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Homebound: Indoor activities to ward off boredom in your dog!

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Here is a crowdsourced list of pet boarding centres across India that are taking in pets from covid-infected families while they get better. If you have have boarded your dog with me before, your dog is always welcome back here should there be no other dog at home. You know where to call! :)

Target your dog's 5 senses to ward off boredom and frustration!

Sense of Smell

A dog's nose is far more powerful than a human's, and is perhaps the primary way in which they "see" the world*. Much in the way we turn to screens when we are bored, you can tap into your dog's sense of smell to keep boredom at bay.

- Make mealtimes interesting: Either hide the entire food bowl in an unusual spot or divide the meal into smaller portions and hide all of them. Scatter any kibble on the floor, a shaggy carpet or a snuffle mat. Use your interactive/puzzle toys to feed entire meals.

- Hide treats or kibble in layers of an old bed sheet or towel for a quick and easy DIY puzzle. They will use their snouts and paws to find the treats.

- Hide their favourite toy behind a piece of furniture or under a carpet and encourage your dog to "find it". Start with an easy challenge and make it progressively more difficult over a few days as they learn to use their nose to track their toy.

- You can also play hide-and-seek with your dog. Simply hide in another room with a bunch of treats in your pocket and call out to your dog. Reward them with praise and treats when they find you. Gradually phase out the treats. This is a great game to build a strong recall and strengthen your emotional bonds.

*For more on dog's olfactory power, do watch this heartwarming TedEd video by Alexandra Horowitz whenever you have 5-6 minutes.

Sense of Hearing

Dogs have a great sense of hearing, needless to say. Here's how you can provide them some mental enrichment using sounds:

- Dogs respond well to music. Any music is fine, as long as you enjoy it too. Ditch the headphones, turn up the volume and do a little dance with your dog.

- If you have musical instruments at home, that's actually better than recorded music. If you needed a push to tune that guitar, then here's one: do it for your dog!

- Play nature sounds on the best speakers you have at home. I have personally found dogs respond with curiosity to bird sounds. Here's a video that you can sample.

- The sound of their favourite human's voice is a source of great pleasure and comfort to your dog. Practise tricks and commands to improve the communication between you both.

Sense of Sight

- Let your dog have access to a safe balcony or grilled window from where they can access the outside sights and sounds. Monitor the amount of time they spend there to avoid overheating

- Move around the furniture in your house! That's an extra thing for your dog to ponder over ("How weird are my hoomans?").

- Change up curtains, hang old clothes or furnishings in unusual places like doorways that didn't previously have any.

- Dim the lights, turn on some music and have a little dance party with your dog (I know this point got repeated, but it's great for human mental enrichment too!)

Sense of Touch

- Get down on the floor (or let your dog on the bed) and give them a nice massage. Use some coconut oil if you like. Remember, this would be in addition to their daily grooming routine of brushing/combing/detangling.

- Rotate their toys and bedding every week or so. Make some new toys by putting the old ones in socks, or knotting them up in an old t-shirt.

Sense of Taste

- Change up their meals - use a different flavour/brand of food, add some fruits or vegetables or other tasty tidbits. Coconut oil and turmeric are great additions any time. ALWAYS start any new food with a small spoonful, monitor for any stomach upsets for 24hrs and then gradually increase over a few a days. Always consult a vet or nutritionist before making any major changes to your dog's diet.

- Get some tasty treats and long lasting chews: Yak milk chews & Chip Chops are my favourites but experiment with homemade treats like boiled chicken/meat/fish, cheese, paneer, peanut butter. Canine India, and many other online stores, have some gruesome-looking ones which are extremely tasty (and healthy) for dogs.

- Any food that is liquidy/pasty/semisolid can be frozen to make it even more exciting and appealing for your dog to lick, munch or chew on.

- Coconuts are great entertainment - the whole green ones. You can let them drink the coconut water from a bowl, eat the coconut flesh as a treat, gnaw/chew on the husk, or even play football with it! You can reuse the shell to stuff in their next meal.

Let me know which idea your dog loved!

Stay safe!

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