By Suzanne Denk, CSB-C, Dip.FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist
Fearful dogs may have difficulty with new objects or spaces. Teaching a fun enrichment game with fleece knots can help build their confidence. Simple fleece knots can be the link a nervous dog needs to investigate something new. Each new item or space that is explored builds a dog’s confidence and helps them learn that not everything is scary.
Begin by creating knots out of strips of fleece. Make various sized knots based on the size of your dog. Soft fleece knots are easy to push, lift or toss and do not make scary noises when manipulated. Introduce the knots one step at a time and do not move to the next challenge level until your dog is comfortable and eating the treats.
Level 1: Knots scattered on the floor with treats sprinkled around them.
Level 2: Knots in a pile with treats underneath them.
Level 3: Knots and treats next to an egg carton.
Level 4: Knots and treats in an open egg carton.
Level 5: Knots and treats in a closed egg carton.
Level 6: Knots and treats next to a muffin tin.
Level 7: Knots and treats in the muffin tin cups.
Try the knots …
- In boxes – cardboard or plastic.
- With cardboard tubes.
- On different surfaces like grass, carpet or a yoga mat.
- In baskets – wicker, plastic or fabric.
- With hard toys added to the egg carton, muffin tin, box or other object.
Each type of item used will have a different smell, sound and feel for your dog. The knots become the familiar safe link between all the items and can help a fearful dog learn to engage with something new. Think of your own dog and different situations or places where they may be nervous and try bringing a few knots along next time!