It is about creating places to explore, by placing different objects in a few square meters. Exploring it safely, allows our dog to gain self-confidence. He learns how to handle difficulties using all his senses. He can observe, listen, smell the objects or places visited. He learns from each exploration that the world is not dangerous and that he can cope with obstacles.
Instead of throwing away cardboard boxes and items we no longer need, we can reuse them for our dogs. However, be careful to create secure environments. Depending on the temperament and physical abilities of our dog, it is important to offer him an environment that suits him.
During this activity, as in any other, our dog may need a break. He might move away from all these objects for a few minutes or longer, depending on his needs at the time. Let him do it! If we organize an enriched environment indoors (in a garage or a play room for example), make sure he still has an exit so that he can move away from the environment if necessary.
All we have to do is to put the objects, provide a bowl of water and a way out. Our dog will do the rest, we just there to observe him.
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Those who do not cope
Some dogs, for example, are more sensitive to noise than others. For these dogs, it is important not to have noisy objects such as bells or posts with items that the wind could move around and rattle. Some items which are too light, such as plastic bags and empty cardboard boxes, can move or fly around.
Other dogs can be “obsessed” with certain objects, such as a ball, a stuffed animal, a stick, a can or a cone. For these dogs, it is important not to have objects which are “too interesting”. As they may give them their full attention, chew them and carry them around, without showing any interest in the other objects. While they play, they do not explore. In addition, as the floor is “covered” with other objects – the principle of an enriched environment – our dog might injure himself while running and playing. Let’s not lose sight of the stress hormone levels that exciting situations cause.
Some dogs like to dig. For them , we can organize a search area on tarmac for example or at home. They will then be able to focus on the different objects we selected for them to explore.
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If we are in charge of a litter, some precautions must also be taken: it is essential to offer them novelties, by offering a single new parameter at a time, whether visual or auditory. Comforters or blankets of different sizes and textures are great novelties for puppies of a few days. From three weeks, other objects can be integrated gradually.
If we have adopted a new friend, regardless of his age, it is essential to adapt to our dog’s abilities. As time goes on, we can increase the difficulties, by renewing objects and places, at all times respecting the evolution of our companion.
We can also offer our dog the possibility to explore with one of his friends. Two socialized dogs who have not yet met can get to know each other in an enriched environment, so that they can be gently introduced to one another.
We can also explore miscellaneous places during our walks, such as a construction site, a house under construction, a warehouse, a garbage dump or a parking lot. The different smells of those places are renewed to infinity, given the movement of people, materials or vehicles offering daily olfactory and visual changes.
LET’S REMEMBER TO:
- create enriched environments secure for our dog to explore;
- walk in naturally enriched places;
- use or make objects to create secure environments;
- consider our dog’s personality (fear of noise, hyper-sensitivity, reaction to sudden movements, …);
- Allow our dog to take a break as it may be necessary.
- Exploring increases our dog’s self-confidence by learning to overcome challenges and using all of his senses.