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Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated with These Top Tips

Do you ever wonder why your puppy or dog seems more energetic, even after taking them on long walks or playing with them for hours? The reason behind this is that your dog hasn’t been mentally tired out. Think about it this way, when you go for a run and finished running, you may feel tired out for a brief period of time. You may step aside, huff and puff, drink water, but then, you regain that energy back from the initial “adrenaline rush” you got from running! Let’s compare it to studying for an exam. Do you notice how quickly you get tired from reading? That’s because your brain is working 10x harder to retract the information, in return, stimulating your mind and causing it to tire out. In this blog we’ll be talking about:

  • The benefits of a mentally stimulated dog

  • Top 3 ways to keep your dog's mind working

  • Brain games you can play with your dog

  • Ways to stimulate your dog’s mind when they’re home alone



What are the benefits?


Why is exercising your canine friend's mind beneficial? For starters, it’s a great way to ensure that your dogs’ mental health is being cared for. Another way this helps them is it exerts ways to lessen stress, wards off boredom behaviours, assists in their brain activity and it keeps them happy and healthy. Keeping your dogs’ brains working is also a fun way for the both of you to bond! Now, what benefits does stimulating their mind have for you? Aside from the obvious, which is ensuring their health and happiness, keeping your dogs’ minds stimulated can assist with their training. By tiring them out before training, it will help your dog stay more focused, less distracted and calm. After a few hours each day of keeping your dogs’ minds working, you’ll begin to notice less destructive behaviours and I’m sure that’ll cause less stress for you as well!



Top 3 Ways to Keep Your Dogs’ Mind Working:


Here are some of the top activities you can do to keep your dog thinking every day!


1. Get Your Dog A Puzzle Toy

Investing in a puzzle toy for your dog can not only keep them distracted for a long period of time, but this can also prevent anxiety and alleviate boredom. Some dog puzzles we recommend are Gyro Balls and Outward Hound Dog puzzles. The first step is to always demonstrate how the puzzle works to your dog. Many of these puzzles have different levels of difficulty meaning when you first buy a puzzle for your dog, make sure to get a level that you think would be suitable for them. The last thing you want is your dog to feel frustrated… and just end up chewing up the game!


2. Have Your Dog Work For Their Food

Dogs' natural instincts are to hunt. Having them work for their food will increase their canine ability and can become a fun activity for them! Another benefit of them working for their food is to slow down a fast eater… and if you have a Labrador retriever as I do, you’ll know what I mean. Some products that are great to help with this are: Snuffle Mats, Slow Feeders, Lick Mats, Kongs and the Instachew Fun Trees. Snuffle mats are great to keep your dogs’ noses working, while kongs and the Instachew fun trees keep them busy and away from causing trouble. FUN FACT: Did you know that lick mats are a great way to keep your dog happy! When dogs lick, it releases a chemical in their brain, which makes them feel joyful! A happy dog is a happy pet parent!


3. Create An Obstacle Course For Your Dog

Creating an obstacle course for your dog can be fun for both you and your dog! Obstacle courses can help improve communication between the both of you, it can increase attention and your dogs’ confidence. Also, who wouldn’t enjoy the funny trials of teaching your dog how to go through the obstacle course! You can start off with simple ones like going through pylons without knocking them over and from there, increase the difficulty level. When creating the course, ensure to have lots of room for your canine friend to move around and to take breaks to regain their energy! A great way to let your dog know they’re finished a task is to have a release word like “ok” to let them know they’re able to do anything else they want.



Brain Games For Your Dog and You


Feeling left out from all the fun? Here are some activities you can do with your dog when mentally stimulating them.


1. Hide-and-Seek

Did you know you can play hide and seek with your dog? This is a great way to practice recall and stay, it helps your dog workout, has them thinking, using their senses and it’s also a great way to reinforce positive training! Here’s how you can play ‘hide and seek’ with them: First thing to ensure is that you have taught your dog to stay, wait and recall. Once you’ve worked on these commands, tell your dog to stay and walk away from them to hide! For the first few attempts at this, you want to make it as easy as possible for them so they understand. After you’ve hidden, call your dog towards you and always remember to reward them! Going through this process a few times, start to make each hiding place harder, but keep in mind not to be too far out of reach where they won’t be able to hear you.


2. Blowing Bubbles

One of my favourite activities to do with my dog is to blow bubbles! This activity is probably my dogs’ favourite as well because he just enjoys watching them pop and disappear. When buying bubbles to play with your dog, try to find some that are dog friendly or make your own with pet-safe dish soap.


3. Teach Them A New Trick

Dogs find great pleasure in pleasing their family! Teaching them new tricks can be fun and beneficial for both of you but be mindful that tricks are not commands, as many can mistake them to be. A few basic commands include: sit, stay, touch, wait, etc. Tricks are things dogs do such as, paw, high-five, spin and rollover. It’s important that both you and your dog know the difference between the two before you do any training or teaching. The other day, I started teaching my dog a new command and called it “safety”. For us, this means he sits between my legs when I stand and the purpose of teaching him this was if there were any danger or if I myself felt unsafe, he would come to the safety zone. Whenever I teach my dogs tricks or commands, I typically think about how this would be beneficial and I almost always have a purpose for what I’m teaching. Teaching new tricks can be very time-consuming, but I believe it’ll be worth it!



Ways to Stimulate Your Dogs’ Mind When They’re Home Alone


After getting this far into the blog, for those of you who leave your house frequently or who don’t work from home, you may be wondering: ‘How do I keep my dog mentally stimulated when I’m away?’ Guess what? It’s definitely possible! One thing I suggest investing in before I move on to some tips on how to mentally tire out your dogs is the Instachew Puresight 360 HD camera! The Puresight 360 HD Camera gives you the security of knowing your pet is safe and being able to see what they’re up to while being away from home. This is an app-enabled smart product, meaning you can connect to it using your cell phone and have access to it anywhere! The beauty of the Puresight 360 HD Camera is that there’s built-in two-way audio so you can hear if your dog is barking at the mailman, yet if needed, it allows you to speak through the Puresight 360 and tell your feisty dog to quit it so your mailman can deliver the mail in peace. The reason I highly recommend this is because when I purchased my Puresight 360 HD Camera, I'm able to worry less about leaving my puppy home alone. I knew he was being mentally stimulated, yet I was able to see what he was up to! With that being said, let’s start talking about some ways to keep your dogs’ minds moving when you’re not around!


1. Create A Scavenger Hunt For Them

Personally, I love doing scavenger hunts! So, I started doing them with my dog as well! I would make a list of what I hid and where I hid them. For example, I would hide his favourite toy, Mr. Bear, under the throw pillows on the couch and I would hide some treats where he would be able to find them. Before I leave I tell him ‘find it’ and that’s his cue that lets him know that mama left him a scavenger hunt! Before creating the home-alone scavenger hunts, I suggest playing them together with your dog first so that you’re able to teach them how the game works and give them cues to know the game has started.


2. Provide Safe Ways For Your Dog To Look Out The Window

This may be something all dogs do, but personally, my dog is a window watcher! He loves watching out the windows as cars go by and especially when he sees people walking their canine friends! Window watching, which is what I call, a great way to mentally stimulate your pup's mind. This helps alleviate anxiety, boredom and any negative emotions.


3. Let Your Dog Watch Television

Allowing your dog to watch action-filled shows or movies comes with many benefits. It distracts them from their restlessness while entertaining them! Watching something on TV can help desensitize your dogs to loud sounds or sudden movements, which is something they encounter in real life. Be sure to watch with them first and make sure they enjoy the movie or show and analyze their behaviour towards it. Obviously, if your dog won’t stop barking or jumping at the TV, then that probably shouldn’t be something you leave on for them while you’re away. Unless of course, you want to come home to a wrestling match between your dog and the TV! Some dogs don’t find any interest or quite understand what television is, if that is the case, I wouldn’t recommend using this method to mentally stimulate them. I found out my dog loves watching television! The first movie we ever watched together was Marley and Me and he was hooked onto the screen ever since! A lot of the time, since I work from home, I keep movies on replay while I work just to keep him entertained, and it works every time. But like with anything, be mindful of screen time always.



Summary


When mentally stimulating your dogs, always keep in mind that they will get tired out! If you are just starting out, keep each activity simple and always demonstrate the game or activity well to reduce any stress or frustration. Keeping your dogs’ minds working will benefit both you and your dog! Once you start working on keeping them mentally stimulated you will quickly see progress in their overall behaviour. Dogs require a lot of work, but putting in that effort towards them will always benefit your relationship with them in the long run. These are just some of the methods I suggest. There is no guarantee that it will work for everyone since all dogs have their own personalities. See what works best for you and your dog!


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