Most people know dogs need exercise. Dogs also need mental stimulation. Sometimes that gets overlooked by pet parents. People tend to over-focus on exercise and not provide enough mental stimulation for their dogs. Just like us, dogs get bored. We give children mental stimulation early in life and we should do the same for puppies. As your puppy grows, mental stimulation, as well as exercise, should continue and remain a constant part of your dog’s life.
A bored puppy or dog will find ways to entertain themselves and that usually shows up in destructive or undesirable behaviors such as whining, digging, chewing, tail chasing, and excessive barking. The good news, there are several ways to provide your dog with some mental stimulation. Below is a list compiled to give you a start.
Turn Your Daily Walk into an Exploration
When taking your dog out for their daily walk, change it up a bit a take a different route. Change up the environment and your pace. Give your dog time to smell and explore the area. Walking is a great exercise and by changing up the scenery you give your dog something to look forward to on walks.
Have Your Dog Work for Treats
Hiding treats and then having your dog search for them is a great way to get their noses involved and provide some mental stimulation. You can start off easy with hiding one treat in a closed hand and having them choose between your hands. To increase the difficulty, you can start hiding treats in the house and then move outside. You can also be creative and make obstacle courses and hide treats along the course.
Dogs love toys and interactive toys are another way to make your dog work for a treat. These toys are made of sturdy plastic with an opening. You put treats inside the opening and your dog will have to roll the toy around to dispense the treat.
Rotate the Toys
Just like kids, dogs get bored of the same toys every day. Try rotating your dog’s toys. If possible, try to give them a new one every few weeks. Take advantage of a dog toy sale and stock up but only give your dog one new toy at a time.
Arrange Play Dates
Socialization is great for a dog’s mental state so if you know someone with a dog, arrange a play date. Remember to go slow when introducing potential new dog friends and always monitor your dog’s behavior to make sure everyone gets along.
Dog parks are another way for your dog to get socialization and have some off-leash time. Just remember, dog parks can be a bit overwhelming with all the new dogs and smells. If it is your dog’s first time, you might want to keep them on a leash until they are comfortable with the environment.
If you can, take your dog with you while running errands. Make sure if you are visiting any business, they are pet-friendly. If you are visiting a friend, ask if you can bring your dog.
Simple obedience training will give your dog a good mental workout. Teaching your dog the basic commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come” gives them manners and mental stimulation. If your dog has mastered the simple obedience you can move on to more difficult commands and “tricks”.
Agility training provides your dog with a combination of physical and mental stimulation. You can make your own agility course and teach your dog how to go through it and reward them with treats. If you don’t have the space to set up an obstacle course at your house, most areas have agility training classes
Mental stimulation is not rewarding for your dog but also a must if you want to make sure your dog is living their best life.