Pet: The Adoptable Pet of the Week is available from the Santa Monica Animal Shelter. Martin Hernandez

Hi, I’m Oxford!  A 1-year-old male Pitbull mix, ID #A063356.  One might assume because I’m the namesake of one of the world’s most famous education institutions that I must have an expertise in obedience. You might ask, “What is my aptitude for the basics?”  

1. Responding to obedience cues: Come again? 

2. The ability to fetch:  Still trying to figure that one out.  

3. Not pulling on walks:  Is that really a thing?  

You may then wonder, “What is my genius?”  Some dogs may throw tantrums when agitated or left alone.  I effortlessly keep quiet.  Many dogs find walking through a crowd of dogs barking smack warrants an all-out throw down. I don’t judge and take it all in stride.  Other dogs may hold their muzzle high to people in an off-putting way.  A gentleman, I’ll gently rest my head on a warm lap, and politely paw for pets in an invitation to lovingly engage.  

Needless to say, my strength in remaining calm-cool-and-collected in the face of adversity, my mastery of manners, and my innate gift for expressing my love is only worthy of earning a Nobel Prize in dog behavior!  And as for those skills in basic obedience?  Given my intellect, with some formal education, I’ll obviously have it in the bag!  Located in Santa Monica at 1640 9th Street, adoptions at Santa Monica Animal Shelter are by appointment only by calling (310) 458-8595, Tuesday through Saturday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For a full list of their adoptables, and more information about the shelter and animal control, visit, and search Animal Services.


What is a common cause in barking, destructive behaviors, and some separation disorders in dogs?  Boredom.  When dogs are bored it can fuel over-arousal, agitation, and stress. This often leads to barking for attention, being destructive to find something to do, and can create unhealthy attachments to family because being with them becomes their only source of fun. Beating boredom is the first step in treating many problem behaviors.  Cognitive activities, commonly known as brain games, are thought-provoking and require dogs to engage in physical and problem-solving activities that are rewarding. Whether they are with you or alone, regularly providing your dogs with opportunities to become mentally stimulated keeps them busy, promotes confidence, independence, emotional stability, and contentment, making your dog smarter in the process!

Include cognitive activities in your dog’s daily schedule when they are with you, and when left alone.  Take precautions when choosing activities.  Avoid objects that may cause injury.  Determine supervision requirements.  Consider your dog’s health and follow the recommendations of your veterinarian.  Be mindful of keeping your dog under their learning threshold so as not to overwhelm them.  

Determine your dog’s drive in relation to their breed, and whether they are driven by food or toys. For food driven dogs, treat dispensing toys like treat balls require dogs to push them to dispense their treats, making way for their chase.  Digging can be stimulated by board games that require dogs to use their nose and paws to flip over blocks revealing hidden treats.  Dogs can hunt for treats scattered in a plush oversized snuffle mat. “Where’s the Cookie” is hide-and-seek game where dogs search for treats that are hidden in different places in a room.  Interactive dog bowls designed like a maze, and food stuffed toys require dogs to focus and think their way through narrow grooves and openings to retrieve food within them.  Chewers can spend an extended amount of time working on a no-rawhide chew.

Toy driven dogs can enjoy hide-and-seek plush toys that require them to search for and pull-out smaller toys hidden inside of them.  Tug Teasers and tether balls require dogs to tug a toy, or bat and chase a ball.  Squeaky toys, and an empty water bottle in a sock can be the perfect fit for a mouthy dog.

For high energy, agile, and athletic dogs, games requiring physical activity that earn your lavish praise include making a do-it-yourself agility course with cardboard boxes, toy cones, chairs, and brooms.  With your guidance and cues, your dog must actively listen to learn how to change direction and pace quickly to run, jump, crawl, and weave their way through the course.  Treadmill training can offer an opportunity for exercise and adding the “Touch” cue intermittently can make it into a game.

Always provide a variety of cognitive activities to maintain your dog’s interest and stimulate them in different ways.  While this recreation alone will not resolve severe behavior issues, it is a vital tool in beating boredom so that your dog can remain happy and well-adjusted, keeping many problem behaviors at bay. 

Pet of the Week is provided by Carmen Molinari.  A longtime volunteer at the Santa Monica Animal Shelter and founder and CEO of Love At First Sit®, a pet care and dog behavior & training company in Santa Monica. Learn more at and