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Have you ever heard the phrase “a bored dog is a destructive dog”? Kind of makes sense when we think about it, right? I mean… who hasn’t got a story about an energetic puppy that got bored and into mischief? I certainly do. I personally lost a lot of shoes and pillows to puppyhood that are gone forever 💸.
Now, we know that dogs need an adequate amount of physical exercise to stay healthy (and to prevent them from eating through doors sometimes 🙈), but that’s also kind of only half the equation. Our pups are intelligent creatures, and to keep them mentally stimulated is just as important. Also, it’s nice to have a back-up plan on rainy, cold days where you might not want to go out for your usual walk ✌️.
Activities for mental stimulation include, but are not limited to, tracking scents, extracting food from containers, finding edible items among non-edible items, and problem-solving. There are endless ways to add mental stimulation to your dog’s daily life, so to get your creative juices flowing, I’ve further outlined five easy ways to mentally stimulate your dog below. There’s also an article about Enrichment Feeding that you should check out to include mental stimulation to your meal-times.
Your dog can only be interested in a limited number of toys at a time. That’s why rotating toys will keep your dog interested for a longer period of time, while also decreasing the chances of your dog destroying the toy.
Another positive side effect is the de-cluttering of your living area that comes with it! You can change the toys every week, which will also give you an excellent opportunity to clean the toys regularly. When you swap the toys, consider to hide them in different places, to add an extra level of mental stimulation.
You could also give each toy a different name, and train your dog to know the dog toys by those names. If you need some inspiration, look up Chaser – the Border Collie who could identify and retrieve 1,022 toys by name 🤯.
Think of obedience training as the base layer for everything else. Living with your dog will become much more enjoyable once you have the basic commands covered, such as sit, stay and leave it.
Additionally, regular obedience training can be a great routine that will strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Dogs learn best when they feel comfortable, so it’s important that you watch your body language, tone of voice, and use positive reinforcement techniques for motivation. Once your dog knows several different commands, ask him to do different variations of them to keep him thinking.
Let your dog work for treats by having to use her nose to find them. Start by putting your dog in a different room as you hide treats in easy to find places. When you let your dog out of the room, use a command such as ‘Go Find’, and encourage your dog to look for the treats. It’s important to celebrate your dog’s win when she does find the hidden treats so that she’s encouraged to not get distracted or discouraged during the game.
Our dog’s sense of smell is a lot stronger than ours, so once she gets the idea, you can start hiding treats in more difficult places.
You can also mix this up with your obedience training. For example, you can teach your dog to ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘look away’ while you hide the treats, without putting her in a different room.
Further down the line, hide and seek also works well with hiding yourself, which can be lots of fun, while engaging both the body and the mind for Mental Stimulation of your furry friend.
Sometimes just small things can make a big difference. Sniffing is the primary way for your dog to experience the world around him. A 2019 study concluded that providing your dog with regular sniffing opportunities can make your dog more optimistic. If you change up your routine by going on a different walking route, your dog will get to explore lots of exotic new smells which will keep his brain engaged.
We admit that teaching your dog tricks will be easier once you’ve nailed the obedience commands. Even then, it will sometimes seem impossible, but we promise that with enough commitment and regular training, you can teach your dog some great tricks.
When it comes to trick training, it’s important to keep the sessions short, but you can do them several times a day. For example, you could have a 5-minute training session in the morning and another 5-minute session in the evening. They’re a great way to stimulate your dog both mentally and physically, and it will also be an excellent way to bond with your best friend.
There’s an abundance of resources online, so we recommend having a bit of a browse on YouTube (I personally like Zak George’s Dog Tricks training videos), as well as getting started with simple tricks and then work your way up.