Which 20 minute indoor activity is as tiring as an hour-long walk and will leave reactive and distracted dogs in a deep state of relaxation without even leaving the house?
It’s the Exploration Zone!
Scentventure Cornerstone: Exploration
Exploration Zone is a simple, low-impact and can be set up in any environment and practiced with dogs of all ages. It’s sometimes called Freework or Enriched Environments because that’s exactly what it is; we take a normal environment like a kitchen, kennel or field and make it more enriching. Dogwood, with the Adventure Play equipment and Sensory Garden, is built on this concept.
We set out the environment with different kinds of food, treats, objects and textures. To put it simply, set out a load of random objects, lace it with food and allow dogs to explore!
The blend of textures, scents and tastes helps to engage your dog’s senses. It allows them complete freedom to explore at their own pace while you watch and learn more about them.
Scentventure Compass Point: Partnership
Part of developing a strong partnership is understanding how your dog is feeling. Observing them in the Exploration Zone will give you a wealth of useful information!
The more you practice observing and the more relaxed your dog becomes, the more you will see. That’s why Exploration Zone is not a one-off activity. Do it regularly, watching and making note of any changes. It’s a great way to monitor changes in behaviour and health.
Try to answer these questions
- What does your dog do when the first enter? Are they confident? Cautious? Hesitant? Fast or slow?
- Are they clumsy or agile? Do they dive through items or delicately step across or around?
- Where do they go first? What do they sniff first?
- Do they come back to you to check in or look for reassurance, or are they happy to just get on with it independently?
- Do they prefer their usual food that is familiar to them or do they enjoy novel food?
- Are they good at problem solving? Can they get food from inside a cardboard box or ball pit?
- What happens to their breathing? Does it get faster or slower?
- What do they eat first? Do they go for the small, soft easy-to-eat treats or do they prefer a Licki mat? Perhaps a hard chew? As well as licking having calming effects for dogs, Licki mats allow dogs to process the environment in order to feel safe and secure there. Hard chews allow dogs to decompress – great for stress relief! The choice of treats will tell you a lot about how your dog is feeling.
- If they are startled by something, for example if an object moves when they weren’t expecting it to, how quickly do they recover? Do they avoid that object or are they confident enough to go back to it? A little startle is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s how quickly our bounce back that’s important.
Use the download to track your observations, and please share your videos and observations in the Facebook group or email them to me.