The coronavirus is an invisible enemy. I hope you and your family, including the animals who share your life, are all doing OK. And as you struggle to get everything right and keep hoping you’ve not missed any important precaution, another invisible enemy – anxiety – keeps trying to crash the party! But remember one thing – dogs stuck at home just want to play!
Let me be clear – I don’t have any medical training. So heed the advice of the pros for that. But because I have spent my entire life learning about dogs, here’s what I have discovered. Dogs have the mysterious power to comfort, calm, and restore an anxious soul.
Yes, of course, you feel good when you pet your dog. That’s for normal times. These are NOT normal times. What we all need now is to be doing. We need to capture that familiar feeling of being productive and having some fun at the same time. Dogs stuck at home want to play!
If your dog is showing signs of stress by “misbehaving” in new ways, here’s the perfect game to flip the stress and turn it into some fun.
Anyone can play the game and it’s great for any dog, young or old.
This is why it works: If your dog can simply give you his attention when you ask for it, then you can easily fix almost any problem that comes along. When you play The Check-In Game with your dog you’ll teach him to pay attention. How cool is that?
The Check-In Game
Two different kinds of your dog’s favorite treats. Soft, not crunchy.
Plus a hungry dog.
How to play:
Step 1 – Feed a few treats, one at a time, from the open palm of your hand. Now your dog is interested!
Step 2 – Next, show your dog the treat in your open hand but let it fall to the floor before he eats it. Let him eat it off the floor. Do this several times, gradually tossing the treat a little farther away.
Step 3 – Add a verbal cue before you toss the treat. I say, “Get it”. You can say “Search”, “Find it” or whatever you want. Just stick with what you decide on. Important tip: Say the cue word before you throw the treat. That’s because you want your dog to pay attention to you and not just the food. As soon as your dog looks back to you anticipating another treat, tell him “get it” and toss another.
Step 4 – This is where the fun starts! You’re ready to introduce the Check-In. You are aiming for what we call a “head snap”. That means that the dog snaps his head in your direction as soon as you call his name. This is the way to teach it. Tell your dog “get it” and toss a treat 4 or 5 feet away. While he’s still facing away from you and getting his treat off the floor, call his name once in a cheerful and excited voice.
Step 5 – Reward your dog for looking at you quickly when you call his name by offering his favorite of the 2 treats from your open hand. Then repeat Step 4.
Play this game as often as you like and see how your dog soon starts to happily Check-In and pay attention any time you ask by cheerfully calling his name. After a little practice, Radar learned to Check-In when I called his name.
Click the purple button below and watch a 10-second video of Radar’s happy Check-In!
Do something with your dog every day that you will both enjoy! Moving your body and getting your dog to move too is a great way to unwind.
Watch this space for more games to play at home. It looks as if we’ll all be home for a while – we’re all in this thing together.
*Remember that letting other people outside your household pet your dog risks spreading the virus. If the virus is deposited on the dog’s fur when someone pets the dog, then it can be transmitted to the next person who touches the dog.