As the weeks tick on in isolation, our pets are a huge source of comfort for all of us. Luckily, we can still get outside and walk our dogs, but what can we do that’s different and fun with our cats? And how can we make the most of our extra time? Below are some training ideas and games and activities you might want to try with your dog or cat.
Learn how to trim toenails. Some dogs don’t mind this procedure, but other dogs are so scared it can take weeks to months to desensitize them. If you have a fearful dog, it is extremely important that you don’t force a nail trim on your dog. To train a nervous dog to accept nail trimming, break down the process step-by-step, from first touching the paw to finally trimming one toenail. Give tasty rewards at each step and don’t advance until your dog is eating and appears physically comfortable with the step you are at. To watch a tutorial on nail trimming, go to tinyurl.com/nail-trim.
Teach your dog to hide and go seek. There are two forms of this fun game. One form is to hide and call your dog’s name and see how long it takes for him to find you in the house after one or two calls. Another form involves getting chased. To do this game, stare deeply into your dog’s eyes and then run into the other room. Most dogs will take the bait and run after you. The trick is to be able to hide before he catches you. Make sure to bring a treat to give your pooch after he finds you. If you play this game, make sure everyone is having fun. If your dog seems distressed with not being able to find you, or a small child is getting jumped on when chased, play other games.
Have a thunder party. Thunderstorm anxiety is common in dogs. A thunder party is meant to help your dog associate good things with an impending storm. First, make a list of all of your dog’s favorite things (getting pet in front of the TV, ice cream, playing fetch, etc.). Then, when you know a storm will be coming, prepare to spend time with your dog doing all of these things. Roll the ball in the house, walk from room to room serving her small dishes of ice cream, play the movie extra loud to help modulate the storm sounds. If you make a concerted effort to make storms fun, that can help reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Teach your cat to walk outside on a leash. Many cats love this. Cats should be walked on a harness, not a neck collar. Start by introducing the harness while the cat is in the house. Once she is comfortable with the harness, go to quiet areas outside and let her explore. You can bring some treats to have her follow you so you can go for a more formal walk.
Play dominos with your cat. Set up the dominos, then put a small treat balanced on the first domino. When your cat goes for the treats, he’ll set off the domino chain. It’s fun for both cat and human to watch!
Build a super cool cat playground. Put in these internet search terms to get inspired: cat suspension bridge, outdoor cat enclosure, cat bookcase.
Dr. Teresa Hershey is a veterinarian at Westgate Pet Clinic in Linden Hills. Email pet questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.