What’s On Blog

How to entertain your dog while working from home

19th March
This week, thousands of people have been discovering that the joy of staying at home with your dog comes coupled with a need to keep them entertained! Avoid the "play with me" eyes whilst working from home with your dog, with our top tips on keeping them happily occupied whilst house-bound.

With thousands of people having to work from home in the past few days, many more people have been enjoying the chance to spend more time with your dogs. In these worrying times, having a dog by your side is incredibly reassuring and we know that dogs all over the world are enjoying the extra time spent with their very favourite people.

But simply being in the house isn’t enough to keep your dog entertained. The Wild at Heart Foundation team are no strangers to working from home (we work remotely to help keep the charity’s overheads to a minimum), and so have perfected some of the tricks of the trade that help to keep our dogs happily occupied whilst you’re focussing on your work:

Enrichment games

There’s a wide number of toys you can buy which are all designed to challenge your dog to earn their treats by switching on their brains. Mental stimulation is not only good for keeping your dog busy, it’s also a proven way to tire them out, especially if you’re not able to exercise them as much as you usually would.

You can buy a range of weird and wonderful boredom-busting gizmos in pet shops and online, but our favourites are easy to make yourself (and are kinder on the bank balance too!)

Snuffle Mats

Snuffle mats work by secreting treats within the folds of their torn up material, leaving your dog with the challenge of locating them. If you don’t own one, you can easily make one yourself from old scraps around the house. You will need:

  • A rubber mat with holes in (an outdoor door mat is ideal, or you can poke holes into a plastic / rubber doormat or placemat)
  • Scrap material: fleece works well, but you can also use old dog blankets, towels, sheets, etc.)
  • Sharp scissors
  1. Cut the material into strips approx. 2 cm and 20cm long.
  2. Loop a strip through two holes in the mat and tie in a tight double knot – if the holes in your mat are big enough, try to double up your strips for extra compact folds of material – it makes the snuffling all the more fun!
  3. Leave the ends of the material flapping freely – they’re what make the loose folds that hide the treats
  4. Repeat this process until the whole mat is covered
  5. Then simply scatter food over the mat and let your dog snuffle for their dinner!

Watch a video tutorial here.

Hide & Treat

Encourage your dog to think for their dinner by creating a simple puzzle. Place a row of halved toilet rolls or upturned match box cartons in a shoe box, with treats hidden under one of them and let them work out where it is. You can also twist treats into a scrunched up roll or plait of newspaper, or knot them into an old tea-towel to keep them busy while they work out how to get to the goodies!

Christmas Come Early

A simple but wonderfully effective game – simply wrap up their favourite toys in paper and watch them relive the joy of the very first time they discovered it! In fact, you’ll probably find that they’re more interested in the paper than what’s inside it…

 

Training

Teaching your dog new tricks is not only a great way to keep them mentally stimulated, it also helps to build the bond between you, and gives you both a rush of oxytocin – just what we all need at the moment! “Little and often” is the best approach for teaching your dog new skills, so it’s the perfect activity while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil (or perhaps while you’re stuck on a particularly dull conference call – just don’t forget to mute first!)

We believe that the most fundamental skills to teach dogs are those which help them learn how to live a happy and safe life within the home – that’s why we recommend focussing on commands like “sit”, “wait”, “settle”, “gently”, and “leave it” as a priority. That said, we’re suckers for a good party trick, so now’s a great time to teach your dog something a little more jazzy than usual!

Spin

Impressive though this trick is, it’s actually very easy to teach – so perfect if you’re looking for optimum “show off” points! Here’s how to teach it:

  1. Place a treat in your hand and draw your dog’s attention to it
  2. Holding the treat just above their nose, move your hand in a wide circle – they will soon start to follow the motion of your hand
  3. If you use a clicker or marker-word, make sure to mark your dog’s good work when they complete a full circle
  4. Once they’ve completed a full circle, give them the treat and praise
  5. Repeat this process a few times so they start to associate the action with the reward
  6. Once they’ve started to get the hang of it, introduce the “spin” command
  7. Once they’ve got a good grasp of what you’re asking them to do, get them to sit and then ask them to “spin”. Use an empty hand to repeat the gesture to remind them if needed, and treat once they’ve completed a circle.
  8. Show off to everyone about how extra your dog is!

 

Play Dead

Another crowd-pleaser, this is a great trick for dogs who love a belly rub as it’s easier to teach to those who naturally like to show their belly!

  1. Ask your dog to lie down, and then kneel and rub your dog’s belly until they’re calm
  2. Gently roll your dog onto their side and praise them (for some steps one and two will happen as soon as you crouch down for a belly rub!)
  3. When your dog is in a comfortable position on their back, begin to introduce the command (for example “bang”) and treat as soon as you’ve said the word
  4. Go through the process of standing up, encouraging your dog to roll onto their side, saying the command and treating a number of times
  5. When they’ve begun to associate the word with the treat, try asking your dog to sit and then giving them the command
  6. They should soon learn that belly up = treats!

However you’re managing to keep your dog entertained at the moment, we hope they’re helping you stay healthy, safe and happy. We’re loving seeing your photos and videos “live from the office” – keep tagging us on Instagram!

If you have any questions or concerns during the coming months that you think we might be able to help with, we’re always happy to talk to our community – drop us a line and we’ll be in touch.

If you’re a Wild at Heart Foundation adopter and you’d like to make the most of the amazing support offered by our adopter’s community (especially at times such as this) you can join our private Facebook group and join in the conversation.