Beat Boredom with Mental Stimulation

Tricks for tapping into your dog’s cognitive abilities

By Renée Erdman

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Photo Credit – Josh / CC

You’ve heard it said a million times before: a tired dog is a happy dog. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I know, I know, my dog needs more exercise! But I just don’t have the time to run my dog for hours every day.” The good news is, you don’t have to!

Grey matter matters!

Can you imagine never having the opportunity to learn new things? Never reading a book or learning new vocabulary or learning new skills? Life would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it? That’s how our dogs feel when we don’t tap into their cognitive abilities. Mental stimulation means engaging our dogs’ brains in activities that get them THINKING and WORKING.

Just think, how does it feel when you learn something new or achieve something on your own?

Damn good!

It’s not easy but you persevere until you achieve your goal. This same tactic also applies to our canine friends and is especially important for dogs that are fearful, stressed or lacking confidence. Makes sense doesn’t it? Our dogs aren’t robots that only need exercise, food, water aScreen Shot 2014-10-03 at 5.23.49 PMnd shelter over their heads. Cognitive science and research has revealed to us time and again that canines are complex and intellectual beings that thrive off of learning.

So, how do I do that?

For starters, you can get rid of your food bowl. One of the biggest motivators for dogs is food so why not have them work for it? Food dispensing toys are an investment that will give back ten-fold. If you feed twice a day, aim to consistently feed one meal out of a treat puzzle or toy. Stuffed Kongs with kibble or raw food layered with vegetables, peanut butter or other items can be packed and frozen to increase the difficulty. Your goal should be to make mealtime take an hour or longer!

Tell me more!

Add some training time into your daily routine. It only takes a few minutes to practice sit, down, stay and recall, but this training is tiring for your pup mentally. Don’t forget those daily on-leash walks are also an opportunity to work on training. How about some fun hide-and-seek scent games in the house? Engage your dog’s nose AND noggin! Most of these ideas only take a few minutes throughout the day, but the results are totally tangible. You’ll notice that your dog is more balanced and well behaved.