As important as physical exercise is, mental stimulation is also critical. Most breeds of dogs were originally bred to do a job; they were created for a purpose. As household pets, most dogs are never asked to herd the cattle, pull the sled, hunt for dinner, guard the sheep, or kill vermin on the farm! Without mental stimulation, a dog will become bored and/ or anxious and as a result, behavior issues will most likely ensue.
Imagine if you never learned anything else for the rest of your life? What if you went on one walk every day and then sat on the couch dozing for the other 23 hours? Or worse, you didn’t get to walk or learn? You would go stir crazy! Giving your dog a mental workout can be achieved many different ways. One of the best ways is through training. A good place to start is with basic obedience training. Basic obedience training is the foundation for all dog training and it is conducive to your every day life. Once your pup is fluent in basic obedience, you can start trick training. There is no end to the funny tricks you can teach your dog. Not only does it work their brain, but it’s fun for both of you!
Play! Play time is a good way to mentally stimulate as well. Fetch, tug, hide and seek, etc. are all great games to play. As you play, incorporate commands such as LEAVE IT, TAKE IT, WAIT, etc…
Take a class! There are so many fun activities and classes to take with your dog; from agility, herding, and swimming, to yoga and even dancing! These activities/classes not only help build your bond, but they are great mental and physical workouts for both of you!
For the times when your pooch must be left alone for several hours, there are many interactive toys on the market. These toys are like little puzzles for dogs. For food/treat related interactive toys, I particularly like the STAR MARK and KONG products. There are also many plush/squeaky puzzle toys to choose from.
Dogs love to learn and even as little as 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference. Mental stimulation will always lead to a more calm and balanced pup.
“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them.”
Certified Canine Trainer & Behavior Specialist
Professional Dog Training in Houston, TX