Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teach Your Dog to Paint!

Brisbane is a very injury-prone dog, and resting is not easy for him. He'll be nine this month, and only in the last year or two has his activity level begun to approach that of a normal dog. Sometimes he actually gets tired now. Resting up from an injury often requires 6-8 weeks of minimal activity, and sometimes crate rest. How to keep an active busy without physical activity?
The artist at work.

I taught Brisbane to paint. He is clicker trained and has been taught to touch things with his paw, so painting is mostly just a targeting exercise for him. Unlike elephants I'm pretty sure Briz doesn't get much out of expressing himself artistically, but he certainly enjoys this game.

First I tacked a piece of paper on a board, pointed to it, and told Brisbae to touch it. He poked it with his nose a few times, then pawed it and got a click and treat. We repeated this a few more times, with the command 'paint!' Next I poured several colors of nontoxic tempra paint onto a plastic plate and talked Brisbane into putting his paw in it. He wasn't thrilled with the concept, but the jackpot of treats eventually won him over. He learned to paw the paint, and then the paper, and figured out quickly that the point of this activity was to put paint on paper.
So talented!

Cleanup involved wiping Brisbane's paws off with a wet washcloth, and hosing down my parents' patio. I've since acquired a canvas dropcloth for this activity. Brisbane has painted on canvas, and worked in watercolors on special watercolor paper. I used to sell his paintings on eBay and had an Etsy store for a while.

Art therapy helps Brisbane stay sane while resting his joints and healing from his latest mishap.

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