakfast and dinner into the garden and off they go!

If you want to take it one step further we highly recommend scentwork courses run by Talking dogs. Fantastic courses for doing more advanced and fun scent games with your furry friend.

How about swim school! Dogs can teach themselves to swim by using deeper water over time. If they are not keen, or you’d like them to learn to be strong swimmers, then they can learn to love it – We recommend Roundstone kennels and cattery or Summerhill hydrotherapy pool in High Salvington. This can also be invaluable for keeping your older dog fit and flexible. For those with painful joints hydrotherapy is such a relief. Your dog will need a vet check before they embark on their swimming journey. Some centres even do fun social swims for small groups of dogs and we know, for our own dogs, this has brought them many moments of joy.

Ideally all dogs should be doing 5-15 learning and playing sessions with you per day. It sounds a lot we know, but these only need to be 3-5 minutes long.. when the kettle is boiling or the adverts are on. Use the time to teach new games and tricks and also to revisit things they already know. If you are still working from home it’s a great excuse to keep active and get up from behind the desk every hour or so for a little bit of fun.

DONT FORGET YOUR CATS & SMALL FURRIES! – Pets such as cats, rabbits and even chickens really enjoy learning new things. We have clicker trained cats to sit and give paw and we have trained chickens to jump and complete obstacle courses!

OUR TOP TIP – DITCH THE BOWL! – Placing your pets food in a bowl can be a wasted opportunity. We recommend you feed your pets using activity feeders. For advice on the best options for your pets needs just pop along to Browns! Make it a Christmas and birthday present to get your dog every year! They may take a couple of weeks to get used to the new system but these toys help them to get their hunting and scavenging behaviour needs met. They are great for mental stimulation, exercise and enrichment. You pet will never look back and will love meal times more than they ever would with boring bowls. This is particularly the case for young or busy dogs, it gives you time for that all important cup of tea!

For more information on game play and training, from scent work to clicker training, please get in touch with us here at Pet-Professionals. We offer private training sessions and puppy classes and hope to have some workshops up and running again in 2021 (Covid permitting) so keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for more information.

If you are returning to work and worried about leaving your furry friend, we have spaces for dog walking and pet pop in’s currently available to keep them happy and occupied.

Wishing you all happy teaching!

Jo and Sarah
Pet-Professionals Partners