Physical stimulation is important for your dog, and just as important is mental stimulation. Your dog needs to feel challenged and excited to feel an overall sense of fulfillment in his life. This is especially relevant with certain breeds like collies and huskies who are incredibly intelligent.
One of the easiest ways to stimulate your dog’s mind is to design activities based on his instincts. Walking is of course a great activity to enjoy with your dog, but playtime enables you to really appeal to their instinctual nature, to challenge their minds and help you bond with them on a deeper level.
The Meaning Of Play
Many people consider play with dogs to mean the same as play with children, which isn’t the case. Letting your dog run free and go ‘on a mad one’ is different to a play session that is both productive and fun for the dog. When you simply let your dog do what he wants, you encourage him to do just that – do what he wants. This is fine sometimes, but for really productive play you’ll need to think a little more about the activities.
Here are some great ideas to help you stimulate your dog’s mind:
Use His Sense Of Smell
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so much so they have even began training some dogs to detect certain smells underwater! To make play out of their sense of smell, consider making them work for their snack. Try hiding their food in different places, but being aware they will scratch and jump to get it so don’t hide it in an expensive ornament! Simply scrunching up some paper and popping a treat in is fun, or you could even make them an entire obstacle course if you wanted to. Using cardboard boxes, blankets, cushions and turned over containers rubbing the smell of the treat in different places and hiding the treat itself in the most difficult to find place. This is pushing your dog to problem solve with his skills, which enables him to be more confident with his skills. Just remember to give lots of praise when he finds the treat even if he somehow finds it straight away!
Be The Canine
Try playing like a dog does, which may sound mad if you’re out on your daily walk, but in the privacy of your own home, why not? All dogs are naturally built to be able to run fast and chase. To get a bit of exercise for you and the dog, consider placing your dogs favourite stuffed toy on some string and attaching that to a stick. Rub some treats on the stuffed toy and then let your dog notice it. Don’t quickly move it around but instead move it very slowly making small stops as you do it. This puts you in control and forces the dog to focus. When you have their attention try running with the toy and then stopping and forcing the dog to focus again. Just remember with particularly boisterous dogs or dogs that aren’t very well trained yet, this game may not be advised until further training is completed.
There are lots of dog toys on the market that can help stimulate your dog’s mind. From treat toys to interactive toys, there’s plenty to choose from if you’re short on time or you’re leaving your dog alone for a few hours and want him to be stimulated while you’re gone. This is ideal for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety as it gives them something positive to focus on.
Training isn’t a chore for a dog. It does work them hard, but they enjoy it because it stimulates their minds. Consider implementing training and discipline into your dog’s playtime. Simple games like getting them to sit and stay as you walk away, then telling them to come to you when you say so will force them to focus and help them learn control commands which are so important in the safety and development of your dog. The more training your dog has, the more fun you can have during playtime as the dog will listen to you and be more in tune with your commands, so it really is win win training and playing at the same time!