Activities for a Dog's Mental Health

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Introduction

As humans, we know how we feel when boredom hits. We may feel somewhat useless, and perhaps a little depressed too. Now, imagine that you have a dog developed for working such as a Collie or a Beagle. As humans, we might get up, work on household chores, pick up a book, or simply get out of the house in order to quell our boredom. For dogs, however, boredom often leads to mischief. No matter how well-behaved your pup is otherwise,  boredom almost always spells trouble. This is why you should always plan activities that will stimulate the mind of your pup. These activities can be very simple, and they can take place indoors so that weather isn't a factor. Just a few sessions of mental activity each week, and you won't find your sweet pup tearing up the furniture because of the boredom blues.

Food Challenge

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Cheap
Normal
15 min
Items needed
food puzzle toy
small treats
dry kibble
Activity description
One of the best mental health exercises for your pup comes with its own reward. Utilizing a food puzzle toy such as the Kong or the Bob-A-Lot will engage your pup while giving them a treat at the end of the process! Most owners swear by the activity, and they say that their pup genuinely enjoys the "hunt" for their food inside the toy. Once your dog has figured out that their food is lurking somewhere inside the food puzzle, they will work diligently in order to get the food (or treat) to come out of the toy. You can give this to your pup before you leave for work or when you are off to run errands and your dog will remain entertained for quite some time.
Step
1
Familiarize your pup
A great way to give your pup some mental stimulation is to make them work for their food. First, pick up a food puzzle toy such as the Kong! or the Bob-A-Lot. These toys both have entrances for the food to be placed, and then the dog must maneuver the toy in order to make the food come out. To begin, choose small treats to teach your dog how the toy works.
Step
2
Practice, practice
Show your pup that you have placed a favorite treat inside the food puzzle toy. You might even shake it to show that the food will come out with some manipulation. Talk excitedly while you do so. Some owners place dog-safe peanut butter at the tip of both openings so that their pup will understand the toy is to be turned over and manipulated in order to get the treat out.
Step
3
Let's play
Now that your dog has the gist of what it takes to "operate" the food puzzle toy, you might begin placing small kibble inside the toy. Depending on the size of the food puzzle toy, you can place a good bit of food inside by stuffing the toy. The manipulation of the toy by your pup will provide for shaking the kibble loose, and the reward is the food itself.
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Name the Toy

Popular
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Any Day
Free
Normal
30 min
Items needed
favorite toys
Activity description
With this game, you will be working on recollection, something many dogs have a tough time with. The key to increasing your dog's ability to recall the names of items is frequent practice on a regular basis. Start with one toy at a time until you are sure that your pup can successfully recall the name. Begin with a favorite toy with a simple name, such as a rubber bone. Take the toy, allow the pup to see what toy you have, and say, "Bone." Then, command your pup to stay and make the dog watch as you place the bone in an accessible place. Return to the dog, and tell the pup to "Go get the bone." Be sure when the dog brings the item to you to utilize the term "bone" as much as possible. This will initiate recall. Repeat as necessary until you believe the dog associates the name "bone" with the item itself.
Step
1
Introduce the game
Choose no more than three toys. You will want to start with just one, and continue to practice until your pup has mastered learning the name of the first toy. Then you can add additional toys, one at a time, as they have mastered the recollection.
Step
2
Add a toy, or two!
Now that your pup understands the name of one toy, you can add another toy's name to the list. Set up separate times to practice with each item so that the pup retains the name of that toy. Your dog's mental health will stay at its best when a challenge is continuously presented.
Step
3
Repeat the task
You will need to practice multiple times throughout a weekly period to ensure that your dog maintains the recollection of the toy. Practice regularly, and your dog will remember the names of their toys easily. Remember, recall is often difficult for dogs no matter how intelligent the dog is. Be patient and consistent and before you know it, your pup will be able to look at a pile of their favorite things and choose each one as you name it. The sense of accomplishment that your pal will feel will be very good for their mental health.
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Obstacle Course

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Bar Stool
Broom
Flower Pots
old pillows and blankets
treats
Activity description
Did you know that you can make your own indoor obstacle course to provide your pup with great mental stimulation? Plus, there is no need to make anything fancy! You can use old pillows or blankets to create "dig spots" for your pooch. If you wish, you can add old plastic flower pots, a broom, or a bar stool that is tall enough for your dog to walk under. Yes, everyday items in your home can serve as perfect "obstacles" for your course! This activity is perfect for a rainy, dreary day or for a day that is too hot and humid for your pup to play outside safely.
Step
1
If you build it . . .
Gather some old pillows and blankets that you don't mind getting torn. The first thing to do is to "build" your obstacle course. Suggestions are: make a pile of pillows, a short hurdle of books to jump over, and then a pile of blankets to dog through. Most dogs love to dig (some breeds more than others!), and this obstacle course can provide both physical activity and mental stimulation.
Step
2
They will dig
Place some treats under the "obstacles." This works best for the pillows and blankets area of the obstacle course. The first few times that you do this, you will need to call your dog into the room and command him to sit while you "hide" the treats under the pillows and blankets. Once this is done, say "Find it!" Allow the pup to dig in the obstacle course until the treat has been procured and enjoyed!
Step
3
Add to the course
This is the point at which the old flowerpots, broom, and bar stool will come in handy. You can always turn the flower pots over and put a broom over the overturned pots, making an obstacle your pup must step over. You can also swap out the flower pots for a two tall chairs and encourage your pup to walk under the broom.
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More Fun Ideas...

Shell Game

Grab three solo plastic cups. Place a treat under one. Be sure to let the pup see what you're doing. Then, tell the pup to find the treat and let them go. This is a great game for promoting a sense of "job well done."

Free Shaping

This game really encourages free play which is an important part of maintaining canine mental health. You can add this to the obstacle course mentioned above. Place a box on the floor, and just let your pup play. They can decide what to do with the box, whether that means simply investigating or walking around it. If your pup is used to jumping, you might be able to coax your pup over the box. Remember to allow your pup to decide how to play.

Conclusion

All dogs need physical activity. However, it is not always widely known that all dogs also need mental stimulation in order to avoid boredom and the often resultant mischief. Mentally stimulating games can be performed just about anywhere during any kind of weather. Most often, you can engage your pup while indoors. Just a few minutes of brain games every day will promote good mental health in your pup and prevent a lot of destruction at the hands of a bored pup. Our four-legged friends thrive when they know we are pleased with them, and in turn, we are happy to see them doing so well!