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Monday, March 9, 2015

#SilverSlippers: Theming a Dog Walk

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Tanner Found a Cat in Our Elm Tree
Lately the boys and I have been testing out some new walking themes in our efforts to give Tanner a few new thrills in life as a senior. Don't get me wrong, Oliver enjoys these games as well. To be honest, I do too! It's always fun to change things up a bit, and plugging in a new theme for each walk--or even each week's walks--can be a fun way to teach your dog to reconnect with his senses, even if they may be lagging a bit behind their earlier abilities.

Since Tanner's ears and eyes are less acutely active these days, I'll be working to help him focus them to get better results. However, today's post is more about the first route we have recently tested--nosework. It seems that Tanner's nose is as keen as ever, now that we've had a chance to work this theme for a week and see how he performs.

Here's one method I tried: Oliver and I took a quick walk to place some markers for Tanner to find. I took an old rag and rubbed it around inside an empty bag from cheese we had used in breakfast eggs that morning. You could use most anything with a scent your dog will perk up for--peanut butter,  a tiny dab of yogurt, or even chicken broth. I wouldn't recommend meat due to spoilage. Remember, your dog may not find all the plants you sow for him.
Let's Do Some Nosework!

After I coated the rag with the cheese, I tore up the rag into small bits and dropped them in bushes, behind trees along our path, and even under large Sycamore leaves. Thankfully it wasn't a windy day, so they stayed put and Tanner had the opportunity to upturn them while following his nose. This game has been great fun!

We've tested each of the four scents I recommend and Tanner has approved them all, while finding cheese the most thrilling. Your dog will have his own favorites. Please let me know what he enjoyed best.

Placing Tanner on an extra-long leash, I set out with him after first offering a sniff of the cheese bag before discarding it in the trash can. I could immediately see his eyes perk up and his nose wiggle. I decided NOT to teach him the command "Find", since I'm not eager to train a hound. However, the message was clear as we left the yard. His nose was in high gear in search of cheese! If your dog IS a hound, go ahead and use that command. Why not let him enjoy performing his favorite game! 

If you're using these themed activities to continue to extend your senior's training, by all means offer a treat when your Fido is successful. This can also aid in assuring that he doesn't eat the rag while licking the delicious taste from it. Simply make an exchange--the rag for the treat. Keep the snacks small to watch his weight, but do encourage his enthusiasm with this--or another--desired reward. If your dog is fighting a battle of the bulge, offer a favorite toy or a loving belly rub at the end of your expedition to let her know what a good job she did.

After four days of this Canine scent work game with Tanner, I'm pleased to report he has definitely earned an A in nosework. While I'm not expecting the same results in hearing, that's okay. My goal is to develop better focus on each of his senses, not to mope over their diminishing level of acuity. That's what #SilverSlippers is all about.

I hope some of you will share your experiences with similar activities. What sort of themes have you tried? How did you employ these? Dish!

Grab those #SilverSlippers and let's get walking,

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