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If you follow our daily photos or webcams on the Dogs On The Farm website or on social media, you may have seen a strange sight recently: a DOTF staff member standing in the middle of a hula hoop surrounded by curious dogs. Well, it is part of our new enrichment program based on a series of games developed by a leading expert in the pet industry, the Dog Gurus.

The hula hoop game is a combination staff leadership training tool and dog enrichment activity.  While dogs are here for daycare, we want to do more than just run them until they’re tired – we also try to provide them with enrichment activities that exercise their mind, help their manners, reduce the pack arousal level, and keep them engaged and having fun.  Not only do the dogs get the benefits, we do too – the pack is better behaved, calmer, and therefor safer while playing.

The goal of the hula hoop game for our staff members is to put their training in pack leadership, dog behavior, and dog body language into practice by keeping the dogs outside the hula hoop ‘zone’ using techniques they learned during training.  Our staff is all trained in the “Knowing Dogs”, a certificate program designed for dog daycare supervisors. To keep the dogs out of the hoop, staff members are not allowed to use their hands, feet, or voices, but instead focus on body language and “body blocking” (moving towards a dog in a way that encourages them to move out of the way.

Enrichment games win-win because the staff members get to practice their skills in a safe and fun way, and the dogs improve their manners – In this game they reduce their jumping behaviors and their crowding/butting behaviors towards people and other dogs.

As with all games, some dogs and some staff members are better at the game than others (Charlie T, I’m looking at you – good boy!), but everyone has fun and improves their skills. It is funny to watch too!

Look for more games coming soon, which will focus on gate manners, recall, and other skills.

Lena, our most senior staff member and a dog trainer-in-training, is spear-heading the implementation of the enrichment games, and helping the other staff improve their techniques.

 

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