10 More Indoor Activities for Dogs

27 Jan

indoor-dog-activities

If you live anywhere along the east coast, you might be continuing to deal with some of the fallout from winter storm Jonas. While we were nowhere near snowed in, the sudden drop in temperatures sent our little family into hibernation mode. Topher included! Considering how quickly a few days without walks can turn even our couch-potato of a dog into a whirling dervish, we’re quite lucky not to be trapped in our house or digging our yard out of a mountain of snow. For those of you who are stuck, or waiting for your dog to end their next poop strike, today we’re bringing you a bunch more indoor activities for dogs to ease your boredom.

1. Tug of War

While the game of tug of war is a hotly debated one, when played safely it can still act as a fun game for you and your dog. Playing safely means only you get to initiate tug of war: it should never begin because your dog is refusing to release a toy. The game should also be ended at your own discretion, by telling your dog to drop the toy. Use a toy designed for pulling: one that keeps your hand far away from your dog’s mouth.

A final note: don’t let your dog take over the game. If they start growling or become agitated, the game ends and they don’t get to play anymore. Dogs that already have issues with resource guarding are also not great candidates for playing tug.

2. Tag or “Go Touch”

Our most recent indoor pastime: playing games of tag! It’s a great way to encourage quick recall while tiring out your dog. To play, you’ll need a partner and a pocketful of treats for each of you. Start at opposite ends of a room or at opposite ends of a hallway. One person calls the dog then rewards them with a treat, then the other calls and rewards, rinse and repeat. Eventually, you and your partner can move farther apart, until your dog is traveling the entire length of the house to get to the other person. The more distance your dog covers, the better! The game of tag also works great outdoors for strengthening recall, so keep it in mind the next time you’re at a park where you can (legally) let your dog run free.

We use the game of tag to strengthen Topher’s greeting cue, “go touch.” His goal: to go and touch the other person’s open palm. This is a great command to teach any dog—it requires control on the dog’s part (they must only go to the person when told) and teaches calm greeting behavior.

3. Clean Up

Ever get jealous of the amazing dogs on YouTube that seem to know one hundred commands all geared towards making their humans’ lives easier? Us too. So, why not try teaching just one of those tricks at home? Teaching a dog to put their own toys away is a challenge both of you can sink your teeth into. Start by teaching your dog to “pick up” and “hold” toys. Once they have these two commands and the “drop it” command learned, you can start linking them together to teach your dog to “put it away.” Considering the number of dog toys we have, this little game could keep our dog occupied for hours!

4. Shell Game

Feeling lucky? Teach your dog to play a simple shell game, and within a few minutes you’ll either be heartily impressed at their powers of deduction, or perhaps wondering if they are just a simple dog. Place a treat under three cups, shuffle them around, and have your dog choose the correct one.

5. Dog Massage

Ahh, who doesn’t like a good massage? Even a short five minute rubdown will relax your pet, and even reduce their stress and anxiety. A daily massage can also help senior dogs or pets with arthritis by soothing those achy joints and sore legs. Here is a primer to get you started, along with a few specific massage techniques you can try at home.

6. Shape Training

Free shaping, or shape training, is a dog training technique geared towards promoting our dog’s innate problem-solving abilities. They get to make their own decisions, without direct verbal or physical input, to learn new tricks or investigate new things. Here’s a great video introduction to free shaping. Pick out a command you think you can shape with your dog, and get started!

7. Blow Bubbles

We learned very quickly that Topher is fascinated by bubbles. Your dog might be too! Don’t worry too much about going out and buying dog-safe bubbles—the bubbles currently on the market for children are also nontoxic and safe for your pet. Spend a few minutes blowing bubbles through your house and you’ll end up with one tired pup.

8. Rotate Toys

Like toddlers, dogs that have access to all their toys are less likely to pick them up and play with them. When you rotate their toys, you create a little more of a scarcity effect, and older toys feel new again after your dog hasn’t seen or interacted with them for a time. Rotating dog toys is also a great way to inspect toys, throwing away any that are too worn, and can help keep your toys cleaner, giving your more opportunities to wash them and put them away.

9. Change the View

Just like people, dogs can get stuck in routines, day in and day out. Maybe they’re used to looking out the same windows, or going out to do the same activities at the same times of day. Change up your dog’s routine or the locations of their favorite pillows, and see if that boosts your dog’s energy or mood. Or if you’re feeling really bold, change the view for the both of you by rearranging some furniture or changing up your decor!

10. Take A Nap

Topher can never resist a good snuggle and a nap on the couch. And sometimes when you’re snowed in, that’s the best kind of activity to pursue.

Photo Tips to Make Your Pup an Instagram Star

25 Jan

instagramstar

Unless you’ve decided to quit your day job and put all your eggs in one basket—that is, the my-dog-is-totally-gonna-be-an-Instagram-celebrity lottery—you probably don’t have the time to take pictures daily of your beloved pooch. Who has the time? More than that, who wants to put in all that effort in keeping a dog clean and camera-ready for some comments and likes online? It all sounds like a chore, but luckily it doesn’t have to be.

Can we guarantee your pup becomes an Instagram star overnight? Well, no. But there are some simple rules to follow to make sure you’re getting the most out of your photorgraphs, whether you’re using your phone’s camera or a real camera. Best of all, you can commit as much or as little time as you want and, with these simple pointers, can achieve some beautiful results.

The Basics

Ready to Go: If you’ve decided you want to snap some great shots of your pup, be sure they look their best. For us, that usually means a “drool towel” on hand for Archer. If we’re on a trail for a shoot, I usually also have to keep an eye out for mud and water on her, but for the most part it’s a matter of keeping her nose clean from her own drool. Make sure you have the tools you need to keep your pup clean during the shoot, and that they’re 100% ready to go before you even start.

Lighting is Everything: Whether you have the impossible-to-photograph black dog (welcome to my nightmare!) or you plan on using a lot of different props, keep in mind that clarity and lighting is everything for a good photo. In our old house, we had limited natural light and really had to be aware of when our best times were to take photos. For the casual photographer, natural lighting is your friend.

Thou Shalt Not Zoom: Whether it’s on a point-and-shoot camera or on your phone, make a mental note to absolutely never use the zoom. Get closer to your subject if you want a close-up shot, and avoid using that zoom at all costs! Why? Typically, the zoom will result in reduced quality—mainly, it’ll be grainy or even out of focus.

Change Your View: A downward angle from your point-of-view down to your dog can be boring. It’s what we see every day with our own pups. Change your view. Get really low (lay on your belly, even) and take a worm’s eye view shot! Or stand on a chair, get high, and go for the bird’s eye view. Change your angles, and play around! You’ll get some really interesting shots by simply changing your point of view.

Rule of Thirds: The rule of thirds is a big thing in photography, and it’s pretty easy to understand. Actually, Instagram already has this feature built into their app! Ever wonder why, when editing a photo, the screen has two vertical and two horizontal lines? It breaks the image up into 9 squares. The idea is to place your point of interest along one of these intersecting points, or levelling your horizon line along one of the horizontal lines. Using the rule of thirds is a way to enhance the visual interest in your photo by leading the eye.

More Advanced

If you have the luxury of using a more robust camera, like a DSLR (Lucy and I both use different models of Canon DSLR cameras), you have a little more wiggle room to take some really unique, fancy shots.

Depth of Field: It’s a fancy photography term, but in a nutshell, when talking about “depth of field” we mean there is a variation between your subject and the background. The picture doesn’t look flat. You know those nice blurred backgrounds or even “bokeh” style backgrounds? That’s the result of a good lens and some great focus on the subject.

Focus: With your pup, you typically want to ensure the focus is around their nose/eyes. If it’s a close-up, the focus becomes more important and you have to be careful to make sure the clearest piece of the photo is to their eyes—it’s where the most expression comes through.

Plan Ahead

Collections: It’s time for big-picture thinking. Consider taking a few hours to do a collection of photos. These photos should have the same feel or theme, whether that means use of one or a few props (bandanas, toys, treats, etc.) or lighting (bright or white or dark or colourful!) or just mood (happy, excited, relaxed, etc.). The more you can do at once, and spread out over a set period of time, the more organized and thoughtful your feed will look to visitors.

For us, Collections usually mean props. When we review products, we typically have dozens of Instagram photos (and only a fraction of them are ever seen!). It’s nice to give yourself options.

Style: The Good Dogs & Co. Instagram feed is a little mish-mash of everything—we need it to be, because we cover so much and feature so many other pups! But many dog-specific accounts will veer in one stylistic direction. Check out accounts like Emily Wang’s or A Pup Named Loki for some great inspiration. Once you’ved eked out your own personal style, it’s easy to keep with it.

More than anything, it’s important to have fun. Let your creativity roam, and discover new ways to take great, visually interesting photos. Be true to yourself, and the number of followers you have will continue to grow!

6 Tips for Winter Dog Grooming

20 Jan

winter-dog-grooming

Just as winter can be harsh on our own skin, hair, and nails, the same can be true for our pets! In many ways, grooming during the winter months can be more important to the overall health of your dog than at any other time of the year. An improperly groomed dog can make for an infection-susceptible dog. Winter hazards to your dog’s coat and skin include:

  • Cold weather, snow, and ice
  • Dry, forced-air heat indoors
  • Salt and sand on sidewalks
  • Dampness and wind

Grooming isn’t just for keeping your dog pretty and smelling nice, it can also be crucial for your dog’s good health. here are six winter dog grooming tips to help you and your pup combat winter blues while ensuring your dog stays comfortable, dry, and healthy!

Bath Time in Moderation

Between snowy or wet walks, salt and sandy sidewalks, and more time spent indoors, that dirty dog smell can really intensify during the winter months. It’s perfectly fine to bathe your dog in the wintertime, but keep it in moderation, and make sure your dog is completely dry before they go outside. A wet dog is at higher risk for a chill and illness, especially if they’re a smaller breed or have shorter hair.

Try “Dry Cleaning”

If bath time is problematic and you’re looking to reduce trips to the groomer in winter, try a dry bath for your dog! Dry shampoos are available at most pet stores, or you can sprinkle a bit of cornstarch into your dog’s fur and give them a thorough brushing. Make sure all excess powder gets brushed out, and then your dog will be feeling fresh and clean!

Continue Regular Grooming Schedules

While dogs need to keep warm, most of our pets live indoors and spend shorter amounts of time outside; they’re usually snuggled up us in a centrally heated house. House dogs don’t need to rely on long fur and a thick undercoat for warmth as wild animals or sled dogs do, meaning you can keep up their regular grooming schedules in the winter.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s being cold on outings, consider a longer trim. Always make sure your groomer knows the proper way to trim your dog’s coat, especially in cases where you have a breed with a double coat that’s meant to be trimmed a certain way, and never shaved.

Pay Extra Attention to Paws and Noses

As we’ve mentioned before, winter can wreak havoc on your dog’s paws and nose. The change between dry cold outdoor air and forced indoor heat can dry out and crack their skin, not to mention the damage that can be done by salt and sand and snow outside. Regularly check your dog’s paws for cracks or sensitivity, and try using a paw cream to keep the pads from drying out.

During warmer months, your dog’s nails also naturally wear down from regular time outside. In winter, we tend to reduce outdoor activities. Even if you’re diligent about taking your dog for walks in winter, they’re likely shorter, and your dog’s nails won’t wear down as much.

It’s important to keep your dog’s nails trimmed, because if the nails grow long enough for you to hear “click click click” on the floor, your dog’s nails are long enough to make it difficult for them to keep their balance on ice and snow. Dogs can fall on the ice too!

Keep Up with Flea and Heartworm Preventatives

While cold weather brings the end of flea season outdoors, any fleas already in your home can survive and lead to a full blown infestation indoors, even in the coldest months. Winter is no reason to let your flea defenses down, especially so if you live in a milder climate like Topher and I. Keep your dog up to date on their flea and heartworm preventatives to stay parasite free all year round.

Use Sweaters and Coats Only When Necessary

While your dog may be spending more time in their favorite sweater or coat, they shouldn’t be living in it. The continuous rubbing from a coat or sweater can create matting in long-haired dogs, or hair loss in short-haired dogs. Try to keep sweater and coat usage to only when your dog is going outside. If it’s cold enough indoors that your dog needs a sweater, make sure you’re brushing your dog daily to keep any matting from occurring, and watch for any signs of further discomfort.

Regardless of where you live, we hope you keep these winter dog grooming tips handy for a healthy and cozy season with your dog.