Enrichment & brain games for our dachshunds with IVDD
One of the worst things about having a dachshund diagnosed with IVDD is hearing the dreaded words “crate rest”. Whether you have taken the conservative or surgical route, often our dachshunds with IVDD need a period of restricted activity for at least 8 weeks. This can be very challenging for us to manage the boredom and anxiety of being in such a small confined area for a long period of time. What can we do to help keep them entertained and enriched during this period? Well the answer is there are lots of fun things to do
Throw away that food bowl! It is not normal for a dog to eat out of a food bowl. Dogs prefer to work for their food and we want to give them that opportunity using enrichment. Some of the benefits of doing enrichment with our dogs:
- Develops problem-solving skills
- Builds confidence
- Allows dogs to engage in natural behaviours
- Encourages curiosity
- Meets mental, physical and emotional needs
- It is fun!
One of the easiest ways we can do this is by giving them food dispensing toys. For our dachshunds with IVDD it is important we use food dispensing toys that are appropriate. For example, we want to use stationary toys that don’t require movement to use. We can also position these toys on top of something or attach them to the side of the crate to further limit movement (particularly for our dachshunds with cervical or thoracic IVDD). When introducing any toys, please supervise your dachshund first to ensure their safety and that they understand how the toys work (always start easy and only increase difficulty when they are ready).
Lickimats, West Paw Toppl and Kong Classic are toys that can be filled and frozen. Some low-calorie ideas for filling: mashed/pureed fruit and veggies, cottage cheese, mince, sardines, salmon, natural greek yoghurt, tuna, Ziwi Peak canned dog food, kibble mixed with water.
Make your own or purchase a snuffle mat for your dachshund and hide their kibble inside for them to sniff to find. Dogs love to sniff and it is naturally calming for them. The snuffle mat is also handy for vet and rehab visits!
There is also non-food based enrichment we can do for our dachshunds. It may be taking them for a walk in a pram (if they are comfortable with the pram), just hanging out with us, bringing home leaves/sticks/rocks/etc from a park for them to sniff or taking them for a picnic on a blanket at the park. However, please remember to always choose enrichment that is suitable for your dachshund and follow your vet’s advice. If you have been feeding out of a bowl and your dachshund has just come home from surgery, keep to the routine of the bowl until they have settled in and are feeling more comfortable (e.g 48-72 hours).
This is a great opportunity to do training! We can teach our dachshunds behaviours that require limited movement such as:
- Nose or paw target “touch” or target stick to help guide your dachshund around without the need to physically touch them. This is also helpful for rehabilitation where we may be getting them to step up or move their feet onto physio equipment (if you are guided to do so by your vet or physio).
- Relaxed down
- Sustained target “chin rest” to give your dachshund some choice and control for husbandry behaviours such as nail trimming, injections, ear cleaning, voluntary blood draw, etc.
- Muzzle training
- “Find It” game (with limited movement)
- 1,2,3 game
- To hold an item in their mouth
We can also use remote food dispensing machines such as the Treat and Train, Furbo or Pet Tutor to remotely reward our dachshunds for calm behaviours. These are particularly handy for busy times of the day such as when we are cooking dinner and they feel like they are missing out on social interaction with the rest of the family. Depending on the device, we can set it to release food at specified intervals or we can use a remote or app to release food to reward great choices (e.g. being relaxed and lying down in their crate).
Shaping is a great way of teaching dogs a goal behaviour by breaking it down into small achievable steps. For shaping, we use a marker word or sound (e.g. “Yes”, “Good” or a clicker) and follow up with a small, soft treat. We can teach our dachshunds some cool tricks using shaping including object discrimination (teaching them the names of shapes, colours, tools, fruit, animals, etc), to ring a bell or press a button, or to spell their name using cardboard letters. Once our dachshunds have their mobility back, we can use shaping to teach them other tricks such as putting rubbish in the bin, playing soccer or basketball, quoits, or using a bead maze.
By Alicia Ames
Dog Trainer Fur Get Me Not – Behaviour, Training & Veterinary Care
M: 0402 767 821
Owned by Eddy – 5 yo & being conservatively managed with physio/acupuncture etc (L4/5 & T13)