Mental Games: Expanding Your Dog’s Mind

Think of it like this:

You decide to go on a road trip.. You pack up the car, stock up on snacks and organize all of your favorite 90s road trip songs and at 7:00am sharp you hit the road!

Now, fast forward 8 hours. How do you feel? Are you tired? Drained? You didn’t really do anything all day, right?

Wrong! Maybe your physical movement was restricted to whatever dancing space you had, but travel fatigue is directly correlated with mental stimulation. All day you were concentrating on roads, reading maps and signs, listening to the news or radio and processing more information than you would be able to recite back by the end of the day.

Just like in humans, being mentally stimulated is a necessary part of canine health. It’s becoming more and more common knowledge that there are physical exercise  requirements for our furry friends, but providing proper mental exercise is just as, if not more, important.

If you are seeing boredom (barking, chewing, digging), anxious (pacing, licking/chewing, panting) or hyperactive behaviors, adding a heathy dose of mental stimulation will give your dog the job they need to live a better, more comfortable life! Here are three of my favorite mental stimulation outlets:

  1. Interactive FeedingPuzzle Games, Kongs, Kibble Balls and all food related toys are a great way to kick start your dogs mental stimulation routine. Full meals from interactive feeders is one of the best and low maintenance way to provide mental exercise.  Take the treat games one step further and instead of just a spoon-full of peanut butter, add a little bit of chicken brother to your pups kibble and freeze it in a kong! Be creative, changing up the routine and additional tastes will keep your dog engaged and enjoying the process!
  2. Training GamesTraining your dog new skills or tricks is a great way to engage their minds. Instead of measuring your pups kibble out and plopping it into a bowl, feed it piece by piece in a training sessions!
  3. Nose work/Hide and SeekDogs have a natural ability and desire to use their noses. By allowing them to do so on walks, during games or for dinner we are enhancing those experiences. It is absolutely okay to let your dog do a little sniff-exploring. It is absolutely okay to run and hide and then call your dog to find you. And lastly, it is absolutely okay to have your dog do a little searching for some goodies (or dinner!). Let your dog use their nose, they will thank you for it!

Pictured: Phoenix Assistance Puppy Gemini, enjoying dinner out of  the Kong Wobbler


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