When you are single, working, and have a puppy, you also need to work their mind. They might spend a lot of time sleeping, while you are working. But that means you’d better be ready to play when you get home. Having had Ayla I now have a list of toys that I recommend for a medium-sized dog that cannot be easily destroyed.
- Skinneeez Stuffing-less Toys
- Rope toys*
- Elk Antlers
- Buffalo Horns (I fill this will peanut butter and freeze it.)
- Bully Sticks
- Sir Bobs A Lot (I liked this better than the Kong version, because you can change the size of the hole that releases food, and it doesn’t matter how many times Ayla smacks this around, she hasn’t been able to crack it open through brute force. Video below.)
* Ayla loves rope toys and playing tug-of-war, but I do have to keep an eye on her when she’s playing with them because she’s sometimes inclined to eat the strings.
For treats, I actually started Ayla on lettuce way before she had any other human food. This allowed me to hook her up in my backyard with half a head of lettuce and get some vacuuming done. Plus, by starting with lettuce, which has barely any flavor, I convinced Ayla that vegetables were “cool” human food and allowed me to use her as an indoor composing unit while I cooked my own food.
The bonus of having a dog that likes veggies, also means that I can use blueberries, frozen peas, and raw sweet potato chunks as rewards or for nose work. (Edit: I have since learned that you actually shouldn’t give raw potatoes – regular or sweet – to your dog.) Occasionally, you do need to get other things done in your life like say – eating your own dinner or doing laundry on a different level of your home. For instances like this, I began to teach Ayla nose work. I would hide small dog treats around my living room, in corners, behind chair legs, underneath her soft toys and tell her to “Find It.” This would then give me some peace while Ayla tracked these down. Initially, I used Train Me bacon-flavored treats for everything training related be it tricks, obedience, or nose work. I even broke them in half to stretch them further, since she got so many. Once Ayla understood the concept of the “Find It” came, I started switching treats to things like blueberries, which had less of a scent and I began to make the game slightly more complicated by hiding blueberries on different levels (eg. the bars connecting chair legs.) I also hide about 1/4 cup of frozen peas around my kitchen before I leave for work to give her something to do while she’s loose in the kitchen in the mornings. Really, you can’t beat the price of frozen peas. They are quite possibly the cheapest dog treat you can buy for the quantity.
In addition to “Find It,” I began working on a handful of tricks with treats and a clicker. I frequently caught Ayla stretching in the downward-dog position, so I taught her “bow.” I taught her “target” which meant she had to go nose a lid on the floor and then come back to me for a treat. I taught “touch,” which was the same concept but with my hand. She learned to “ring” a set of bells attached to the front and back doors in order to let me know when she wanted to go out. Since I want to do agility, I decided to try to teach the concepts of “left” and “right” through the “spin” trick. That one took us several months to learn. I taught her to jump through a hula-hoop and then to jump through my arms. She learned to “sit pretty” and sit up on her haunches. I tried to teach her to “high five,” but then she used it as an excuse to paw at my face, so I dropped that trick from our repertoire. Right now we’re working on “circle” and “look left, look right.”