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7 Ways to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog


Is your pooch getting bored of their same old routine? If so, try adding in some of these fun brain games to help keep them moving and stimulated! It’s also a great way for you and your four-legged friend to bond. 

Mental stimulation not only enhances our dogs’ life by giving them something meaningful to do, it also eases their boredom, decreasing the likelihood of them developing behavioural issues such as excessive chewing or barking.


Have Your Dog Work for Their Food

We like to think dogs have it pretty easy when it comes to meal time. Their bowl just gets set down and we let them go at it. Although there is nothing wrong with this, it is however limiting the use of their natural scavenging habits. So, a great place to start when adding some mental stimulation to your dog’s routine would be their feeding. Instead of just handing over their food, you can make a fun game out of it for your dog.

A common favourite is using a food dispensing toy, such as the Kong Wobbler, where you place your dog’s meals in the toy and they have to roll it around in order to get the food to come out of the hole. Before you ask, yes – it can be a bit noisy, but it’s well worth it when you see how satisfying it is for your dog.


Get Your Dog a Puzzle Toy

Puzzle toys are an easy way to keep your dog busy & entertained. One extra 15-minute game a day can make a huge difference to your dog. It gives them something to focus on and lets your dog use some of their natural problem-solving abilities. By keeping your dog engaged with interactive toys you can help boost their confidence & tire them out mentally.
Keep in mind not all puzzle toys are loved equally by all dogs. We suggest looking into what puzzles are available and what would be best suited for your pooch. No one knows what your dog likes quite like you do. 


Teach Your Dog Some New Tricks

Is you fur-friend a trick expert? Have they mastered the art of stay, come here & lay down? Well, if they are, the good news is there’s a lot more you can teach them that goes beyond the basics. Whether your dog is completely new to this or an expert of the trade, there’s always something new to learn with tricks. 

Teaching your dog, a new trick or command is great for mental stimulation, and it can be particularly helpful with shy or fearful dogs. All that training will help boost your dog’s confidence, and it strengthens the bond between dog & owner. Learning new commands can also help increase your dog’s focus and impulse control – aka doggy manners. 


Play Some Nose Work Games

According to a lot of pup-parents one of their dogs’ favourite activities is basic nose work games. Having your dog use their nose to find things is a really simple way to help them hone in on their natural skills. And all that searching will provide your dog with a lot more mental stimulation in their daily routine. A common game owners play with their fur-friends is hide and seek, but with food. All you need to do is chop up some food you know your pooch will eat and then hide it throughout the house. We recommend something with a strong smell as it might take them a few tries to really get the hang of it.

Keep it fun & exciting for them by praising them every time they find a treat. After they get the hang of it you can start hiding them in harder to find spots, encouraging them to use their nose more and rely less on visuals.


Make an Obstacle Course for Your Dog

Teaching your dog how to go through an obstacle course is not only a nice mental workout for them but is can be a great form of exercise. Don’t worry if you don’t have any agility jumps or poles at home; you can make your own, or just use some stuff in your house as alternatives.

You can teach your dog to ‘go to your blanket,’ ‘jump over this broomstick’ or ‘weave’ through cones. Whatever commands work with what you’ve got set up. Obstacle courses are a great way to really mentally stimulate your dog as you’re not just asking them to do one thing, you’re asking them to do one thing after another – really getting them to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. 


Teach Your Dog the Names of Their Toys

Another great activity is to teach your dog the names of their toys. The first step is making sure your dog knows the name of the item you’re going to be hiding. If you’re starting with a certain toy we recommend sitting down with them & that toy and tell your pooch what the toys name is – i.e. blue bunny. As soon as they touch it or grab it praise them for being a good boy! 

Once you’ve done this a few times you can add in a different toy. Just be sure to go slowly to ensure that your dog knows exactly what ‘blue bunny’ is before you move on to another. When your dog knows the name of a few items you have them go find an array of different toys based on their names. 


Teach Your Dog the Shell Game 

Lastly, we’ve got a very common dog game that owners and dogs alike seem to love – the shell game. To play this game you just need three small cups and a delicious treat broken into small pieces. Next, you’ll need to get your dogs undivided attention and as they watch, carefully line up the cups in a straight row. Grab a treat piece and hold it up to show them, lift one of the cups, then place the treat beneath it. Now start shuffling the cups around, and you'll notice your dog is following the one with the treat with their eyes. When you stop your shuffle, let your dog guess which cup has the treat. If they are right, they get the treat. If not, the game starts over again.

It may take some time to train your dog to play the game, but it is a great form of stimulation and bonding time. 


If you’d like more vet approved pet health advice, sign up to our monthly newsletter here, or visit www.vetshopaustralia.com.au/Pet-Health.

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