Physically exercising your dog is great but it’s only half of the equation.
Dogs are intelligent animals that require mental exercise to help stimulate their brains while enriching their lives. Just like their owners, dogs get bored of the same old routine – day in and day out. They require mental stimulation just like you do.
Challenge your dog. Their mental abilities are close to those of a two-year-old.
Here are some of my favourite ways to stimulate your dog:
- Change up your dog walk routines
Walking your dog is great exercise for the both of you but it can get boring. Why not switch up your walks and stimulate your dog with new sights and smells? Explore new neighbourhoods, parks, and forests in your community.
Science suggests that a dog’s sense of smell is between 10,000 to 100,000 times more accurate than ours!
- Elementary Obedience Training
Teach your dog simple commands like: “Sit,” “Stay,” “Leave-it,” and “Heel,” while correcting their mistakes and praising them with treats for correct behaviour. Over time, you can increase the duration and distance of your commands to increase difficulty and mental stimulus. These exercises will help boost your dog’s confidence and strengthen the bond between you.
- Keep your pup next to you
Keep your dog guessing the pace of your walks. Add a section of very-slow walks and halts while making sure your dog stays next to you. This will train your dog to focus on your pace and on what both of you are doing. A structured walk requires brain power over paw power and it will encourage a good nap when you get home.
- Bring your dog along on an errand
Taking your dog to a friend’s house or on daily errands can help place your dog in direct contact with a variety of new stimulations. Remember: NEVER leave your dog in the car on very hot or cold days.
- Give your dog a job
Whether your dog is a natural hunter, scavenger, herder or retriever, help them fulfill their historical duties. When they are unable to do so, they become restless. Try some of these: play frisbee; go for a swim; or run agility courses, play nose-work games and fetch. Fulfill your dog’s dreams and make them feel worthwhile.
- Play interactive games and brain teasers
Provide your dog with interactive toys. The most common options are food dispensing toys with kibble placed inside. Another great way to stimulate your dog’s brain is to provide in-home games. You can click on the link below to see our DOGORA PuppyLove Brain Games to find more: https://www.dogora.ca/pages/brain-games.
A good dog walk shouldn’t be solely focused on getting your dog tired enough to come home and sleep like a baby. Be sure to include regular mental stimulation in your dog’s routine to keep them happy and healthy. Working and exercising your dog’s brain means more than keeping them distracted.
With senior dogs in particular, it’s important to exercise their brains. Over time, their brains can suffer from confusion and memory loss; and their cognitive abilities may diminish. Challenging your dog’s brain over a lifetime creates excellence and can keep them smart and snappy even into their old age.
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Nicholas Mozas is Founder and CEO of DOGORA. He is a graduate of the University of Guelph in Biological Science and holds an M.Sc. in Neutragenomics. Nicholas managed an Animal Hospital after graduation, gaining a better understanding of pets’ and owners’ needs. Find out more at www.dogora.ca.