Your dog won’t come up to you and say, “I’m bored.” Instead, they will chew your shoes or the couch or he will bark for no apparent reason. What can you do to keep your dog mentally engaged? There is mental stimulation for dogs that are fun for your pup and for you, too!
When you engage in mental stimulation games with your dog you are sharing bonding moments and that is always a plus, right?
We have come up with some great games and tips for keeping your dog mentally stimulated (and protecting your favorite pair of shoes!)
Make dinner time a scavenger hunt. Feeding your dog from a bowl in the kitchen is easy for you and them as well. But, if you turn dinner time into a scavenger hunt by hiding food around the house for them to find, you’re turning dinner time into a game and feeding your dog’s need for mental stimulation. You can divide their food up into smaller portions and put it in different bowls around the house. Better yet, you can place their food in puzzle toys, and not only will they be locating the foods, but will be mentally engaged when working out the puzzle to get their dinner!
Teach your “old” dog a new trick. Whether your canine companion is a puppy or an older dog, you can teach him a new trick. If he’s mastered the basics like sit, stay, come, lie down, and drop it you can move onto more mentally engaging tricks. Show them how to play fetch (and to return the toy you’ve thrown.) Work in some agility by taking your dog through a course you’ve set up in the house. Teach him to sit up or roll over or shake. Reward with treats and praise.
Set up a sniffing trail in your yard. Take some of your dog’s food or a treat he loves and toss it around your yard – this is ideal if you have a fenced-in yard. If you don’t, put your dog on a long leash and let them run around sniffing out the hidden treats. They will be mentally and physically engaged.
Set up a play date. Dogs like to be with other dogs. Set up play dates and let them run around and roll around and play with toys. Seeing other dogs and playing with them is a great way to keep your pup socialized and make them less likely to be afraid of other dogs they encounter.
Take your dog on a trip. If you’re running errands (and don’t have to leave your dog in the car!) take him with you. This is a great way to introduce him to other humans and perhaps dogs. Reward his good car behavior by stopping at a place you’ve never visited before. Your dog will get as bored with walking the same areas of your neighborhood as you do. When you go to a new place, give your pup time to sniff and roll and generally check out the new sights and smells.
Play hide and seek. Yes, your dog will love to play hide and seek with you. If you have taught him to “stay” you can tell him to do that while you go to a different place in the house and hide. Holler out your “release word” and let him run around until he finds you. If there is more than one person in the house, you can take turns sitting with your pup and the other person can hide. Once they’ve hidden, release your dog to find you. The other person can then hide, and the game can keep going.
Buy your dog new toys and swap them out with older ones. The new toys will keep your dog engaged and when you’ve put away older toys you can eventually swap them out for the new ones and the toys will remain fresh and exciting for your pup.
Mental stimulation exercises for your dog keep them mentally and physically healthy and that is ideal for weight management and your dog’s overall health. Set aside time each day for a rousing game of interactive play – tug of war or fetch are games you can engage in with your dog and bond over the activity.
What is your favorite way to bond over games with your dog?
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.