The weather has been a little brutal for December and it’s typically what I would expect for the Minnesota cold snap in January-so the puppies have not gotten to experience the outdoors like I had hoped other than a little bit through “jacket excursions” that I mentioned in my blog a couple of days ago.
Unfortunately, puppy brains don’t stop developing just because our weather is not fit for man nor beast (or in this case puppy!) Because of that it’s necessary to come up with as many things as possible that challenge and stretch these beautiful puppy brains so that they can be self-assured, confident dogs which isn’t easy during the winter months. All of a sudden I feel like I am back in the days of a stay-at-home mom trying to think of any activities I can to keep my active 2 and 4 year olds busy and entertained! For my first litter I had beautiful September weather and I literally x-penned in most of my entire front yard so that every nice morning Ii set up a lawn chair, brought out any “to do” items I had and we played outside from 630 in the morning until late in the day with only nap breaks inside! Change of plans for this litter…… 🙂
So, today’s enrichment activity is the wading pool and a ball pit! First I introduced them to the cold wading pool that had been out in our garage-not too cold, but definitely a temperature difference from what their precious little puppy paws are used to in a house that is 72 and “sunny”! Once they acclimated to the new environment, I added the balls! At first glance it might seem like a quick, simple game for them and you may wonder “What’s the big deal?” But with that small enrichment activity, there’s many things going on:
- The puppies are exposed to the temperature difference-good for enrichment
- Exposure to a variety of textures, from rippled plastic to the round balls they have to navigate
- New sound exposure-I never realized it when my kids were at ball pits, but these balls are NOISY! The pups had to get used to the balls moving around and making noise
- Wading through new material-the puppies haven’t had any experience to date where they had to go “through” a material to get somewhere
- Climbing-getting in or getting out requires some muscle!
- Desensitization in general-one tiny ball pit. This seemingly unassuming little play thing can be scary for the first time! ( I remember when my kids went into their first ball pit and they started sinking down and I watched their faces go through the first panic stage, then the smile broke out when they realized everything was going to be okay!)
- General observation for me-this gave me the opportunity to “check-in” on the personalities of each puppy; who was afraid of the experience, who tackled it head on, who wanted to sit back and observe, who loved it right from the start. It’s amazing how little activities like this can tell you so much about what these dogs are like and maybe what they need to work on. Because of this activity, I am changing up some of my daily “exercises/training” to individualize it a little more to meet the needs of where each puppy is at.
So, today it’s the ball pit-and I will start brainstorming what activity is waiting in the wings for tomorrow!