How to activate your dog: Tips from our top ambassadors

It is just as important for the dog as it is for us humans to move and get exercise during the day. Activating the dog is essential for its well-being physically and mentally, but it is not always easy to find the time and creativity in everyday life for anything other than walks with the dog in the neighborhood to have a pee. Therefore, in this article we have collected both a number of small, easy activation exercises, and the more challenging and time-consuming activities. Because only when you get the dog stimulated both physically and mentally, you get a happy and contented dog and can avoid a restless and stressed problem dog.

But how do you specifically activate your dog? In this article, we have collected a number of tips for activating the dog - at home, on walks and other places you can visit with the dog specifically for the purpose of activation. We have also asked a couple of our top ambassadors, two talented Danish dog influencers, how they approach the activation of their dogs, as well as got an exciting insight into how the Danish dog nursery Vi Passer Hund manages everyday life with so many dogs gathered in one place .

We hope you will read along and that you will get plenty of inspiration and new ideas for concrete activation of your own dog.

Activating the dog in the home

Activation games with food

One of the most obvious ways to activate your dog is by making the meal a game. Instead of exclusively eating from your bowl, you make eating a challenge for the dog. You can use one of the classic dog toy balls with holes in them and hide the food in the ball so that the dog has to work to get them out, but you can also make your own versions of food games. Either because the dog is too fast with the ball or just to give the dog something new to try without spending a fortune on new toys.

For example, you can do like our ambassador Zenia together with the two adorable Cavalier king charles spaniels Cosmo and Disco from @cutecosmo_thecavalier . She has chosen to use old egg trays and plastic bottles for the activation.

Cosmo is VERY good at solving these kinds of tasks. Disco is more cautious, so I use different difficulty levels for the two. It is important that it is not TOO difficult. It has to be fun, so it's a balance between success and challenge. I usually use treats, but since the boys were previously on dry food, that was often how they got their meals.
– Zenia, @cutecosmo_thecavalier

Here's how you do it:

Place a treat in several or all rooms - let the dog sniff and grab the treat. The level of difficulty can be increased by closing the egg tray so that they first have to figure out how to open it. Cosmo is skilled and gets it open quickly. With him I might even put a tape over so it has to be broken up. Disco would lose interest if I closed it because it would be too difficult.
- Zenia, @cutecosmo_thecavalier

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel looking for treats in an egg tray

Another everyday item can be a bottle. The bigger the mouth opening the easier and the more treats in there the easier. You can also put a lid on and make holes suitable for the treats and then the dog has to work them out by hitting the bottle with his paw. Cosmo is always very eager and gets the treats out quickly. Disco waits for Cosmo to do the work and then grabs the ones Cosmo gets out. I'm not sure if that makes him the wiser in the end!
– Zenia, @cutecosmo_thecavalier

For the big dogs, these games may well be too easy. In that case, you can try using a muffin tray instead and mix the food with a little water or neutral yogurt and freeze the muffin tray, so the dog has a little more to work with and the meal takes longer.

You can also choose to store the food in something larger, for example a box. It can be the dog's toy box, which it has to rummage through to find the small pieces of food. You can also roll the extra smelly treats in towels, which the dog then has to figure out how to 'roll out' again so that the treat falls out.

Snuff mats, or sniffle mats, are also popular to use. Our ambassador Malene uses them, among other things. together with his talented dog Keela from @keeladventures .

In general, I love using Keela's nose - and she is always ready when offered! It can be both at home, on walks or more structured training. At home, it can be as simple as spreading the food out in the grass or in sniffing mats or activation toys. I may also find treats or certain objects (eg toys) hidden around the house for her to find. Other times we do real nose work on lavender scent - a good course is the best start in my opinion, and we started in our local DCH club, where I teach myself.
– Malene, @keeladventures

Border Collie mix dog wearing the Siccaro Smart dry suit on a rocky beach

Activation games as training

It is always good to practice dog training at home and not just for dog training or out for walks. The training does not only have to consist of walking nicely, but can easily be fun, for example by learning new tricks or completing an obstacle course.

Even if you are at home, you can easily make a short obstacle course for your dog. It's just about thinking a little creatively. Use tables and chairs to crawl under or jump up and down again, zigzag between boxes and practice pawing or rolling around on command. Remember to have plenty of delicious treats ready for when the dog does well.

You can also use the garden when you exercise your dog at home. You can throw balls or the dog's toys, but you can also try using a 'flirting pole'. It is a pole with a rope, where one of the dog's toys or teddy bears is tied to the end. With one like this, you don't have to throw again and again, but can let the dog race around after the toy, which you control the direction of. Let the dog catch it for a while and possibly give a treat in exchange to get the toy free and start over.

Activating the dog on the walk

It is of course important to take good walks with your dog. Both so that they can urinate and get rid of faeces, but also to keep their bodies healthy with regular exercise and to make them tired so that they are not so restless when they are at home and so that they sleep better at night.

The walks must be both physically and mentally active for the dog. They must be exciting and fun, so that the dog releases its energy and does not get bored. A dog that is bored can quickly get into trouble.

The daily walks are also a good opportunity to socialize with other dogs that you may meet on the road. It is an important and educational process for the dog.

Search doctor

An easy way to make the walk with the dog a little more exciting is to play search games with the dog. It only requires that you have some delicious treats in your pocket and a place to throw them. It can be out on the lawn in the nearby park or simply out on a piece of tall grass by the side of the road. You can also make it a little more difficult along the way and hide the goodies higher up where possible. Let the dog stop and search with its muzzle until the treats are found. It can also be a way of distracting the dog if you notice it is inattentive or restless, perhaps because another dog is passing by on the other side of the sidewalk.

If you don't want to use treats every time, you can also do like Malene and Keela

On the walk, I can also think of hiding things that she has to use her nose to find – it could be a stone or stick that I carry a little so that it gets my scent, a glove or something else entirely. Other times I leave a track for her and she loves that too!
– Malene, @keeladventures

Keela wearing Siccaro Sealines coming up from the water It is also important to point out that when you use treats, they should not be very large when you use them in this way. It can be bits of the dog's normal food that it gets during the day instead, or it can be small pieces of sausage, cheese or something else that the dog loves - but very small pieces, preferably as small as peas. That way, you won't overfeed your dog, even if you play with and activate it during the day.

You can also play hide and seek with your dog. If there are more of you going for a walk with the dog, one of you goes ahead and hides – behind a house wall, a bush, a wooden structure etc. – while the other keeps the dog's attention. Once the person has hidden, the dog is told to search and the hunt begins! The game of hide and seek can be done both freely and on a leash, depending on where you are.

Obstacle course

Obstacle courses can of course also be made outdoors. You can go to an agility track if you are completely hooked on it, but in everyday life you can also make the walk a little more exciting with simple tasks. It may be that the dog has to walk zig zag between lampposts or trees along the road or balance on benches, tree trunks or other elevations. If the dog is agile, it can also jump up and down large stones, fallen trees, tables, benches or anything else that makes sense in your immediate area. You can also explore playgrounds for possible obstacles, as long as the dog is not a nuisance to others or them to the dog.

We practice a lot of rallying, which I also teach myself, and there is cooperation and joy at its best! It's something we enjoy, and something I actually also actively use on walks. Side flips, sending her onto things, and sending her around everything from poles to buildings, you name it, Keela is ready! She is generally incredibly happy to jump on things - she has smelled the fuse: It gives treats! And then it gives self-confidence and increased body control.
– Malene, @keeladventures

Other options for activating the dog

Take the dog to the swimming pool

If you would like to try something a little different, a trip to the dog swimming hall might be an idea. If your dog is fond of water and loves swimming at the beach, then he will certainly also love a trip to the swimming pool. You can easily google your way to where the nearest swimming pool for dogs is and find a day to try it out with your dog. Feel free to bring a toy that can float, so you can also join in the game, and the dog gets something to swim for or hold in its mouth for greater concentration.

A swim with the dog in the dog swimming hall can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and energy level of the dog. Remember to rinse the dog off again afterwards, just as you would do in the swimming pool. To get the dog dry and warm as quickly as possible, you can advantageously use a Siccaro drying blanket for dogs, which dries the fur in just 20 minutes. Then you are ready to drive home with a tired and stimulated dog.

Take a trip to the dog park

Two dogs wearing Siccaro SupremePro meet in Bernstorffsparken Another good option to activate your dog is by taking a trip to the dog park. There are various parks and dog forests in Denmark, where dogs can run freely and can greet each other and play without the risk of disturbing others. After all, most people who come there are dog people. In such a dog park, the dog can run and play freely, but it is also a good way to socialize your dog. They get a lot more out of playing with each other than just saying hello when they meet on the sidewalk on their regular walks. However, always remember to pay attention to your dog and the other dogs, as not all dogs get along equally well with each other.

Take in dog kindergarten

Three dogs play with each other outdoors at the dog nursery Vi Passer Hund
One of our partners is the dog nursery Vi Passer Hund, which can tell you a little about how activation takes place when many dogs are gathered during the day. They average around 20 dogs per day, distributed both outside and inside according to age, size and temperament. With so many dogs together, they sort of handle the activation of each other by themselves.

As a rule of thumb, we are active when we are outside and take breaks and rest time when we are inside. Some of the young dogs will of course continue to play when we are inside, and that is also perfectly fine.
– Rolf, We look after dogs

Although the many dogs entertain each other, they must of course also be observed so that there are no dogs that suddenly become unfriended. Fortunately, they have a good bond in the doggie nursery.

When we are out in the dog pens, we keep an eye on the dogs and divert them if necessary. frictions, but we don't add sticks, throw balls or make some objects more exciting than others. There are hundreds of things in the garden for them to gnaw and munch on, but we don't throw toys around or give treats in droves. It can create resource defense and thus create conflicts. However, all our dogs are handpicked to be here, so we have no aggressive or dominant dogs.
– Rolf, We look after dogs

Three dogs munch on a stick in the Vi Passer Hund dog nursery
In addition to each other, the dogs also have the beautiful surroundings.

Our garden is also full of old trees, stumps, tree trunks and there are natural scent tracks of mice, squirrels, bog pigs and other rodents in the garden. They eagerly sniff them when they are not playing with each other.
– Rolf, We look after dogs

Advantages of being activated in groups

Two playful dogs outside in the dog nursery Vi Passer Hund
The pack in the dog nursery can vary from day to day. Some dogs have fixed days, others have flex days, so the pack is not always exactly the same.

Dogs are like children, they get together in small groups, some become good friends, others just need to be accepted before they can join. It is good stimulation just to be in a pack of dogs, rather than alone on the sofa while mum and dad are at work. So, having to deal with so many other dogs for up to 10 hours a day is, as I said, plenty of stimulation in itself.
– Rolf, We look after dogs

When the dogs aren't exploring the garden, they still have plenty to see indoors.

The dogs read each other's body language, and there are always things to keep an eye on. Some play while others sleep, some take a sip of water, some have a fart, as I said, there is always something to keep up with or something to deal with. So basically, the dogs actually activate each other, we just have to make sure that everyone complies with the rules of the game, so that everyone gets a positive experience and a well-stimulated dog to take home.
– Rolf, We look after dogs

Go to a dog sport

In addition to activating the dog at home and out on daily walks, you can also take the step further and go for sports with your dog. It is not for all dogs or owners, but for many it is great fun and creates a strong bond between human and dog.

Agility

Agility is a popular dog sport, which is particularly enjoyable for dogs with extra energy and who like to run. The dog must complete an obstacle course in a set amount of time and make as few mistakes as possible on its way through the course. The owner may only use short commands and body language and may neither touch nor use a leash or collar on the dog. You can google yourself to see if there is an agility club near you. Some dog parks have also set up agility tools for free use, and most can also be bought online if you want to practice at home in the garden. All breeds can participate, but remember that it is important that your dog thinks it is fun, as not all dogs are equally suited to agility.

Heelwork to Music

Heelwork to Music, also popularly called Dog Dancing, is a rapidly developing dog sport. There are generally two disciplines, one of which is Freestyle, which are tricks to music, where everything is allowed, and the other is Heelwork To Music, where the dog is always close to the owner. As you can probably guess, however, dancing is about dancing with your dog by performing a choreography made to a piece of music. Owner and dog tell a story through movements adapted to the music, and if you want, you can include props or costumes to complete the story. With dog dancing, you work closely with your dog, and although it is not as physically demanding as, for example, agility, the dog gets a lot of mental stimulation and learns better physical coordination through the exercises that must be learned.

Paddle boarding / SUP with dog

Dog wearing Siccaro dry suit sitting by a lake and ready to paddle board SUP

SUP, or stand-up paddle boarding, can be a fun activity for you with a real water dog. It is very simple, and in its simplicity boils down to paddling through the water while standing on a SUP board. It can be a bit like sailing in a kayak, but standing up and with more freedom, especially for the dog, who can get up and down easier on the flat board than in a shaped boat. But it still requires a lot of balance and coordination, as well as practice from both you and the dog to master SUP. It is necessary that you yourself are comfortable with SUP before you start teaching your dog to get out on the water

Canicross

Canicross is a sport where you run with your dog on terrain. The owner and the dog are hooked together via a bungee cord, which reduces shock when the dog pulls forward. The cord is hooked at one end to a harness on the dog and at the other to a running belt around the waist of the owner, so that you have your hands free and so that any pulls from the dog are distributed equally on the body. All dog breeds can participate in canicross as long as they are adults and healthy. It's a fresh way to get exercise together with your dog.

Flyball

Flyball is a fairly new and not so well-known dog sport in Denmark. It is the only team sport for dogs and is a kind of dog relay with four dogs on each team. The dogs must run, jump over four jumps, go out and retrieve a ball that is released by pressing a so-called flyball box and then run with the ball all the way back again before the next dog starts the same task. There is high energy and plenty of opportunity for socialization. Of course, this requires that your dog can be with the other dogs.

We hope you've been inspired to try something new with your dog, whether it's making the meal a game at home, playing hide-and-seek on the walk, going to the swimming pool or kindergarten, or perhaps trying to participate in a dog sport.

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