Many people and families have a four legged companions from the canine family living with them in their home these day! There are times, especially if your pup is younger, when their energy can be overwhelming and so much to handle! Certain breeds can also have more energy than others, so if you are currently looking for a puppy or dog to add the family definitely look into the breeds characteristics, traits and what the maintenance level is for the breeds you are interested in, along with what your life looks like. If you are less active or work longer hours, you may not be able to handle the amount of work that some breeds will require, and that is okay!
There are many things that you and your dog can enjoy together, normally something like a long walk or jog, that will spend some of their energy. That way, you can get your work done, read that book you’ve been trying to get to, or even just get a chore or 2 done. Something that is great for dog owner to know is that sometimes, mental stimulation can be just as good as physical exercise! Challenging dogs to use and exercise their brains in various ways is so good for them and their health.
There are many ways to challenge and mentally stimulate your Dog. Let’s take a look at a some of them! You will notice that many of these you may already do, so it can be easy to incorporate them as mentally stimulating exercises!
Sniff walks are great. The theory behind sniff walks is to let the dog choose where and what to sniff and how long as well. Basically you and your dog stroll slowly along and you let them lead the walk and sniff at their pleasure! The amount of olfactory senses being taken in works great as a mental stimulus and get energy out too! Plus you can be outside in the fresh air while your dog sniffs to their delight!
When on walks you can also create obstacles for your dog to do, such as jump up onto a bench and then back to the ground. Once you and your pup are confident on those steps, you can have them wait to jump down, sit, lay down, or even shake, speak or sneeze! Anything to challenge their brains and bring new activities to their world!
Another time that is great to increase mental stimulation is through meal times. Instead of feeding in a bowl there are many choices for how to spice up your pup’s eating routine! One type of feeder is called a puzzle bowl, and another is called a snuffle mat. Both are used similarly, and the dog can’t just scarf the food out of the regular bowl. They are made to create a little more work and mental stimulation while the dog is eating.
You can also use a towel and roll dog food up in it. This way the dog will have to unroll or unfold the towel as they go to continue finding their dinner. You can also scatter feed which is where you (when the weather permits) scatter food in your lawn for the dog to sniff out in order to eat, or you can do this inside and have little piles spread around the kitchen. You can even freeze meals in a broth mixture and can feed that way, and it can be great especially in the heat of the summer months! Every dog is different so each owner will have to find what works best for their environment and their pup!
Grooming is essential to keeping your dog healthy and happy! Why not make it a mentally engaging time? The way that I work with Mo through this is that she is actively participating. Sometimes this may mean holding her paw out for me, or changing positions so that I can groom the other area’s.
Bathing is also great because as I suds her up, she has to shift positions so that I can continue around her body! Each move I need, I’ve linked a command. So in the beginning, it was training stimulation and now it’s paying attention, being aware of where she is at and working with me to get her bathed successfully. Blow drying after her bath has to be her favorite part and again its mentally stimulating so it works well!
Puzzle toys are great! Similar to the puzzle feeder, the toy hides food and the dog must figure out how to flip doors and hatches to get the treat! There are plenty that you can buy ready to go, but you can also make your own at home fairly easily with a PVC pipe stand and a 2 liter bottle! YouTube has some great tutorials on making these types of toys. Side Note: Normal toys are also great for enrichment as it gives them some mental stimulation such as for chewing relief, physical exertion (like playing fetch or tug of war) and much more!
Training and learning new commands is a great mental stimulation for pups of any age! There are always opportunities to expand a dog’s learnt commands, and as long as you can remain consistent in your command usage, there shouldn’t be to many if any complications! Any training takes consistency and repetition. You want to make sure that you are using the same command for each action so that you aren’t confusing your dog. You can also start teaching silent commands with hand motions after your dog is solid on their spoken commands! I did this just by using my spoken commands and pairing it with my hand motion, and Mo caught on so fast!
Exercise is honestly essential in every dogs life, although, at what level and how much will vary. Going on walks, jogs or runs together, to the dog park to run and play with other dogs, playing fetch in your back yard or even heading out on hikes are all great ways to keep your dog fit and healthy.
Agility or Obstacle Courses
Agility and obstacle courses are also great ways to exercise your dog, and at the same time create mental stimulation with the commands for each obstacle and the speed at which they need to respond to you with! It’s a great team and trust building exercise as well because of the learning involved to do the obstacle well and correctly on command.
Each of these activities are also known as enrichment activities. Enrichments activities are important in any dogs life because it helps with their boredom (if that is something that your dog struggles with) as well as their energy levels. Enrichment activities are so much more than just wearing your dog out too!
On the path through enrichment, dogs have to problem solve for themself and learn new skills which in turn builds confidence! A dog having confidence is so important! Confidence is one a the cornerstones in training because confident dogs are sound of mind, and can have healthy relationships with people and other dogs, as well as their environment! It is so important to build up your dogs confidence! A confident dog is less likely to assert him or herself unless they are threatened. They are able to have better life skills and honestly a better quality of life!
What is one activity that you currently do with your pup that you could turn into an enrichment activity?
Do any of the enrichments we went over in this blog sound fun to you?
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