Fridays are made for fun, right? For many of us, it’s the start of a weekend, and that’s always a good thing! One of the challenges of living with special needs and difficult dogs, is that they often can’t do standard “fun” doggie things like outings at parks, enjoying a soccer game with the family, going to the Farmer’s Market, etc. Often, our dogs just don’t think those things are very fun! So just how do we include our difficult dogs in fun things that they can and will enjoy?
Each dog is going to be very different with this, since many of our special needs dogs have specific triggers and thresholds of comfort that we want to carefully consider. It’s helpful if you have some idea about what your dog might consider fun! The only way that you’ll know, is by trying new things, because that’s how you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t!
One thing to remember is that dogs, like people, are constantly evolving in their behaviors and skills. Just when I think that Rugby has hit the wall in terms of working through things, he goes forward another inch in progress. So I never give up, and I just try to remember that he’s a living, breathing, thinking being, who is changing and growing day to day.
It’s important to try things, and then re-visit them from time to time if they didn’t work the first time. I usually give it another go a few months later. Sometimes, just tweaking something one way or another can make all the difference, so don’t give up if you don’t have success when you try something with your dog. If you like a specific idea, you may just need to tweak it to fit your individual dog. I’ve learned to try new things all the time with Rugby. He’s a poster child for being a Guinea Pig with me. I wasn’t always comfortable with thinking out of the box with him. It is something that I have had to grow into gradually, so give yourself and your dog time to be adventurous and creative.
Rugby has always been pretty athletic, and very energetic, so I have always tried to find active things for him to do and learn. As a puppy, he was quite a jumper, so I focused on simple games I could play that tied into athletic things I knew he would enjoy. I sat on the floor with my legs straight out, and taught him to jump over them on the command, “Over.” Then, I bent my knees up, and taught him to crawl under them on the command “Under.” Because he was young, I made sure that any of his jumping was 6″ or less, to protect his hips and shoulders. I taught him to jump up into my arms and let me catch him. And, I also taught him to jump up onto my shoulders for a shoulder ride. In his early days, he was very happy sitting on my shoulders much of the time. He’s gained about 4 pounds from puppy to adulthood, and he’s also a few inches longer now as an adult, so he doesn’t fit quite as comfortably these days. However, once in a while we dust that one off, and he still has fun with it!
This next week, take a good look at your dog, and watch the things he likes to do. Each week, I’m going to try to give you something new to try that will be fun for you and your dog. I like doing things with Rugby that are playful, and engage him in thinking and learning. Many of the fun activities I do with Rugby, we do right in my family room or yard, so I tend to keep things simple, and often, nothing special is required.
I would love to hear from you, so feel free to share your ideas for fun activities! Rugby and I are always looking for new things to try!