Making sure your dog is physically stimulated by lots of walks and exercise is important but it is also essential to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog.
Boredom and excess energy can lead to behavioral problems in dogs and this can be helped by providing your dog with lots of mental stimulation.
We’ve picked out 5 fantastic games, toys and activities you can do with your dog to help provide mental stimulation.
#1: Activity Feeders
Puzzle feeders and problem solving activities are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog. Rosie from Pet Sense says “feeding dogs their whole meal in portions straight from a bowl is such a wasted opportunity and it is far more natural for our dogs to work for their food.”
Make feeding time more fun with a wide range of activity feeders. Here are a few great activity feeders on the market:
The idea of a snuffle mat is that you place treats in the fabric and your dog uses his nose to search out the treats. This is also a great way to slow down dogs that eat too quickly.
You can purchase these online, or you can make your own! Here is a video of how the snuffle mat works and how to make one.
Kong wobblers are a great way to keep your dog entertained and out of trouble. You place his food or favorite treats inside the toy and they need to push it over to receive the treats.
The classic Kong is one of the most useful and effective activity feeders invented. You can stuff it with your dog’s favorite treats, freeze it and once finished stick in the dishwasher. We recommended you always have two, so you always have an extra one handy.
Another great activity feeder from Kong is the Kong Quest, which will keep your dog busy for hours. They come in different shapes and sizes.
For Kong stuffing ideas visit: http://www.kongstuffing.com/
Nina Ottosson Activity Toys
Nina Otteosson has a wide range of different types of puzzle feeders to choose from, everything from beginner problem solving to expert level puzzles. Check them out at http://www.nina-ottosson.com/. Always start your dog off with easy problem solving and if your dog shows signs of frustration, stop.
Cupcake Tray Treat Game
Place treats in the cupcake tray and place a tennis ball over each hole. Your dog will have to work out to remove the balls and sniff out the treats.
#2: Learning New Tricks
Dogs love learning and 20 minutes of brain exercise is the equivalent to a 2 hour walk. You should start off with easy tricks and commands and only do a few minutes of training at a time with plenty of breaks. Always stop if your dog shows signs of frustration. YouTube has a wide range of teaching videos you can view but remember to only use positive training methods.
#3: Scent Games
One of the best assets of a dog is his nose. Dogs are trained to sniff out bombs, drugs and even medical conditions! One scent game is ‘hide and seek’ with toys: Place soft toys in a sealed box with something strong smelling such as herbs or lavender. Once the scent has infused in the box take out a toy and start to encourage your dog to play with it so he picks up the scent. When out of sight of your dog, hide it somewhere in the room and get your dog to search for the toy. Add in a cue word, such as “find it” or “go search”. Once your dog has found it, give him lots of praise and play with the toy as his reward. Start with easy locations and gradually make them harder as your dog becomes successful at the game. Once a toy has been played with, do not place it back in the box as it will contaminate the scent, just pop it in the washing machine and back in the box ready for another day.
Another great game is making holes in tupperware and placing smelly treats inside. Throw the tupperware in a long grassy area, make your dog find it and bring it back to you and then reward him with one of the yummy treats.
If they find bringing the Tupperware box back frustrating, you can also scatter treats or food across the floor/in the grass for your dog to search and find.
#4: Chew Toys
Chewing is a way for your dogs to relax and it can help tire them. Nylabones are great for even the most extreme chewers! Remember to always supervise your pet with toys and only buy suitable toys for your dog.
There are many agility clubs around for you and dog to join and agility is a great way to work your dog’s mind and body. It is also great fun for both you and your dog. If your dog is not able to interact with other dogs for any reason, you can set up your own agility course in your garden by using items around the house. Or you may be able to loan equipment from agility clubs.
For anymore advice and information please do not hesitate to contact us. What games do you play with your dog?