Engaging Training Gifts for Active Dogs (and Their Humans)
When you share your life with an active dog, there is rarely a dull moment. Energetic dogs are almost always ready for a game, sport, training session. And if you don’t give them these outlets, woe to the furniture that will be devoured, or the children that will get herded, simply out of boredom. Here are some great gifts tailored towards the active pup in your life.
Agility is a fantastic way to burn Fido’s energy in a focused way. You can buy recreational Agility equipment online, some of which can even be used indoors. In addition to jumps, Agility courses include weave poles, a tunnel, a table (on which to pause), an A-frame, a see-saw, and a dog walk (similar to a balance beam). If you plan to play around at home, I’d highly recommend taking a class to learn how to properly execute these obstacles and ensure you’re playing in the safest way possible. No classes in your area? No problem because there are also….
…Sports classes online
Online courses are a great way to learn a dog sport, or even brush up on basic manners. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from the comfort of your own home, especially if you enroll in a class that allows for student participation via video chat, message boards, and/or video submission of your dog doing his “homework.” Fenzi Dog Sports Academy and Dog Sport University are two great options.
One of my favorite online programs is Scent Work University, which is home to a number of fun Scent Work classes for both leisure and sport. Scent Work is a productive way for active dogs to expend energy regardless of the weather, since it can be practiced indoors. You’ll find that sniffing requires a great deal of work and concentration, so your pup can tire himself out in a low-impact manner.
Automatic ball launcher
Is your dog a fetch addict? If so, an automatic ball launcher may be just what he needs. You or your dog feed a ball into this little contraption, and it then shoots the ball out. The more sophisticated launchers like this one by Petsafe have settings to allow for specific distances and directions, so you can even use it indoors. There is also an automatic rest mode that kicks in after fifteen minutes of play. Rest mode ensures your dog doesn’t overdo it, especially if he learns to load the ball himself and play fetch when you’re not there. Clever!
Sometimes it’s the simplest toys that lead to the most fun. A flirt pole is the sturdier canine version of the timeless cat toy, which looks like a fishing rod with a toy “hooked” onto the end of the line. The purpose of a flirt pole is to give your dog one heck of a chase game, with you mostly standing still. Simply drag the toy back and forth as your dog chases it. The goal isn’t really to catch the toy; it’s all about the pursuit. (If your dog does catch and “murder” the toy, you can get a replacement.)
Food dispensing toys
You have to feed your dog anyway, so why not let him have some fun and burn energy while eating? There are countless toys on the market designed to make mealtime a game, but the right toy will depend on your dog’s needs. Strong dogs generally require tough toys with no small parts, while gentle or small dogs would do best with lightweight toys that they can easily push around. When you first start shopping around for food-dispensing toys, start with ones that look easy to “win.” A hollow ball, cube, or object such as Kong Wobbler is a good starting point, as the treats come out easily. As time goes on, you can go for more complicated ones, which require more effort to extract the food.
Daycare gift card
If the dog on your list loves playing with other dogs, consider a gift card to a well-run local doggie daycare. Many young, sociable dogs benefit from a few hours of playing with other pups once or twice a week. The advantage of a reputable daycare is that all the dogs at the facility have been temperament tested and vaccinated, and they are playing under employee supervision. This adds a layer of safety that you can’t get at a dog park.
Time to get shopping!
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer at Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY, and author of the training book, "BKLN Manners." She draws upon her experience as an educator and dog trainer to apply positive training techniques to a challenging urban environment. Kate is a rescue advocate drawn to special-needs dogs and currently has two Chihuahua mixes, Batman and Beans.
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