I just adopted a racing geyhound, how can I add more exercise and enjoyment to his life? Any ideas?
Great question! Use your dog’s natural behaviors to customize your environmental enrichment program. Here are a couple of my personal favorites.
As you know sight hounds are attracted to movement, so try utilizing a lunge whip - imagine a giant version of a cat toy - to engage your dog in a rousing game of “get the ratty.” Lunge whips can be used in a small area and your dog will have to work not only his body but his mind to capture the “prey.” I play this game with my own sight hound because she tends to lose interest very quickly when playing “fetch.” The lunge whip game is perfect for her because unlike fetch where the ball follows a fairly predictable path, using a lung whip randomizes the ratty's path and the dog must make micro decisions. Those micro decisions burn a lot of energy - is it going right, left, over my head or behind me?! Think about how tiring a day of shopping can be. One of the reasons is that you are out in a new environment making micro decisions.
Targeting games like find the dot are also fun for my dog and for me. I like to use sticky notes for this game. Have kibble, tasty bits and a sticky note at hand. Place the sticky note in the palm of your hand and when your dog comes over to investigate, the moment her nose touches the note mark it with a “yes” and reward with a piece of kibble. Note appears, dog touches, yes, reward, note disappears. Repeat this sequence several times. To get this behavior rock-solid, work a few times a day for a few days before you make the game a little harder. Once your dog is excited to see the “note” you can add a verbal cue like “find it “or “spot it” and then the real fun can begin. I start in the kitchen because cabinets are good vertical planes to stick the notes to. You guessed it: stick a note in a very obvious place and use your verbal cue. When your pup touches it, “yes” and reward. Slowly add more notes to the “food chain.” Every time your dog targets a sticky note and you’ve marked and rewarded the behavior be sure to remove the sticky note. You can make this game harder still by teaching your dog to bring you the notes.
Think about the behaviors your dog loves to engage in and turn them into games that you can then place on cue. A wonderful book, "When Pigs Fly" by Jane Killion, is a great resource to spark your imagination as you work with your Greyhound.
Involving your dog in canine sports such as Rally, Obedience, Tricks, or Lure Coursing is also a great way to enrich your dog's environment.