Dogs, just like people, need mental stimulation to support their overall health. Mental exercise for dogs is commonly overlooked, as physical exercise is prioritized. Dogs of all breeds, all ages, and all energy levels, although at different degrees, need mental stimulation for their wellbeing. Even mellow fellows need a brain workout! Let’s take a look at the major reasons why mental stimulation is crucial for dogs and, more importantly, how you can provide for your dog’s needs.
Increases good behavior
If dogs are bored, they can turn to other outlets to entertain themselves. The lack of mental stimulation could lead your dog to show unwanted behavior including excessive barking, chewing shoes, scratching up furniture, and/or digging up those beautiful flowers you just planted in your yard! Mental stimulation is also shown to lower aggression and hyperactivity in dogs. Mental stimulation can help your dog acclimate to socializing with fellow dogs and people. This can be, especially, important if you have other pets or children at home.
Keeps dogs sharp
Mental health affects physical health in dogs, just like in humans. Activating your dog’s mind prevents premature aging. It’s tragic that your fur babies have a shorter lifespan than us humans, so helping them stay healthy is key to more memories together. Mental stimulation not only keeps older dogs sharp by helping to fight off symptoms of dementia, anxiety, and depression, but creates a strong foundation to raise smart and happy pups.
What you can do
Activities such as obedience training, games, and socializing can be great ways to engage your dog’s mind.
Train your dogs to react to commands and continue to add new concepts as they master commands. In fact, obedience training is great for shy or fearful dogs as they will gain confidence and become more receptive to other dogs and people.
You know the dogs that perk up when they hear the word “walk” or “treat”? Yes, dogs can associate action with words. Teach your dogs vocabulary. Perhaps teach them the name of their favorite toy and play a game of hide and seek. Other games you can try include fetch, positive light tug-of-war, setting up an obstacle course, and making them sniff out a hidden treat.
For dogs that spend long hours alone, you can try leaving the tv on or play music. Sounds can help your dog stay stimulated throughout the day. Please keep in mind that you should accommodate activities to the dog’s needs, depending on breed, size, and age. For instance, a working breed like a Jack Russel Terrier will need more stimulation than a couch potato Basset Hound. With this being said, a wonderful alternative is having experienced people care for your dog while you are away. Take the time to choose a doggy daycare where they can be around other dogs and people. A place where they can receive adequate stimulation and care in a safe environment.
And remember, mental stimulation activities not only help your dog stay healthy, but it’s a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It’s a win-win! There are many ways you can help activate your dog’s mind. Get creative! Mentally stimulate yourself while you’re at it! Fun!