Owners spend many hours walking their dogs or playing fetch with them to provide them with physical exercise. This is great – but do you often find that your dog is still active or bored and is continuing to demand attention from you?
Generally, a dog owner knows how to physically tire their dog, however, dogs require mental exercise as well. Mental exercise is stimulating your dog’s brain – getting them used to using their brain and alleviating or lessening their built-up energy and tiring them out.
A lot of frustrating or destructive behaviour can result from your dog not getting adequate mental stimulation. These include chewing, barking, counter-surfing, jumping up on people or they just won’t settle. A lot of these undesirable behaviors are a result of the dogs being bored, or they have a lot of pent-up energy. Often, their behavior has been allowed to continue as the owner may not know what more to do to correct it, or their time is very limited.
Bored and super-energized dogs can be dealt with by a variety of activities that will have them using their brain.
We aim to make training and teaching easy so that it fits into people’s busy schedules and lifestyles. The two things we know people do regularly is feed their dog and walk their dog. These are great times to engage their brain!
Let’s talk about when you feed your dog. When you put the food bowl down – make them wait before they eat it. If they’re fast eaters, you can purchase a slow feeding bowl that makes them work for their food or figure out how to eat the food to stimulate their brain.
When you are walking your dog incorporating obedience is a great way to add to the physical activities. If you’re on a walk or playing fetch – make your dog think. As you’re walking, when you get to a place where you are going to cross the street, ask them to sit and wait and then release them to go. Also, as a great way to get them focused when you are walking, stop periodically and get them to sit and look at you. Of course, letting them sniff while walking also engages their brain as there is so much for them to take in!
When you are playing fetch, teach them to stay, then throw that ball while they wait and then release them to go get it. This stimulates their brain – they have to think about how they stay when they want to go get that ball. You can also mix it up and instead of throwing the ball go hide the ball and have them find it.
At Muttz with Mannerz™ we offer scenting classes that teach your dog to discover a scent that is hidden. You can easily do this outdoors in your backyard or on a walk. When you have them on a leash throw some treats on the grass, and then go have them ‘find it’.
Ready for some Brain Games?
There are also many brain games for your dog that can be done in the house, which is great if you’ve got a rainy day and you want to tire your dog out. There are puzzle games where the dog has to figure out what they need to do to move either with their nose or their paw to get to a reward, which is usually a treat. You can also take three plastic cups or bowls, hide a treat under one, and then move those bowls or cups around and then have them go find where the treat is!
Hide and seek with your dog can be a lot of fun for both of you! Have them sit and stay, go hide yourself, and then get your dog to find you.
Teach your dog to do tricks or use obstacles.
Teaching your dog to do tricks is another great way to engage their brain. You can teach them to bow, spin, or rollover – or anything else that comes to mind!
Agility is a great sport which we also have a class for at Muttz with Mannerz. In the Fun with Agility classes, we teach the dogs to maneuver obstacles like jumps, or going through tunnels and weave poles. We know you likely don’t have any agility jumps or poles at your home – don’t worry, you can make your own! For example, you can grab a blanket and throw it down, get them to go and stay on the blanket. They can also jump over a broomstick, or they can weave through chairs. The benefit of putting a little obstacle course together is that it challenges them in a different way. You’re not just asking them to do one thing, you’re asking them to do one thing after another.
Making your own obstacle course at home is a simple way to teach your dog new tricks, and stimulate their brain.
All of these activities are great examples of how to use some of their natural problem-solving abilities. By keeping your dog’s brain active and engaged with all of these various activities, you can help boost their focus, add meaning to their day, and alleviate problem behaviors.
Before your dog starts to figure out their own way to beat their boredom, pick out some of these ideas and add them to your daily routine.
For more information and resources on stimulating your dog’s brain listen to our June podcast Episode 13: The Importance of Mental Stimulation for Your Dog.