Imagine if you wereforced to live in the same unchanging backyard for up to twenty-three hours a day, spending maybe ten minutes eating, and one hour playing with members of another species. Think you might be bored or depressed?Think you might spend twelve to fifteen hours a day sleeping? Your dog is no different. They are social creatures who, in the wild, live in groups with complex social structures. Like you, your dog needs mental, physical and social stimulation.
·Environmental EnrichmentDogs need change and stimulation appropriate to their species.And they need enrichment that is visual, olfactory, social, auditory, mental, tactile, physical and dietary. At Canine to Five the environment is always changing. Furniture, fittings and bedding are moved, different treats are offered each day, toys are swapped every few hours (just before they start getting bored with them), different dogs attend on different weeks and activities are constantly varied. This gives your dog stimulation and accustoms his to change – it no longer becomes a stress factor. They are challenged – with puzzles, new situations, more complex toys, introductory training programmes and constantly changing activity patterns.
·Socialization Dogs have very complex social structures. Interacting with other dogs for several hours provides massive amounts of natural mental stimulation that sitting alone with toys cannot possibly match. Your dog will learn from her peers – appropriate social behaviour, coping skills and communication. She needs to practice her species communication and learn subtle body language and dog social skills. Dogs do have cultural transmission and they learn by copying from and practicing with other dogs.
·Life Skills Dogs learn social skills from one another, but they also need to learn life skills to survive in the urban human world too.At Canine to Five your dog can practice becoming desensitized to thunder or loud noises (using special audiotapes and dvds), become familiar with dog doors and flystrips, learn what is and is not acceptable activity, lose their fear of big dogs (courtesy of resident house dog, the gentle giant Figaro, a 30kg Standard Poodle).
·Games and Activities
Organised Many of the activities in a dog’s day at Canine to Five are goal appropriate for dogs – hunting, chasing, practicing foraging skills, stimulating scent, sight and hearing, pack socialization. They get plenty of physical activity! They will chase balls, tear toys apart, have tugs-o-war, bob for treats in a shallow pond and dig them out of a sandpit, follow scent trails, have food/toy treasure hunts through the house and yard, paddle in the pond, chase bubbles and learn how to behave in the pack. The activities are rotated on a regular basis and toys and balls are changed every few hours. They will get basic obedience training practice, can try agility course fun, do easy trick training and freestyle dancing. There’ll even be the occasional piñata filled with dog treats!
Self-Directed Dogs need to be able to make some choices in their day. As owners we usually take most of these choices away from our dogs in our desire to provide them with everything they need. Which bed or mat will she lie on? What height, texture, light, position, security does he feel she needs right now? Who will she play with? When does he feel hungry and what does he feel like eating? What does he choose to do in this next hour? Free time and free choice are part of a dog’s day at Canine to Five. In the courtyard or backyard they can choose to play or potter among the flowers, choose to sit in the sun on the grass or in the shade in the garden mulch. They can graze on fresh new grass, snuffle in flower beds, sample fallen mulberries in summer, chase lizards rustling through the dead leaves or investigate the compost heap. Or they can choose some down time.
·Agility and Basic Training Simple agility and behaviour training can be fun for your dog as well as being mentally stimulating for her. At Canine to Five she will receive basic training which can be followed up at home. Jumping through hoops and over obstacles, running through tunnels, learning “stop”, ‘sit” and “come” commands – all these can enhance your dog’s skill repertoire and earn her lots of treat rewards!
·Wet Weather Activities There is plenty of undercover space for your dog to be occupied in wet weather. The Dog Room is tiled and dog-proof. He’ll be able to chase balls, do basic training and agility activities, follow scent trails and treasure hunts, play with almost a hundred different toys or watch television (Inspector Rex, Indiana Bones, The Secret Life of Stinky, or documentaries on the canine species). He’ll have the olfactory stimulation of aromatherapy and scented vases of flowers and foliage at nose height. Upstairs in the main house he has a 10metre hallway, perfect for chasing toys and other dogs. There’s the fun of rushing up and down stairs to see what’s new at the other end. He can potter around outside under cover. And if he does get wet, he will be dried off immediately. Or if it’s really cold and wet, there’s plenty of room for beds in front of the gas fire.
·Constant Supervision and Care Your dog may spend long hours alone a home, but at Canine to Five there will always be a qualified Companion Animal Carer very close by, sharing the activities and the down time. This ensures there is little chance of any disputes breaking out between dogs. Someone will intervene immediately to sidetrack any inappropriate, agressive or bullying behaviour, and each dog will be monitored for any signs of stress or fear. Dogs who offend will be “sin-binned” to discourage inappropriate behaviour and when re-introduced to the group, will be encouraged to behave appropriately.
·A Chance to Behave like a Dog with Other Dogs Most companion dogs spend very little time practicing their species typical behaviour and skills. At Canine to Five even the garden is designed to stimulate your dog’s senses – lavender, rosemary, bay, eucalypts, different herbs, roses, three different scented and textured mulches – and all at small dog height. Dogs don’t have a very good sense of taste (only 200 hundred taste buds as opposed to our 20,000) but they are very conscious of texture, scent, sound and sight. They can explore behind big pots, inside little ones – all with different textures and capable of producing different sounds when touched. They will practice their dog communication skills and enhance those skills that make up their “species memory”. They can just be happy dogs doing doggy things.