Bonding with your dog is oftentimes one of the most difficult things to do. We have no idea what they’re going through, or how they’re feeling. This can make it impossible to know how to make them feel better. This is a typical problem for many pet parents, but specifically the Shepsky. This is a breed that crosses the German Shepherd and the Siberian Husky. The resulting breed is a two-foot-tall dog that weighs between 50 and 80 pounds. It’s a cute, active, and playful dog that’s full of energy. Sometimes, these dogs face anxiety. They can get caught up in their negative feelings and display bad behavior. As owners, we want to help our dogs with their anxiety — how can we do that? This blog post dives into eleven indoor activities that you can do with your Shepsky to improve their anxiety.
Give Your Shepsky a Dog Puzzle
The first activity we have on this list is an interactive dog puzzle. These are mechanical toys that feature different simple mechanisms for your dog to play with. Usually, these are buttons, sliding panels, and moving parts that are easy for your dog to interact with. A dog puzzle is an effective activity to fight anxiety because it occupies your dog’s mind. Many dogs face separation anxiety when you’re out of the house, and thus take part in destructive behavior. A dog puzzle solves this problem because it transfers your dog’s idle attention towards something constructive instead. They’re no longer riddled with thoughts of loneliness or anxiety; we use positive reinforcement to strengthen the behavior we want to happen. In this case, that behavior is a tasty, mentally challenging activity!
Pet Your Dog
Another great way to battle your dog’s anxiety indoors is to pet your dog. Shower them with all your love and affection. This is effective in fighting anxious feelings because physical touch causes a release of the chemical oxytocin in your dog’s bodies. Oxytocin is often referred to as the love hormone, or the cuddle hormone. This is because its presence causes warm and fuzzy feelings inside. In terms of its relationship to mental health, oxytocin is known to produce an anti-anxiety effect in the brain. Ongoing research shows that oxytocin promotes relaxation and trust, which inevitably make it easier for your dog to manage anxious situations. On a related note, petting your dog also lowers the presence of the stress hormone cortisol in humans. Here are a few classic approaches to petting your dog.
The Sitting Down Pet
This is the traditional method of petting a dog. You have your canine sit in front of or beside you, and then proceed to pet their snout, head, and back. This is more commonly used when you’re petting a dog you don’t know, and can be a good way to familiarize yourself with them and calm them down. However, it’s not as physically satisfying to the dog because it fails to pet the dog’s belly: his favorite area.
The Lying Down Pet
This is likely how you pet your dog when you come home from work. It’s when your furry friend is lying down comfortably on the floor or their bed, and you come position yourself directly adjacent to them. Now, you have access to their whole body for maximum petting! Go ahead and give some love to their belly, back, chest, and snout. Those are the hotspots.
Do Some Scent Work
The next indoor activity that can help relieve anxiety in your German Shepherd and Husky Mix is scent work. This is the process of hiding scented treats or toys around an area, and then having your dog try and locate each one using just their nose. It’s an engaging activity that stimulates your dog’s mind while using positive reinforcement to reward their nose. Let’s look at how nose work can contribute to fighting anxious feelings in your dog. One Bolognese named Zuri worked with the American Kennel Club on her scent work. Zuri was an anxious dog, who would bark, lunge, and growl at even people who she knew. She was a skittish dog, but after doing scent work, it’s like she got a “personality transplant.” She was leading through searches with blazing speed and accuracy, and had picked up a newfound confidence along the way. Her success with scent work goes to show the profound effects it can have with anxiety. The mental stimulation combined with the rewarding feeling of the treat make scent work the perfect indoor activity for your Shepsky.
Give Your Shepsky a DIY Stuffed Kong
This one is a canine favorite amongst the majority of dogs. It’s a tasty treat that also offers them mental and physical stimulation. How do you do it? All you’ll need is a homemade Kong toy and some treats. We recommend our Calming Zen Chews: they are the perfect therapeutic snack for your dog to enjoy. The Zen Chews features natural and pet-safe calming agents such as Chamomile, L-Theanine, and L-Tryptophan. These work to lower the stress and anxiety levels in your dog. Add some peanut butter to make the task even tastier, and more challenging.
To make the DIY Kong toy, you’ll need:
- an Apple corer
- an Apple
First, you’ll need to core the Apple entirely. Then, cut off the stem and remove the sticker. Finally, stuff the center with treats and peanut butter for your canine to enjoy!
So how does this serve to battle anxiety in your dog? Well, it’s similar to the dog puzzle. Many dogs deal with separation anxiety when you’re gone, and that causes them to display bad behavior. When they have something constructive to do instead, such as play with and enjoy a Kong treat, those negative feelings of loneliness and anxiousness will simply melt away.
Give Your Dog a Massage
Another effective indoor activity that combats anxiety in your Shepsky is a massage. That’s right! You can give your dog a massage. They’ll love it! As we mentioned earlier, physical touch between you and your dog causes the release of oxytocin in both your bodies, a chemical that directly relaxes your dog and works to fight their anxiety. Furthermore, the muscular relaxation of the massage itself produces even more oxytocin in the dog’s body and brain. Again, this serves to increase their calmness and decrease their anxiety. Here’s how you can give your dog a massage.
Step 1: Have your dog lie down in a quiet, open part of the house. You’ll need space to properly massage your dog as he lays down.
Step 2: Begin to softly stroke the area of interest; you can start with their back or belly. Use your palms to gently press against the skin lightly. Move your hands in long and sweeping motions; don’t go too past! Keep an even cadence. While massaging, be aware of any swelling, increased sensitivity, or pain. Be sure to stop if it seems to hurt your dog.
Step 3: Using the same technique outlined in step two, start to apply this to the head and neck; work your way down the body. If you notice your dog enjoying it, gradually increase the pressure you’re applying. Avoid directly pressing down on any bones or joints, and stay away from places your dog doesn’t like to be touched.
Step 4: The final two places that maximize relaxation for the dog is the base of their skull and the base of their tail. A gentle massage in those areas can benefit your dog greatly and reduce their anxiety symptoms.
Try giving your dog a massage on one of our Calming Cuddle Beds. They feature an eco-friendly design that’s made to optimize for your dog’s comfort. Our beds are made of premium material that has no harmful chemicals. Your dog will enjoy their massage even more — they’ll be calmer than ever!
Play Hide and Seek
The next fun indoor activity we have for anxious German Shepherd and Husky Mixes is hide and seek. A classic activity amongst kids and pets alike. Hide and seek is a positive activity for anxiety-ridden dogs because it fosters two qualities: confidence in your canine, and connection between you two. The former is important because anxiety strips your dog of his confidence; by playing an engaging and interactive game, he starts to win back pieces of that confidence. The second quality it builds is a connection between you and your dog. This is key with dogs who suffer from anxiety because they lack the emotional connection to weather their negative emotions. They need a stronger connection with you to be able to overcome their anxiety. Through hide and seek, your dog gets to satisfy his hunting instinct while gaining the positive reinforcement of finding you. These two factors combine to build an emotional connection with your furry friend. So how can you play hide and seek?
Step 1: Train your dog to stay on command; this is how you’ll have time to hide. If your dog can’t learn this command, you can have a friend occupy them while you start hiding.
Step 2: After you’re hidden, start calling your dog from your hiding spot. Entice him to come and find you. You can even keep some treats with you that he can smell; they also offer a great reward once he comes and finds you.
Step 3: Once your dog can successfully find you a few times, it’s time to make the game more difficult. Hide in a farther location, don’t call your dog, and let them rely on their sight, smell, and hearing to find you.
Play the Which Hand Game
Here’s an enjoyable indoor activity that requires little to no setup — the which hand game! You may not be familiar with this game, so here’s a quick overview.
All you need is a few treats, your hands, and your dog! What you do is place a treat in one of your hands, then present your dog with both hands, closed and facing down. Then, wait for your dog to smell both hands and show interest in one of the two. If your dog shows interest in the correct hand, then reward him with the treat and some love!
Why is this game an effective activity for anxiety? Its primary function is diversion. What the game does is divert your dog’s attention from their anxiety and negative energy towards something stimulating and rewarding. “The Olfactory bulb accounts for 1/8 of a dog’s brain,” so their mind is getting some major activity from this nose work. That works to divert their anxious feelings away and reflect positive feelings back. Not to mention, who doesn’t love a good party trick? Use this game at parties to show guests just how smart your Shepsky is. After all, they are considered to be an intelligent breed.
Train a Calm Behavior
The next indoor activity should be at the top of every pet parent’s list: training. Every dog needs foundational training at an early age to ensure proper development. Puppies need to be house trained, crate trained, and potty trained. Dogs need to know how to sit, stay, come, paw, and lie down. Advanced breeds like the German Shepherd and Husky Mix can learn tricks like play dead, roll over, or even stand. But did you know that you can even train your dog to display calm behavior? This can be a powerful technique when they’re dealing with anxiety, as it allows them to quickly step into a peaceful state that they’re familiar with. Clicker training is useful for this, along with positive reinforcement via treats and affection. There are a two ways you can train your dog to be calm.
The first method involves catching your dog in the act, immediately clicking, and rewarding him with treats. This happens when you spontaneously observe your dog relaxing on his bed, or lying down on the floor. Anything you constitute as calm behavior is worthy of a click and a treat.
The second technique involves inducing the calm state via some mechanism. These could be treats, a leash (holding and releasing the tension), or simply shaping the dog’s behavior using the clicker. It’s a powerful tool that can model drastic behavior changes with simple cues of sound. Once you’ve come up with a way to reliably achieve the calm behavior, simply follow the basic three step framework: give the command, get the desired response, give the positive reinforcement.
Organize a Play Date
Every dog needs proper socialization at a young age to ensure that they develop into a fine temperament. This socialization plays a crucial role in the progression of a dog’s personality, and can serve as an aid against anxiety. Socialization offers the dog a variety of experiences in unfamiliar settings; this builds your dog’s resilience and thereby better prepares him to fight anxiety. In the midst of an anxious episode, it might be best to organize a play date with another dog and have them come over! A veterinarian in Texas supports the conclusion that ongoing socialization helps “maintain lower stress levels” in dogs. By interacting and playing with another dog, your canine will enjoy their time instead of dealing with anxiety and stress. Make sure to plan some activities for the dogs to do! You can even try out some of the ones on this list.
Play Tug of War With Your Shepsky
The next indoor activity we have for you involves a sturdy rope and your furry friend: it’s tug of war! This is another classic activity that the German Shepherd and Husky Mix loves to take part in. They’re active dogs with playful temperaments, so it’s not surprising that they enjoy this game. It activates their whole upper body, as they pull and resist your strength with their jaw. It also utilizes their lower body, as their core and legs serve to keep them stable and in place. So why does tug of war help with anxiety? Once again, this comes down to confidence. Dogs who face anxiety lack the confidence to stay in control of their emotions. Without their confidence, they fall victim to the evils of anxiety and stress. A 2003 study by Nicola J Rooney and John WS Bradshaw found that dogs playing tug of war rated higher in confident interactivity, a measure of the canine’s confidence. This goes to show that tug of war can play a critical role in your canine’s ability to fight their anxiety.
Make a New Toy
What studies have found is that 14% of dogs deal with separation anxiety. They’re left at home alone for hours without anything to do; this causes the dog to take part in some destructive behavior because they have nowhere to focus their attention and energy. That’s what separation anxiety is, but how can we deal with it? Well, it helps if your dog has toys that he loves! Toys offer your dog mental stimulation, redirecting their negative emotions towards something engaging. However, dogs tend to get over toys pretty quickly. Studies show that dogs like new things! When presented with two old toys and one new toys, dogs picked the new toy 76% of the time. So let’s make a new favorite toy for your canine’s anxiety. A good one is the plastic bottle toy. Dogs love crunchy stuff, and plastic bottles have a pretty satisfying crunch characteristic. All you need to do is wrap the plastic bottle with an old t-shirt, and knot it closed. That will ensure your dog can’t take the bottle out and choke on the cap.
When our dogs are going through anxiety, it hurts us pet parents too. As owners, it's our responsibility to make life for our dog as pleasant as possible. That's why knowing these indoor activities can be the end-all solution to your problems. Prevent destructive behavior caused by separation anxiety with the new favorite toy, or practice training calm behavior via positive reinforcement. Test their attention with the which hand game, or minimize stress via socialization. Each activity poses its own set of benefits.