Just like humans, dogs need more than just physical exercise. They need mental stimulation too! I have groomed many dogs over the years where the pet parents will tell me that their dogs are so hyper all the time, even after walks. I wanted to look into this, and it turns out a big factor in helping your dog be more calm is to stimulate their minds along with working out their bodies!
Please don’t get me wrong, physical exercise is very important! It is truly half the battle, and without it your dog will still be very hyper. Both are needed! So in this article I am going to go over different ways to help your dog stay stimulated. I will be trying to include a variety that can be done inside and outside so no matter the weather or living situation you will hopefully find something to help!
Taking Time to Smell on Walks
As just discussed, walks are important. But there is more to walks than just getting it over with, at least for them! Even just going up and down the block will have different scents for your dog every time. Letting them smell around and engage with their environment will help them feel much more tired and calm after their walks. If you are uncomfortable with your dog deciding every place they want to smell, try giving them designated smelling areas or a command like ‘go smell’ for certain times during the walk is still just as beneficial! Plus teaching your dog a command like ‘go smell’ will be extra stimulation!
Teach Your Dog a New Trick
There are so many cool tricks you can teach your dog! YouTube will be your best friend, as there are lots of different tutorials by trainers to help pet parents teach their pups something new. Even just around 15 minutes of teaching them a new trick every day will help keep their minds engaged and also help them bond with you! Besides shake, sit and lay down, there are a lot more cool tricks to teach! Keep in mind to use both toys and treats as rewards depending on how often you are training your dog, as all those extra treats do add up!
Invest in Puzzle Toys/Feeders
We all love to spoil our dogs with toys, why not get them some that help stimulate their mind a little more? There are toys that are self fetching toys that launch a ball for them, they have to figure out where to put the ball to get it to be thrown! There are also toys that you can put treats in and your pup will roll it around to get the treats out, just be warned these toys can get a little noisy! In my reference page there will be articles that will dive deeper into the different toys on the market. My personal favorite one has been by Kong and has the dog roll it around the floor to get the treats out! This keeps them physically and mentally active.
Rotate out Old Toys
Speaking of toys, it may be a good idea to invest in a small (or large) bin to keep your dog’s toys in. Every day or even just when you notice your dog not as interested in them, swap them out for other toys in the bin. Give them a couple of toys a day to play with, they don’t need all of them at once! This helps keeps things fresh for your dog and will help you save a little money as well! Rope toys, squeakers, and chews are all great options to have on hand!
Teach Your Dog a Game to Play
This is on the same level as tricks but gets you as the pet parent more involved. You can teach your dog the name of their toys and then follow up with a “find it” command to have them find specific toys. You can also play hide and seek! This will require two people, as one will have your dog stay in a sit/stay while the other hides. Then give your command and let the games begin! You can try obstacle courses set up around the house (great for winter time!) and so much more! I have found lots of great games to play with my dog from Pinterest, I recommend checking out the app as well!
As you can see, keeping your dog mentally stimulated is fun and doesn’t have to take a long time every day. Again, even just 15 minutes of mental stimulation or giving your dog that extra 15 minutes of sniff time during your walks will most likely result in a calmer and more content dog!
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10 ways to give your dog more mental stimulation. (2021, December 13). Puppy Leaks. https://www.puppyleaks.com/more-mental-stimulation/
6 great ways to challenge your dog’s mind. (2020, September 23). Cesar’s Way. https://www.cesarsway.com/6-great-ways-to-challenge-your-dogs-mind/
Ellis, N. (2009, January 1). Games to play with your dog. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/mentally-stimulated-happy-dog/