As we enter another week of stay-at-home protocols we find ourselves faced with generating new ways to remain productive, healthy, and mindful. Below are a few things you can do to mix up your routine and accomplish those tasks while also getting your canine companion involved. 

1. Take your dog for a sniffing walk. Walking with our dogs is a great way to get physical activity into our day, but we often find ourselves pulling Fido away from what he is sniffing to keep up with the pace. According to Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, dogs require mental stimulation and this need can be met in the form of olfaction. During your next walk pause for a few moments to let your dog take in the scent of that patch of grass, rock or tree trunk. Sniffing walks are not only a great way for meeting your dogs olfactory needs, but it also is the perfect time to practice your mindfulness. While you let your dog smell it’s environment, reflect on how your body feels. Sense the ground beneath your feet and the strength in your legs. Let tension go from your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Soften your gaze and note the colors that surround you. Use your sense of smell to take in surrounding aromas. Perhaps you can taste something in the air? Use this opportunity as a mini meditation for yourself to restore your mind and get recharged for what is next in your day. 

2. Play an indoor game with your dog. This is especially fun to do if you have children and also helps enhance any training you have been working on with your companion. One of my favorite indoor games to play with my dog is hide-and-seek. There are several versions of it where you can hide a toy or a treat, but I like to hide and have my dog find me. Simply tell your dog to “sit” and “stay”, hide anywhere in your house and when you are ready for them to find you say your dog’s name and tell them to “come!”. This strengthens several commands and it is fun to see how excited your dog gets when they have found you. Be sure to provide plenty of praise and treats when they have accomplished their task to positively reinforce the commands!

3. Make a dog toy out of old clothes. This is a great opportunity to do some spring cleaning while creating something fun for your dog. All of those old t-shirts you have either already put in your donation pile or need to remove from your wardrobe can be repurposed as a dog toy. Termed, “the braid”, this toy is simple to make and only requires a few old t-shirts, scissors, and a measuring tape. You’ll want to cut nine, 20 in. long X 2 in. wide strips of t-shirt. Tie a knot at one end and separate the strips into groups of three. Braid until you reach the end and tie another knot. If you are feeling crafty and have more time there are other toys you can make such as a snuffle mat for more sniffing enrichment for your canine companion or a tug toy with a tennis ball.

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