We are now into week 2 of Emma’s second heat, and this week we’ll get into what we do when we’re unable to take Emma to the dog park.
Emma usually spends about 3 hours a day playing at the dog park – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. As a frequent visitor of the park at different times of the day, Emma has gotten to know quite a number doggos and owners in our neighbourhood, making the dog park an incredibly exciting place for her. It also makes our lives as parents easier too; Emma is happy and tuckered out every time we get home from the dog park, so we’re able to focus on our work while she sleeps. So from being able to play with her friends for 3 hours a day to suddenly not being able to enter the dog park is a huge change in her life, and we understand her confusion and frustration, but have found that training is a fantastic alternative to the park; let me explain.
I’m sure every dog owner at some point has heard the phrase “tired dogs are happy dogs”, and has worked to make sure their doggos are getting enough exercise to tire them out. Puppies might end up sleeping around 18 hours a day, while adult dogs closer to 12 hours, but in either case, if they are stimulated enough, they will happily plop down to catch some Z’s throughout the course of the day, and sleep restlessly throughout the night.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of stimulation: physical exercise and mental stimulation. Physical exercise, as the name suggests, are activities like running, playing, swimming, and wrestling, while mental stimulation are activities that engage your doggos’ minds and “tires” them out through, for lack of better terms, “thinking”. Examples of mental stimulation can include letting your doggo sniff as you walk a new path, having them play with puzzle toys, or simply working on training, and this is what we’ll be talking about.
We began training Emma at 8 weeks old, so she has a lot of manner commands and trick commands down, but in high-distraction situations like a park with squirrels, pigeons and lots of dogs walking by, Emma tends to lose focus easily, so that’s always been something we as dog parents have constantly been working on.
For Emma, a 30 minute training session in a high-distraction area seems to be the equivalent of about 1.5 hours of play at the dog park in terms of her fatigue, and so we do this twice a day. And what better way to spend the time that she would spend playing, by reinforcing commands that she knows to keep her on her toes, as well as introducing new commands to her repertoire.
We begin our training sessions right at our front door. She “sits” and “stays” by the open front door until she is asked to “heel” to walk out with one of us. She “heel” walks all the way to the park, and once we’re in an open area, she gets a quick break to explore new smells and for her to do her business before we go back into training. We jump right back into an “off-leash heel” walk with lots of changes in directions and frequent stops. We work on “come middle” which we use as our default position when we need Emma to stick with us (for example, at traffic stops), and have her move into different positions such as “heel” and “front”. Most recently we began to work on the duration of her “stay” command, especially when there are loads of distractions around. We would have her “sit” or “down”, and then “stay” in that position as we walk away from her. Despite pigeons flying around, squirrels darting past her, and other dogs barking towards her, Emma has learned to “stay” in her position until one of us calls a different command to release the “stay”. All of this is heavily rewarded with treats and lots of positive reinforcement.
What are some adjustments that you make to your doggo’s schedule when in heat? Let us know in the comments below or follow Emma’s daily updates on her Instagram page!
Thank you for reading and we’ll catch you in the next update!
- Mick (Emma's Dad)
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