Dogs need two forms of stimulation in their lives to ensure they feel fulfilled. Physical exercise is only one vital part of the picture, the other is mental stimulation. While going out for a daily walk creates a nice structured routine for both of you that helps to build a solid bond between you, playtime is the perfect time to challenge and enrich your dog’s mind and build an even stronger bond. Playtime is not just a time to let your dog run wild, it is the perfect time for structured play that can be both productive and fun at the same time.
1. Change Your Daily Walking Route
There is nothing like a nice walk for both of you, but if you stick to the exact same route every day, it can soon become boring. Try changing up your route on a regular basis. New smells and sights are a great way to stimulate your dog mentally and give you both something to look forward to each time you go out for a walk.
2. Make Your Dog Work for Food
Most dogs seem to have it pretty easy when it comes to dinner time-- we put food in their bowl and place the bowl on the floor in front of them. While there really isn't anything wrong with this, it is a long way from their natural habits of hunting or scavenging for food. If you want to mentally challenge your dog, why not come up with a few creative games such as hide and seek that make them work for their food.
3. Dogs Like Puzzles, Too
Most of us like some form of puzzles, from jigsaws to Rubik's cubes. We are not the only ones. Your dog also likes to be entertained and stimulated. There are many different types of mentally stimulating toys and puzzles available that have been specifically designed for dogs. Something as simple as a puzzle that the two of you play with for as little as 15 minutes a day can make a big difference to your dog, as it gives them something fun to focus on.
Your dog is a natural puzzle solver, by using puzzle toys, you are giving them the chance to make use of their natural problem-solving skills. Toys like this also give your dog a sense of self-confidence and will, at the same time, tire them out on a mental level.
4. Teaching Your Dog Tricks
How many tricks have you taken the time to teach your dog? Most people have at least taught their dogs the basic commands like sit, stay, come, and lay down, but these "tricks" are hardly mentally stimulating. Every time you work with your dog to teach them a new trick you are stimulating their mental faculties. The more you can teach them, the more stimulated and mentally challenged they will be.
5. Put Your Dog's Nose to Work
Your dog's nose is amazingly powerful, but everyday life is not always very stimulating. In nature, your dog would use their nose to find their way home, detect the territories of other dogs, find food, find water, and more. Not only does this help them to survive, but it also keeps them mentally challenged. Why not create games that involve searching for treats in your home and yard? All you have to do is hide the item and teach them to respond to a command like "Find it!"
6. Create an Obstacle Course
Your dog loves to be mentally and physically challenged and one great way to do this is to create an obstacle course for them to learn. You can use virtually anything in your home such as blankets, chairs, and boards to create the course. Teaching them to complete the course using specific commands is very mentally stimulating on its own, but the best part is you can vary the course by moving the obstacles around but still using the same commands. This will make your pup "think" before they act and in doing so, keeps their brain very active.
Just Getting Started
These are only a few of the hundreds of different mentally stimulating activities you can do with your dog. Once you get started, you may find yourself continually looking for new and better ways to challenge your dog's mind. The more you do this, the happier and healthier they will be and, more importantly, the better the bond between the two of you will be.