Calm Dog Games
Posted on June 15 2021
Hey guys! We're back again, chatting to some more of the small businesses who provide us with amazing products for our shop! Today we'll be talking about the amazing enrichment deck from Calm Dog Games!
Before we jump into the interview with Chloe, founder of Calm Dog Games, I just want to say that these are one of my most used tools for training & enrichment. There are so many amazing games in this deck, and it takes the stress out of choosing what to do with the dogs on that day. Sometimes I'll shuffle the whole deck and pick a random card, and sometimes I shuffle specific game types like focus or calm and just pick one from in there if I know the girls need something a little more specific that day.
Now I've waffled for a bit, without further ado let's speak with Chloe!
What inspired you to start up Calm Dog Games?
"My young springer spaniel, Cam, inspired me to create Calm Dog Games.
I’ve always loved working bred dogs, spaniels particularly, and they are of course notorious for their high drive and capacity for exercise. As he got older and our walks gradually increased, I found that he was becoming overstimulated by the outdoors with the plethora of smells to explore and directions to run in! So rather than these walks serving as a way for him to decompress, he was getting fuelled on adrenaline and this was increasing his fitness levels and desire for more and more of that hit.
While I had been doing some training with him alongside this, it became clear that we needed to do more to redress the mind-body balance. Since he wasn’t going to be a traditional working dog, I wanted to make sure I could fulfil that potential in another way.
I also knew that as he got older, he would become more independent. It was really important to me to protect and build on that bond and outdoor proximity we had already established.
So this is when we really got into team-building type activities, more dynamic games and puzzles to satisfy his cognitive needs as well as purposefully ‘paying into’ calmness and our relationship."
Why is enrichment and training so important for dogs?
"My initial motivation for doing training and enrichment was to make my own dog’s life as fun and as interesting as possible and to ensure we had the important things down like recall etc. But the bigger picture is that, according to The Dog’s Trust, behavioural problems are the most common reason for dogs to be given up for rehoming.
Key problems are often destructiveness, ‘disobedience’, hyperactivity and separation anxiety. While the deck is not a replacement for a good behaviourist or trainer when needed (though we do work hand in hand), many unwanted behaviours can be rectified by developing calmness, using positive reinforcement for training and delivering mental stimulation and enrichment.
My hope is that the deck makes it a little easier and more accessible for anyone to pick up and spend some quality time with their dog in a productive way; developing calmness, confidence and connection."
The deck of cards is so original as a training aid! What made you come up with the idea?
"I always say that thinking is not only tiring for dogs, but it’s tiring for us too!
At the time, I was freelancing for three different companies as well as studying nutrition, health coaching and herbalism and setting up my own business within that industry. I had also recently got married, moved house to a new area (and would be continuing to move every year as my husband is in the military) and then of course had this spaniel puppy to take care of. As an introvert, that felt like quite a lot of plates to keep spinning.
While I had a few core games and activities that I did with Cam, and traditional cues to train, I’d either find myself in a bit of a rut or I would be wracking my brains to come up with new things to teach him. He was so keen and eager to learn, he made me want to think up more and more for him!
So our repertoire grew and I started writing these down to jog my memory and act as prompts and it grew from there!"
What types of games can we find in your deck?
"The Games and Enrichment deck is geared towards giving your dog opportunities for fun and interest in their day and a healthy outlet to express their natural behaviours within our modern lives.
So there are scent games, games that involve foraging, problem-solving etc and just learning more about what motivates your individual dog so you can utilise that within your training. While this deck doesn’t have as many specific training exercises as the original version (though many of those will be returning as Vol 2), it still helps you to create scenarios that are engaging for the dog and set you up for success.
Cam is very switched on and he’s working me out as much as I am him. So this is why I feel it’s vital to always be creating a win-win situation. I want my dog to absolutely love recalling, to happily drop a toy, to want to follow my lead outdoors etc. So these are some of the elements we work on within the deck, just without them being ‘formal drill’."
But my dog is only a pet dog, why would these benefit us?
"The majority of us have pet dogs and a large proportion of these are working breeds. Beyond your labs, collies and spaniels, there are of course breeds that you perhaps wouldn’t initially think of as being a working breed, but were indeed bred to do a specific job. So they have that particular drive and instincts and I think it’s important to give them an outlet for that work. Mental stimulation is essential for any dog’s overall wellbeing."
Will these cards help me build a bond with my dog?
"Yes, absolutely! All of these involve you as a core component or cheerleader. Through working with your dog, you can learn more about them and what they find fun and motivating. So often we can be the ‘fun police’; taking a stolen item off them, or putting them back on the lead after running free, or telling them no they can’t dig that hole etc. When you start instigating fun activities, your dog takes notice! So for dog’s who would otherwise self-serve, it’s a great way to put you at the centre of their fun - especially as dogs adore your attention. This can make such a difference in multiple day-to-day situations, from them paying you attention on walks to dropping an item when you ask them to."
How old does my puppy need to be before they can start training?
"Puppyhood is a great time to play games and start training. You can really build on their desire to be with you and this can help you to sail more smoothly through adolescence and early adulthood.
It is important to note that puppies should not be overtaxed mentally as well as physically - so keeping sessions super short and sweet! There are some notes included in the guide booklet on this.
I also collaborated with Heather from Puppy School to talk more about puppies and our top three starter games. You can find that here. A Puppy School tutor is a wonderful way to get some structured training and guidance at that key stage."
Does your dog have a favourite game?
"Cam loves all of the scent and scavenger games. As a spaniel he’s a super sniffer! He’s not as methodical as I’ve seen some labradors be; his enthusiasm takes over and he darts around like a hummingbird! I originally taught him to find tennis balls and now he’s honed in on them, he manages to find one on pretty much every walk we go on, no matter how deeply embedded in the undergrowth! We now work with coriander essential oil as it’s a more random scent. Every day for about a week he was staring at my bathroom unit until I finally realised that he was pointing out it’s where it was stored! I had to move it onto the top shelf in the kitchen so he wouldn’t think he needed to find it!"
A massive thank you to Chloe for such an informative chat about such an incredible product. I have to say these are absolutely amazing, if you know of someone who might benefit from this deck of cards please be sure to send them the link. These also make an amazing gift for new dog owners I must say!
Thank you so much for reading and don't forget to leave a comment!