Embrace Instincts of the Breed

German Short Haired Pointers (2 of 5 in the house)... exercise is free time in the back yard.

German Shepherd -- apartment dweller, daily walks for potty breaks

German Shepherd Puppy with back problems is bored and rambunctious.

Dachshund -- coach potato, over fed, is Mr. Grumpy Pants.

Do you see a theme -- and no it's not that they are all German.

These pet parents who love their dogs, yet are struggling with snarly behavior and even pack fighting, are missing the mark on mental stimulation. Big time.

We often think that because we have big back yards or acreage for the dogs to run on that our dog's are getting what they need. We often think a walk -- which is more like a leisurely stroll to pee and poop is satisfying to the dog. And for those dogs on crate rest who would much rather be working -- we have to find ways to challenge their brains.

If we consider what the breed was designed to do, we need to embrace that deeply and richly. It turns out to be a lot of fun for you too if you'll set aside a little time and effort to do it. After all engagement WITH your dog is the whole point.

Hunters -- we need to simulate hunting and flushing -- finding things. Bringing them back to their proud people.

Working dogs need to use their noses, bodies and their minds. Daily. No food bowls are necessary -- let them forage for their food through game play. Hide -- and let them find you. Simulate jumping, climbing, and running with urban agility.

Don't let the little dog fool you -- he's wicked smart too and has a nose on him that loves to forage, root around and crawl through things -- setup game play outside or in -- but do it.

And for the the injured -- food puzzles, "find it" with cups and bowls, teach them to count, teach them anything that occupies their minds while they heal.

You and your dog with be far more fulfilled and with far fewer issues if you do.

Scent games are fun for every dog -- and do not tell me your dog isn't food motivated. First of all, if they aren't you' aren't doing it right -- something is off in their nutrition. Secondly, find a toy or YOU as the reward. If motivation to their natural instinct is lacking -- short of a medical issue -- it's your issue.

I'm sure over the years I have cost myself many clients by telling them to just go game-play with their dog to reduce some of their behavioral challenges.

Dana Brigman