10 Ways to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind
Maybe it’s because I am an animal lover, but it just hurts me to see a dog miserable or misbehaving. What people often don’t realize is dogs are more likely to misbehave if they are mentally dissatisfied. Inadequate mental stimulation is often the result of various things, including lack of exercise, lack of attention, and lack of mental challenges. If you don’t Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind, he can find pleasure in mundane or unpleasant habits like ripping up your tennis shoes. “Does that mean my dog can be a genius?” Yes, but for a dog, mental stimulation goes beyond intelligence.
Keeping your dog mentally stimulated is a multi-faceted discipline. You want your dog to be mentally sharp in all ways, which will involve improving his mood, aptitude, emotions, and instincts. Boosting one without the other will leave your dog deficient in a vital part of its wellbeing. These ten things deal with different aspects of mental stimulation which when combined, will improve the quality of your dog’s life and its satisfaction with you.
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1) Hide And Seek: Sniff It Out
Dogs love their cold noses. I don’t know what it is about smells that just gets them so excited, but hey, that is their nature. They love smelling things and this is a great asset. Seeing as your dog has this ability, why not make the most out of it? Giving your dog a sniffing challenge will make him very happy indeed, plus it is very simple to do.
Irrespective of your dog’s breed, it can take on a few simple tasks. Hide your dog’s favorite toy and watch him find it. You can also do this with treats. A fun extension of the game is to rub the toy on different surfaces so that the scent is in different places, but your dog has to find its final place. This game also works on dogs that love burying or digging up things in the backyard.
2) Make It Work For Its Food
Let me ask you this: if you took your dog out to the wild, would it be able to survive a night? Dogs in the wild learn to hunt their food. They listen out for sounds, sniff the air and do some intense investigative work before they find their prey. This discipline enables them to survive.
While you don’t need to make your pet-friend hunt for its food (neither should you encourage it), you can hide its food and make it find it. Yeah, I know it may sound like torture, but it is good fun. Your dog will get a bit of that ‘back to the jungle’ vibe and it will appreciate the food much more. Do this once in a while, so your dog doesn’t get frustrated during meal times, it will effectively Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind.
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3) Sniffing Around The Neighbourhood to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind
When we take our dogs for walks around the park, we tend to lead and our dog is left to follow our trail. Have you ever left your dog to find out whatever he or she would discover? What if you have a genetically advanced dog that can sniff out gold? Okay, maybe don’t hold your breath for that one, although dogs have been known to find other equally valuable things, such as truffles.
Even if your dog won’t stumble on a lost Van Gogh, the exploration is good for him. Allow your dog, maybe just once a week, to lead you around the neighborhood. While this will allow your dog to be more of itself outdoors, it will also help you understand the smells that attract your dog.
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4) Teach New Tricks
I’ve always wanted to train my dog to operate the television, but I am lazy enough as it is. Are there any cool things you wish your dog could do that won’t hamper yours or its health? Well, what’s stopping you? Teaching your dog new tricks beside the routine ‘sit, walk, stand’ is very engaging and exciting for your pooch and to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind.
Dogs are more intelligent than we give them credit for. By following the techniques of positive reinforcement, you have been learning, you can come up with creative ways of teaching things you haven’t seen anywhere. How did a person think to teach their dog to shake hands? Now, everyone wants to do it. It would be so cool if you came up with the next cool dog trick, like flipping mattresses. Just a thought.
5) Teach Your Dog Names of People, Toys, and Objects
How cool would it be for you to tell your dog ‘Fetch Matilda’ and he goes and gets the toy you asked for? Awesome, right? Oh yeah, it could be a person as well. One of the first things my dogs learn is the names of the people in the house. It’s great when we play in a circle and we tell him to go meet a member of the family and he goes to the right one.
This is just a stepping stone to other activities. If you fix cars for example, you can teach your dog to bring the tools you ask for, etc. Want a spanner or a wrench? Your dog can get it!
6) Puzzle Toys
These toys by definition, are intended to provide mental stimulation. There are dozens of great toys you can get for your dog. If you don’t feel like spending a lot of money on someone else’s invention, you can make yours up with the basic tools you have in your house.
Puzzle toys generally work on the premise of hiding a treat in a toy, and your dog has to figure out how to get to it. Kongs are popular options, though there are many alternatives with greater levels of difficulty.
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7) Play Fun New Games
Playing the same games over and over again can be monotonous. Dogs are amazing, so they probably would never complain. They can be content chasing the same tennis ball every single day and never get bored. However, the game stops to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind after you have played it a hundred times.
It’s best to have a handful of games you can run to, instead of the same thing every single time. Frisbee, football, bite the mailman, all relevant options. Try and introduce a new game every few weeks at least and practice them a few times a week.
8) Create an Obstacle Course
Human beings love these, and unsurprisingly, dogs do too. If you are worried that you will have to spend a fortune, don’t. A simple obstacle course is just a way of prolonging the time it will take for your dog to get to a treat. You can start with one table, which your dog has to crawl under before he can get the treat. Then, add extra levels of security such as the ‘blanket of doom’, the rocking chair of horrors, water balloon bombs, etc.
An obstacle course can help sharpen your dog’s problem-solving skills. Not only is it good exercise which you can set up easily, but you can also leave your dog to it while you go do something fun like wash dishes. Yay!
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9) Play The Shell Game
The shell game has mesmerized adults for years so why not get dogs in on the fun? It is also very simple to do and will test your dog’s perception and sense of smell (even though smelling the treat is kind of cheating, because we don’t have that option, so jealous). All you need is three cups and a treat.
Put a treat under a cup and shuffle all three cups rapidly and have your dog pick out the treat. Don’t be surprised if your dog does better at the game than you do. But don’t make it easy, let him work for his treats.
10) Tug of War
Trainers are on the fence about a tug of war. On the one hand, some fear it will make your dog violent. On the other hand, some believe it teaches your dog to play with people better, while also testing their strength, something they rarely get to use.
Tug of war is a good game for puppies, which you can continue as they grow older. Obviously, this is for pups that have been taught the ‘Leave it and Drop it’ cue. Play in short sessions and only continue if your dog is having a good time. If at any point your dog seems frustrated or begins to get aggressive, stop immediately. Always remember to give a treat for leaving the rope without incident.
Keep The Momentum Going to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind
Brains need exercise to stay sharp and fit. Physical and mental activities that can stimulate your dog should be done daily. If ever in need, take your dog to a training school or get other members of the family to get in. As you challenge your dog, you will see him get brighter and happier each day.
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