Are you giving your pup enough mental exercise?
You always hear about how important physical exercise is for dogs. However, we don’t hear about mental exercise nearly enough. Mental enrichment is just as important for your furry friend! When I talk to clients about this topic, they seem to get a little overwhelmed. Physical exercise they get. Play fetch, go on walks, swim. Easy to understand!
There is no need to overthink this. Dogs love puzzles just as much as we do. Here are some easy ways for you to do this at home:
- Get an empty water bottle or a liter bottle and put all of their dinner or a handful of treats in it. Now they have to roll the bottle around to get the food. Seems simple but it will take them a while and they are solving a problem. You can also use a Kong Wobbler for this. If they get it too fast, throw a tennis ball in the Wobbler to slow them down.
- Play the Find It game! You must start off with it being very easy before you make it harder for him. While he is in front of you toss a treat and say “Find It.” Once he gets the treats praise him and toss another one asking him to “find it.” Praise and repeat until all dozen treats are gone. Now we make it a little more interesting. Have someone hold him or put him in a stay if he knows that command. Walk about 10-15 feet away from him and place a treat on the ground. Return to him, pause (so he doesn’t think your return is his cue to release), and release him with the “Find It” cue. Repeat many times. The next step is to let him watch you hide the treat in harder places- behind a chair, on a chair seat, under a pillow. Then return to him, pause, release with “Find it.” As you keep doing this you can hide the treat in harder and harder places. Here is a fun video of Barry playing “find it” just the other day.
- All those amazon boxes you just recycle can be a great source of enrichment. The options are endless. Collect a few boxes and fold them closed (make this as difficult or easy as your dog can handle), put treats in only a couple of the boxes and see if your dog can tell which on it is. You can have them tear into it or you can open it for them. You can even just keep the boxes unfolded and drop treats in and let them explore the boxes and get reinforced for exploring!
- There is always training a new behavior. Even if the behavior serves no purpose it is still a great way to get your dog’s brain jazzed up. I recently taught Barry to take a Bow. Just about the cutest thing ever.
I challenge you to take the time to not only exercise your dog but to think outside the box on how to mentally exercise them as well. If you need any ideas or want to know how to train some fun behaviors, we are happy to help!
Please contact us if you have any questions on this these tips. For more information please visit www.newmansdogtraining.com.