With everything that’s going on, many people with animals that require a lot of exercise may be having a hard time keeping them occupied. Here are some ideas on how to keep them entertained:
Hide some treats around your house (make sure to remember where they all are) and let your pet try to find them. They may have to move something to get to the treat so they will get both mental and physical stimulation.
If you take a muffin tin and fill half the spots with balls, hide treats under half of the spots. Then let your pet figure out how to move the ball in order to get the hidden treats. You may have to put a treat in an empty spot until they figure out that the treat is under the ball.
Try teaching your pet a new trick or ridding them of a bad behaviour. For example, jumping through a hoop or stealing food off the counter. Remember to use behaviour shaping for more complicated tricks so that you can slowly get your pet there. Your pet’s attention span is also species dependent, for dogs its about 5 minutes, so do it in little spurts. See this video from 2 years ago if you’d like an idea of how I’ve trained Kaia. In case you’re unsure about what method to use for training, see my article about reinforcement vs. punishment .
Desensitize them to something they are afraid of
This is a form of behaviour shaping in which you take a scary stimulus, ie. nail clippers, and help your animal feel more comfortable around them. You can leave the object on the floor (if its safe to do so), and reward your pet any time they get close to it. If they see it on a regular basis and nothing bad happens, they will notice it less and less.
Set up a make-shift agility course in your backyard (if you have one)
Use heavy objects that can’t be moved and set up a few jumps, a table to stop on and a ramp (if it’s secure). If you want an idea of what the obstacles look like, here is a video. You’re going to need many treats to teach them one obstacle at a time. Practice running the course in different sequences, different directions and pauses in between. This is an excellent activity for bonding with your animal, and getting exercise for both of you!
Making Pet Treats
If you have an air fryer you can simple dehydrate sliced meat or sweet potato. If not, there are many treat recipes out there. Try to pick recipes without flour and dairy if possible, as well as those that use the minimum number of ingredients. If you pets of different sizes in your house, making something in a bar format may be easier, as you can break it.
One of the simplest one just requires coconut oil and blueberries! Simply put a blueberry in a silicone treat mold, warm the coconut oil and pour it overtop. Let it freeze and you’re ready to go. Another easy one is pupsicles. Take popsicle molds and fill them with coconut oil, berries, turmeric, vegetable or meat stock (low sodium) and use a vegetable or chicken foot as the ‘stick’. Freeze and they are great in warmer weather.
Give them a marrow bone
Marrow bones are a great way to keep your pets entertained and clean their teeth. The most important thing is not to give cookedbones as they can splinter. Choosing a bone of the correct size for your dog is key for safety. Too small and they could get it stuck on their jaw or in their throat, too big and they could crack a tooth. Ask the pet store workers which size is appropriate for your dogs. If you have multiple pets, it’s best to keep them separated if you have a resource protective animal.
If you’re looking for more educational activities for yourself, in regards to learning more about your animal, here are a few ideas.
Research pet food and supplements
If you’re not quite sure what type of food your dog or cat should be eating or what kind of supplements they can be taking to help them feel better, this is an excellent use of time. My friend Lucy Jabrayan, of Thrive4Life Holistic Pet Food is a wonderful resource in this department. She offers consultations and helped me get Kaia on a food that didn’t upset her stomach (for the first time ever)!
Watch some Youtube videos on training
There are so many great resources out there. For dogs, Ian Dunbar is a good reference, and Dog Decoder is a great one for body language. If you’d like recommendations please let me know.
Track your animal’s behaviour
If you notice your animal exhibiting a behaviour or symptom that is unusual for them, track it! What time of day, how frequently, how long does it last and what is the intensity. This will be useful information when you see your holistic vet, or me!
Start a book or course about pet wellness or a therapy
If you would like pet wellness book recommendations, see my website Book page. I also teach two of the animal therapies I do, they can be found under the Learning tab of my website. If you’d like to know where I learned my other therapies, please send me an email, I’m happy to discuss it with you!
Have a Reiki or animal communication session done on your animal
This can give you some really valuable information that you wouldn’t otherwise have know. For example, your dog likes listening to a certain type of music, or moving their food bowl to a different location would make them finish their food. Perhaps your bird feels chilled because there’s a draft from the vent or your cat prefers salmon over tuna.
Copyright Birch Animal Wellness, 2021.