Boredom combined with lack of activity is one of the main causes for behaviour problems in dogs. Their survival in the wild depended on their ability to find food and shelter, which always took a lot of energy. Today's pooch still has this inbuilt energy, but their lifestyle has changed considerably. Many dogs, such as your West Highland White Terrier, are now companion dogs. Translated, that means lying around, maybe a walk (if they are lucky), meals delivered on time without fail (and without having to work for it), and a life of lounging and pampering. The dogs of today have a lot of time on their paws, they often have nothing to do, and that is when they go looking for something to do. If you want to avoid behavioral problems in your dog, keep them busy! Make them work for their dinner by hiding it in several locations that they have to find. Or train them to help put away their toys before they get their meal. Keep that busy mind occupied otherwise you may find your house turned upside down on your arrival home, and one guilty looking pooch who is trying to lay the blame on the cat!
Here is an activity that will really work on your dog’s obedience and their confidence. The activity requires a number of props such as a chair, where you can train them to first go around the chair, then crawl under it and hold their position, then on your order they crawl out. You may need to lay a trail of goodies to get them to crawl. Make sure you use one word to describe the 'crawl' position - don't confuse them with several commands that all mean the same thing. Then, teach them to jump up and sit on the seat for a few seconds, before jumping off for a treat. As your dog gets used to the commands and words, you can add to the course. From the chair, to crawling under the table, but perhaps not up on the table! But they can go around it. Then under, around and up on a bed. Get them to hold their position at certain intervals. It is a fun game and one that teaches your dog new commands, and it reinforces the command to crawl, hold, and stay, all valuable obedience skills.
There is nothing like a good game of soccer with your dog. But it may take a bit of time and patience to teach your dog the game. Naturally, they will want to hog the ball, but the beauty of the hard shell ball is that they can't get their teeth into it and keep a grip on it. They have to move it with their paws or nudge it with their head. The game aims to teach your dog to let you play as well and to share the ball. Once they get the hang of the game, you can set up a goal area where you want them to help you get the ball over. This activity develops teamwork and cooperation. Once your West Highland White Terrier gets the idea of the game, be prepared for an active game. They are competitive little champs and will have a ball (pardon the pun) as they race around the back yard maneuvering the ball. You may have to call time out to have a break! This activity is ideal for a sunny day but can be a good way to warm up on a dull, boring day.
This activity is a minor version of Treibball - where the dog is trained to herd a bunch of balls! The word Treibball is German, and means 'driving ball'. The idea is to get a bunch of large balls and bunch them all together, and then train your dog to move the balls in a certain direction to coral them in a 'pen' - or in this case - a circle of rope on the floor or garden.The beauty of this game is that it can be played inside or out, regardless of the weather. But it does take time to teach your pooch to move the balls along. Give plenty of praise for making a good move, and lots of little treats. West Highland White Terriers are intelligent little dogs, and they will pick this game up quickly. No cheating though, they are not allowed to pick the ball up and take off with it! Larger balls with a hard outer shell are best as they won't be able to get their mouth around or their teeth into it. This activity will get their mind working. It takes quite a bit of ingenuity to move a herd of balls, probably as much as it does to move sheep!
If you have stairs within your house, they will make for a great training track for your Westie. Train your little ball of white fluff to sit and stay at the bottom of the stairs. Choose a favorite toy, and throw it up to the top (or if you want a work out, walk up and place it there). All the while your dog stays put. Then build the excitement by saying 'get ready, set, FETCH' and encourage your dog to go up and bring the toy back. Let them come down at their own pace as coming down is where injuries can occur if they rush it. Of course, plenty of encouragement is needed until your dog gets the game, and a nice reward for accomplishing their task will encourage them to want to play more.
Tug of war is a favorite game for dogs if played correctly. Make sure your Westie understands the commands to 'drop it' or 'leave it' before you begin. There are rules they have to obey in order to play. If they start mouthing at you, stop the game and make it clear that biting is not acceptable. All you need is a long thick rope with a knot or two to grip and you are in business, you on one end, Westie on the other. Let them win a few times and they will think you are a fun person to play with. Studies have shown that letting a dog win a game encourages and builds confidence.
The West Highland White Terrier loves to dig; they can transform your beautiful garden in a few minutes to a desolate wasteland. As a compromise make them a dedicated digging area, where they can dig to their heart's content and not be punished for it. Mark out a definite spot in the garden by placing a wooden border around it in a square, to form a frame.You may have to turnover the turf to make it easy to dig for your pet, and while you do this add in some buckets of sand to enable the soil to drain well and remain loose. When it is not in use, you should cover it up, to keep any stray cats off. Then, when you want your Westie to burn off some energy, uncover it and while your dog sits and stays, hide a toy with a few treats in it within the pit. Then give the command to 'find' and watch as your little dog turns into Detective Dog and digs to his heart's content.
A dog with a job is a happy dog. Even if it is just a few things around home that are allocated for them to do each day, your dog will feel important and will occupy themselves positively. Your Westie is no exception - this busy little body needs to channel all their energy into activities that are productive, not destructive! If left to their own devices, this spunky, bold and overconfident dog can become a menace. This breed is one dog that needs a strong master, or they will take over and become a handful. Working this little dog through well thought out activities that seem like play to them are training and obedience workouts designed to bring out the best in the Westie. They are playful by nature, love encouragement and praise (who doesn't?). The West Highland White Terrier is small but don't let that fool you; they are a tough, sturdy little dog that is capable of mastering many tricks, excelling in search and find games, and loving to retrieve and dig.