‘A tired dog is a good dog:’ Keeping a pet busy in quarantine

Cheri Spaulding, owner of Rock Nest Training & Pet Care, suggests incorporating games into training. Contact her at 541-895-3162.

My favorite saying is, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

Now that you’re home more often while in quarantine, it is a great time to keep your dog busy with walks, fetch and scent and training games to cover their need for exercise and brain stimulation. 

I have taught my dog, Geo, to play fetch. It is a great way to tire your dog if you only have a 10-minute break from your stay-at-home job. The best way to start teaching fetch is to toss the toy your dog is most likely to go after only a couple feet away. When your dog picks it up, step backward or turn to run a couple steps, acting very excited, to draw your dog to come toward you. He might drop the toy, but that’s OK; just try again. Your dog should get the hang of how the game’s played in time. It’s supposed to be a fun, goofy and sloppy game. 

I’m sure many of you are getting out and about with your dogs. I recommend you use a six-foot leash and never a flexi-leash. I like a shorter leash because I have a better control of my dog and with everyone on high alert, I don’t want my dog running up to people.

If you do have time to take your dog on 12 walks a day, let your dog sniff things on some of those walks. A dog’s olfactory organ is highly developed. If you want to take a power walk and your dog is a dedicated sniffer, I recommend you take the exercise walk for yourself, leaving your dog home, and then take another “sniffing walk” with your dog. Spending a little time away from home may help your dog to ease back into those times that you are absent when you return to your regular work schedule.

If fetch, hiking or walking isn’t your dog’s thing, there are many indoor scent games to play. I like playing object recognition games. I put out a favorite toy, when my dog puts his paw or his nose on the toy, I say “yes” or use the clicker to mark that I like what he did. Then I give him a tiny treat as a reward. Once he has touched the toy 10 times in a row, I hold a different toy and wait for him to touch his original favorite toy before rewarding it. 

Another fun game is the shell game. I put a treat under three plastic cups. When my dog touches his nose on the correct cup, I lift it up so he can get his treat. It’s always fun to teach tricks like “spin.” I found the easiest way is to lure my dog by holding a treat at his nose and slowly moving my hand around in a circle, then fading out the treat but using my hand in the same circle to lure them around. 

Your dog might have a behavior that you would like to see improved. Now would be a great time to work on the basics: sit, down, stay and come when called. Pick one and work on it three-to-five minutes a day. 

I like to incorporate games into learning. On our walks, I let my dog get a big 10-30 second snootful of smells as a reward every so often for walking with me. 

Teaching my dog “fetch” helps with getting him to want to come when called. It has all the components to a successful recall, he is away from me, he comes to me, and he is rewarded with my attention and it is all fun. I use the clicker when teaching specific behaviors.

I’m sure your dog loves having you home and this is a great time to spend “quality” time with him. I sure have enjoyed spending more time with Geo.


Fetch, Zac George

How Dogs see with their noses, Alexandra Horowitz

Targeting, Ken Ramirez

Shell game, Kyra Sundance 

Spin, Kyra Sundance 

How to clicker train, Donna Hill

How to clicker train, Karen Pryor Academy, Take a Bow Wow

Tricks, one hour, Kikopup



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos