How to Make a Snuffle Mat for Your Dog

dog with enrichment toy

For Toy Tuesday, we are sharing a video on how to make a snuffle mat from an old towel.  What’s a snuffle mat, you ask?  Think of it as a shaggy carpety mat type thing that you hide some small treats in and then your dog has to spend time sniffing them out and eating them. Basically, it’s a toy that provides some mental stimulation, which is especially great since some of our pups aren’t getting their usual physical exercise.  For this mat, you only need: a towel and scissors.  You can use multi coloured towels, too, if you like, but it’s not necessary. 

The video is from our good friend, Nicole, at We Work for Treats.  

Step #1 Build your Snuffle Mat:

Step #2 Prepare your Mat for your dog:

You’ve got your mat ready, now comes the fun part.  For this, you’ll need some treats. (These could be special treats, or they could even be their regular kibble.  Use whatever your pup is willing to hunt for.)  Scatter the treats in the mat.  Make sure to get them right down into the mat.  The better you do at hiding them, the harder your dog will have to work to find them.  

Pro Tips: 

  1. If you’re putting your mat into a box, like shown in the video, hid some treats under the mat.  Actually, you could do this regardless.  If so, just make sure your pup is locked up in another room, so you can prepare the mat without them hovering over you.  
  2. Make some of the treats REALLY delicious….like toss in a couple pieces of chicken or cheese.  But make those ones really hard to get to.  
  3. You can make this mat larger depending on how long you would like your pup to be working on it.  It doesn’t have to be small like shown in the video.
  4. If your dog likes squeaky toys and if you have squeakers (the small plastic replacement ones) you can hide those under the mat, too.

We hope you and your pup enjoy this snuffle mat!  Let us know how it goes. 

Don’t forget to share you pictures and videos with us at: #playtimewithcitizencanine

 

How to play Tug with Your dog

HOW TO PLAY TUG WITH YOUR DOG

 

Tug is a great game to play with your dog, because it’s one of the few games you can play were you can really be down on their level.  This really helps to build your relationship.  But not only that, it’s good mental and physical exercise.  However, there is right way to play, and an even better way to play.  So let’s get started!

 

#1 Choose your Toy:

Pick a  that is toy designed for tugging, and that you won’t use for other games such as fetch. The toy should be durable and flexible. The best tug toys are typically made out of rubber or similar material and have a comfortable handle that keeps your hand away from the dog’s mouth. 

Pro Tip:  have a toy that you ONLY use for tug. This will help your dog know when it’s time to play and when it’s not.  “Oh, Mom’s got out the tug toy.  Time for Tug!”  instead of:  “Oh, Mom is swinging her sock around….must be tug!”

 

#2 Pick your Play Space:

Play in a large area without distractions, clutter, or dangerous objects. Outdoors is great, but the beauty of tug of war is that it can be safely played indoors if you have a bit of space. Make sure there is room for you both to move about and that there is nothing in the way should one of you back up.

 

#3 How to Play:

Tug of War with DogI sometimes see people shove a toy in their dog’s face as a way of starting tug.  Does that normally work for you?  If I shoved Monopoly in your face and said: “Wanna play?  Wanna play?  Wanna play?”  Would you be more or less likely to play with me?  Dogs are pretty much the same.  Entice them.  Start with your toy on the ground, move it around in short quick movements.  (Remember you’re trying to imitate a squirrel or other small creature. Be the squirrel!  You can do this.)  Once they catch the ‘squirrel’ don’t let go….fight for your life!  And it’s okay to let your dog win–nobody wants to loose all the time. Take turns winning.   

Pro Tip: only go side to side with the toy, not up and down.  Up and down can cause injuries, like whiplash.  

 

#4 Take Breaks

While playing tug of war, your dog might get excited and begin growling. This is normal, as the game itself is predatory behavior. However, it is important to keep your dog from becoming overly excited or aggressive, and take breaks to keep the game from getting out of control.

  • A bit of growling with the tail still wagging is probably OK, but anything too intense warrants a break. In fact, if you are feeling uneasy or in doubt at any point, take a break.
  • If your dog’s teeth come into contact with you at any point, play should stop immediately. Say your release command, and then take the toy and walk away for 30 seconds.
  • Two dogs can play tug of war with one another as long as they get along on a normal basis. The game should be supervised, and the same rules apply. Take breaks if they don’t follow rules, as this will help keep it from getting out of control.
  • To take a break, stop tugging and use the release command. Take 30 seconds or so to go through basic commands like sit and down. Once your dog seems more relaxed, the game may resume.

Tug is a great way to spend some of their energy and it’s a great way to spend time together.  Think of it as part of your 15 minute break or lunch break, and build in as part of your new quarantine routine.  It will give you both something to look forward to. Try making your own enrichment toys at home!

My favourite part of tug:  when, after winning, my pup offers me back my end of the tug toy.  

Remember to share your pictures and videos with us!  #playtimewithcitizencanine 

5 Enrichment toys you can make at home for your dog

Crossbreed dog holding a toy in its mouth

Its day 17 of quarantine.  Your dog has destroyed all her toys.  You’ve organized all your drawers.  You’re both staring at each other wondering….now what?  Or maybe your dog has destroyed all his toys and eaten all his chews, but you still have to work from home.  Well, remember when you organized that drawer last week?  That pile of clothes waiting to be dropped off at the thrift store……let’s grab out some of those t-shirts, because those can be made into enrichment toys for your dog!

We’ve perused the interwebs for cool ways to make toys that will restock your pup’s dwindling toy supply and that don’t cost a single cent.  The added bonus:  some of these are great for your pup to do on her own while you sneak in some work.   

Pro Tip: these can also be made with strips of denim for serious chewers.

Puppy Pro Tip:  take a small toy, wet and then stuff it in the freezer for a couple of hours.  Now you have a chew toy that helps to alleviate sore gums while they are teething. 

Here’s our 5 favs:   

1 & 2:  Straight and looped

The looped one is my personal favourite, because the loop works as a handle for me, and then I can really play tug with them.   The straight one can be made long enough for two dogs to play together.   

 

3:  The Tennis Ball Octopus

This one incorporates a tennis ball, and becomes a really easy and novel fetch toy.

 

4.  A sturdier take on the straight version

This one is pretty similar to #1, however, there’s a lot more fabric involved.  And the reason this one gets included as a separate item:  You can make this one nice and thick and then hide little yummy treats in it.  This is a perfect enrichment toy for during those conference calls.  You’ll probably get at least three minutes without your pup giving you the moony eyes.  Pro tip:  make more than one toy, and put different treats in each one.  Five toys = 15 minutes!  At least.

 

5. An even sturdier take on the straight version

 This one is the square knot, and it’s much thicker.   This would be ideal for stuffing with treats and the hardcore chewers.  Again, if you need to keep your pup occupied for awhile, invest in a couple of them. (A note on the video:  She’s a little ‘Disney kids,’ but I found myself giggling a couple of times.  And holding it with your feet was a pretty clever idea that I had not seen in other videos.)

 

The extra bonus with when you stuff these enrichment toys:  the pups really have to expend some mental energy to get all the treats.  This really helps to tire them out, which is especially good right now, when many are not getting as much physical exercise.  We also hope these little hacks help give your pup something to while you work.  But also don’t be afraid to take a break from work to play with your dog!   Let us know how it goes.  

Share your photos and videos with the hashtag: #playtimewithcitizencanine

 

  

Message from Citizen Canine: COVID-19

COVID-10 Update:

Citizen Canine is temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID – 19 pandemic.  

We will reopen when given further guidance from the Ontario Government.  We wish you all love, peace and health.

Letter to Our Clients:

Dear friends,

It is with the most hopeful hearts that we temporarily close our doors.  By doing so, we hope that we can minimize the spread of COVID -19 and keep our clients and staff safe and healthy.
 
At this time, we have no idea when we will reopen; however, we assure you, once we can, we will.  We look forward to seeing you all then.
 
We will be sending out final invoices as soon as possible.  We are asking that everyone pays them and any outstanding invoices quickly.  We go into this time of uncertainty with the full expectation of supporting everyone on the CC team.  With the new Emergency Funds set up the Federal and Provincial governments, we now qualify for financial assistance; however, that aid is still a ways away.  Prompt payment will help everyone get to that point.  
 
At this time, we have no known cases of infection in any staff or any of our clients.  
 
We’d like to express our most heartfelt gratitude to you all.  Your kindness and support has kept us grounded.  We wish everyone peace, love and health.  
 
Jennifer

 

Why a 3 day minimum for walks?

Two dogs running on a beach walk.

 

Why do we ask for a minimum of 3 days a week for walks?  Simple. We want your dog to have the best possible experience with the group.  After walking dogs for twelve years, I can tell you with certainty, that the dogs who do the best at integrating in to a group are the ones who go for walks 3 -5 times a week.  

Routine:

The more they go out with the group the faster they learn what to expect on walks.   Why? Think about when you were going to school…when you start back at the beginning of the year, you’re not really in the mind set to learn, you’re still getting into the swing of the new routine, the new teacher, the new kids, your new surroundings.  But by the middle of the second week, you’ve got it down pat…..and your brain is ready to learn, because it’s made sense of all the other stuff. Same with the dogs. Once they are over the new routine, new dogs, riding in the car, the whole process of group adventure walks, they can settle in and start to make new friends, bond with the walker, and we can start working with them on their skills.   What we’ve learned over the years is that one or two days a week doesn’t work—there’s just not enough frequency for the dog. They never get over the ‘newness’ of the process, so every day is their first day. 

Exercise:

Your doctor / trainer / health professional doesn’t recommend that you exercise at least once a week.  (I wish!) No, it’s more like 3 – 4 times a week. Same for the dogs. Most dogs need a good solid walk each day.  That might include some off leash time where they can run and play with other dogs, or chase a ball, or go swimming.  When dogs get regular exercise, they have less pent up energy and are more focused—this is really helpful for us. It allows us to work with them on their recall and their socialization.  

Frequency:

Okaaaay…..so once my dog has been walking for a month or so, can we drop to one day?  Nope. Because everything that can be learned, can be unlearned. (We speak from experience, here.)  If you go to the gym four times a week for two months and hit your fitness goal, it doesn’t mean you can drop to one day a week and expect to keep those gains.  No way—you’ve got to keep it up. Same with the dogs. These are skills, and skills take regular practice.  

These two things: Routine and Exercise, help us integrate your pup into a group and help us socialize your pup—which is what you pay us to do.  Therefore, we would not be able to deliver on our promised level of service if your pup only goes one or two days a week. We would just be doing both you and your dog a disservice…..hence the 3 walk a week minimum. 

To find out more about what to expect from dog walking….click here.