Author: Taylor Ritz
While physical exercise is paramount to the health and happiness of your dog, mental exercise is just as important. Without sufficient mental stimulation, dogs may invent their own destructive pastimes to entertain themselves.
Mental exercises not only tire out your dog and give their brains a workout, but they also allow you to spend quality time with your dog and have some fun.
Here are some examples of some great mental exercises for your dog.
1. Obedience training
Whether you enroll in a class or work on training at home, obedience behaviors such as sit, stay, down, are essential. Each dog should know these behaviors for a variety of reasons, and they should be worked on consistently to make sure your dog doesn’t forget them. Keep training sessions short but consistent, between 5 and 10 minutes several times each week. Learning anything new is a great way to stimulate your dog’s brain.
No matter how old your dog is, they can always learn new tricks. Any form of learning is stimulating to a dog. A quick search on the internet can give you a variety of behaviors to teach your dog as well as for instructions on how to do so. Common behaviors to teach your dog include shake, wave, high-five, spin, speak, stand, and crawl.
3. Help with the chores
Dogs thrive when they are given a job to do. A great way to stimulate their mind as well as give them a job (and help you out in the process!) is to teach them how to help with the chores. Maybe you want to teach them how to transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer, or how to put their toys back in their basket. These daily chores can be great mental exercises for your dog that take place daily.
4. Learning the names of their toys
Another mental exercise for your dog is to teach them the names of things. There is a border collie reported to have learned over 1,000 individual words. Perhaps you may not teach your dog that many names, but “bed,” “crate,” or the names of specific toys may be achievable goals.
5. Clicker training
Much like teaching your dog tricks, clicker training stimulates both your dog’s brain and yours as well. Using a clicker is an effective tool for positive reinforcement training. The clicker creates a sound association as the sound of the clicker indicates a bridge between a behavior done correctly and the reward that follows. Positive reinforcement is a great way to stimulate your dog’s brain while also tightening the bond between dog and human.
6. Scavenger hunt
In your backyard or inside your home, create a scavenger hunt for your dog’s meal. Divvy your dog’s diet into smaller portions and hide them in various reachable locations. This will allow your dog to “hunt” for their food. Since we often feed the same food in the same amount day in and day out, a scavenger hunt makes mealtime into a mentally stimulating game with a delicious reward. Just make sure to remember all of your hiding places in case your dog needs help finding some of them.
7. Food puzzles
Much like a scavenger hunt, food puzzles can liven up mealtimes, making them more interesting and mentally stimulating. There are a variety of puzzle feeders available in the market for dogs and cats that can make them work for their food using their paws and nose.
8. Explore new places
Take your dog to see new sights and smells. This is an easy way to stimulate that busy brain without too much effort. A simple walk on a new trail or in a new park will have your dog’s brain firing on all cylinders.