Ace Free Work

09/02/2022

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ACE FREE WORK

ACE Free Work is a great way to help your dog calm and relax. It naturally uses all of your dog’s senses and provides low impact exercise, sensory enrichment and the opportunity to explore and investigate. Sniffing, licking and chewing are all naturally calming activities for dogs and this exercise incorporates them all.

You start by setting out different elements including surfaces, so there is a range of things to walk over; enrichment activities, such as snuffle mats, lickimats, and ball pits; and a number of stations of different heights. You also need to have water bowls, ideally more than one and one of them raised.

You then prime this area with food. You will need three types of food: small, easy to eat treats; soft food that can be spread on surfaces, such as cream cheese or peanut butter; and larger crunchy but still edible chews.

Scatter the small treats on the surfaces and in the enrichment activities. Also scatter some on the ground near these so your dog does not have to step on surfaces to get the treats. Spread the soft food on lickimats and surfaces that your dog can lick. Hide a couple of the larger chews so that your dog can exercise their jaw. Always be aware of the potential for resource guarding and don’t use these larger treats if this is an issue for your dog.

If it is safe, take all equipment off your dog so they are not wearing a harness or collar. Then simply allow your dog to explore. Don’t direct them or encourage them in a particular direction or lure them onto any surfaces. Just allow them to explore and stand back and observe. What do you see? Video if you can as this is very useful to help you spot posture and gait issues.

You can do Free Work anywhere – and you don’t need a lot of space. You can work outside in the garden or yard, inside the house, on a balcony even in a kennel run. Start with just a few elements and keep them close together especially if your dog is very busy!

Use what you have got in the house: plastic crates, cardboard boxes, bits of old carpet, mats, towels, bubble wrap, any enrichment toys your dog has got. A rolled up towel with treats hidden in it or a cardboard box with scrunched up paper and treats inside make cheap and easy enrichment activities.

Have fun!

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