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Canine Agility Center… A Playground for Wolfdogs

    Wild wolves fill their days with hunting for food and protecting their territories.  In captivity, food and water are provided and their territories are clearly defined by fencing and predators are not a threat.  So their days are chocked full of free time.  To keep intelligent and exploratory animals such as our high content wolfdogs from becoming hostile, aggressive or neurotic it is important to consistently provide new, entertaining and challenging activities.

    We are always looking for new ideas for enrichment and ways to keep the animal’s minds active. We know from experience how much the canines love to go for long walks and explore the forest we live in. But it gets difficult to exercise them all with 30.  This year we decided to test all of the myths and misconceptions of working with high content wolfdogs.  Most people believe that wolfdogs can’t be trained and a great number of people feel you should never teach one to climb or dig. 

    So this spring we began researching agility centers for canines and thinking long and hard about what behaviors and habits we have witnessed from our wolfdogs over the years. Then we broke ground on the first phase of the new Canine Agility Center and playground. We enclosed over ½ an acre of land for the playground. 

    First we constructed a tower so the animals could climb high to watch the world from a different perspective. The tower is multi-dimensional.  It is equipped on one side with a narrow ramp leading to two platforms to teach the animals how to use steps. Many wolfdogs we have come in contact with are petrified of steps and some have to think about walking up a ramp.

 

 

 

  • A children’s Climbing Mountain was installed on one side of the tower to aid in building agility and fitness as well as to make the canines use their brains for problem solving.

     
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        © Nya Stilwell 2005

     

 

     

     

    An arm hangs from the opposite side of the tower from which a tug toy such as a Jolly ball hangs on a rope.  Of course, we find that we frequently have to replace the rope!

     

     

 

     

     

    Directly under the tower is a foot deep sandbox.  For the wolfdogs this seems to provide two sources of enjoyment. Not only do they love to dig in the soft sand, but the sandbox stays shaded and cool all day long.  So it has become a favorite napping area

 

 

 

 

    Next we built a narrow dog walk that stands 3” off of the ground.  Once the wolfdogs master that short walk they graduate to a raised walk.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     

                    ©Nya Stilwell 2005

    We also built simple balance boards for young animals to learn how to balance. Then came place boards to work on basic obedience commands such as up, sit, place, stay and off.  We installed weave poles to run them through a small obstacle course and an A-Frame for fitness.

 

     

     

     

    We also brought in spools to hide things in or jump on, however, they seem to have more fun tossing them on their side and rolling them all over the area.

     

     

     

     

     

  • We piled up simple Dig Mounds of loose soil in several locations where toys and treats could be hidden. The wolfdogs never know when they will find something fun hidden away.

 

 

 

 

 

     

     

    Lastly, we have an assortment of stuffed toys, Kongs, and balls littering the playground.  In short, they have all types of enrichment at their beck and call.

     

     

     

     

    All of the animals that can be walked are brought down for their play time.  Some have been a little skittish of the equipment at first, but once the smelling and exploring of the rocks and trees within the playground is over the fun begins.

    So what have we learned? We have found that the wolfdogs respond very well to running the agility center. After one or two runs through the dog walks, A-Frames and place boards they have it down.  In fact, we frequently see them running it on their own with no guidance from their caregivers.  We have found they are trainable animals. We can get them to place or sit on a platform. They will heal and walk well on a leash. It just takes time and effort on our part. We have learned that providing them with a place to dig has reduced the potholes usually found in their enclosures.  But more than anything, they enjoy the challenge of something new and different each and every time. 

    Next year we have plans to add a wading pool and waterfall as well as additional agility pieces such as long jumps and tire jumps.

    Indigo Mountain offers Enrichment Sponsorships as another way you can get involved and help each of the animals to have a better life and a wonderful time.  Your Sponsorship will help us provide balls, Kongs, tugs and other play things for the playground.

    If you would like to give a gift of sponsorship to one or more of the Animals, please click HERE

 

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