Shoebox Fun

Avery investigating a shoeboxBecause of the snowy weekend we didn’t get a lot of outside time on Saturday, and that meant we had to look for other ways to entertain ourselves.  This was the perfect time to bust out some mental games for Avery to do!

Mental stimulation is super important for a dog’s overall well-being.  It provides them with a challenge and gives them a job to do.  Plus it’s fun!  It helps them learn to make decisions, use their thinker, and is also a great way to practice commands like sit/stay and come in a fun and easy going situation.

If a dog never has to use his brain then if there comes a time when he does have to make a decision it could stress him out because he doesn’t know what to do and how to handle it.  I know because Avery exhibits this exact behavior.  However with training and patience he is starting to learn to think for himself.

Basically my point is, providing mental exercise is great for dogs!

In our house we’ve got behaviors that we expect Avery to do and to his credit, he picks up on that and provides the desired behaviors really quickly.  Providing him with mental stimulation is something he really needs in order to help him grow and reach his full potential as the amazing dog I know he can be.

We played three games this past weekend that I’m going to talk about this week.  First up, is the shoebox game!

Avery and the shoebox

I don’t have any of the fancy puzzles they make for dogs just yet so we made do with things I had around the house.

An empty shoebox is perfect!

I took Avery’s toy, which was a stuffie, showed him the toy and had him watch me put it in the shoebox.  Then I asked him to “go get it”.  He had to work the shoebox over and figure out how to get his toy.

With the lid attached and thumb holes on the side, the shoebox made a perfect game vessel.  It’s cardboard so if it gets destroyed, no big deal.  I let Avery do whatever he wanted to the shoebox in order to get his toy out.  He had to figure it out on his own, the only verbal commands I used were encouragement along with, “go get it”.

Avery and shoebox

Eventually he was able to push the shoebox up against a wall a few times and the buffet to get his toy out.

Avery with his prize on the couchAfter he gets his toy I always let him have a good few minutes to enjoy his prize before we start again.  I think it’s important that he get to spend a good bit of time with the prize that he worked hard to earn.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you, as much as I love my dog, Avery isn’t very bright when it comes to figuring things out.  I feel this is a direct result of his previous life.  Because we believe that Avery was an outside dog left to his own devices, he never had to make a decision or figure anything out.  Ever.  He didn’t have to use his brain other than for the basics like, “Oh I have to pee”, for example.

Since he was never challenged, he doesn’t really know how to use his thinker.  He tends to give up quickly when something doesn’t work out.

It doesn’t take Avery long before he gets worn out from these kinds of games.  Whew! Using your brain is tiring!  And it doesn’t take him long before he gives up and moves on.  I have to convince him to keep trying to get his toy or treat because I know he can figure it out if he tries a little longer.

After about 3 times playing this game, he’s done.  He gets bored and wants to move on.  That’s fine with me!  As long as he works at it a few times and successfully gets his toy, I’m happy and his confidence is boosted just a little bit more.  Which is the point really.

It’ll take some time to get Avery to understand he can figure things out on his own and that he can work through problems but he’s making great progress!

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