We all know the importance of physical exercise. It helps our dogs maintain a healthy weight, builds strong muscles, is good for the heart, and offers a long list of other health benefits. But, along with moving our dog’s body, there’s another type of exercise our pups need. It’s called mental stimulation and, just like it sounds, it literally means you’re exercising your dog’s mind.
Below, I’m sharing 6 ways you can challenge your pup, fire up their mind, and offer enriching mental stimulation. But first, let’s take a look at the top benefits of mental stimulation for dogs.
Benefits of Mental Stimulation
Like people, dogs get bored. And do you know what happens when a dog gets bored? Yup! They find creative ways to amuse themselves. (In ways we usually don’t like. Think: excessive barking, destructive chewing, digging holes, etc.)
By providing mental stimulation for your dog, you’re helping to:
- Bust doggy boredom
- Put an end to unwanted behaviors that are triggered by boredom
- Lower stress levels and improve mood
- Burn off energy/tire out your dog
- Keep your dog’s mind sharp (this is especially great for aging dogs)
6 Ways To Mentally Stimulate Your Dog
There are a variety of ways you can fire up your dog’s mind:
1. Enrichment Walks
There are different types of dog walks. Sometimes, you and your dog will head out for a quick potty break. Other times, you may leash up your furry friend to work on obedience training. Then, there are leisure walks where you let your dog leave the heel position to go explore the surroundings, sniff around, check the pee-mail, and just be a dog! These are perhaps the most satisfying walks for your dog because they learn a lot through smell and having the time to sniff the grass, nearby bushes, and poles is mentally enriching for them.
2. Interactive Toys and Puzzles
Game night, anyone? In my house, if you open up the game closet, you’ll find a stack of my favorite board games on the left and a stack of my dogs’ favorite puzzles on the right. That’s right, there are puzzles and interactive toys that are made specifically for dogs!
There are a variety of puzzles on the market, and you can even make your own DIY versions. They each require slightly different problem-solving skills and offer various challenge levels. But they all have one thing in common — you hide treats somewhere in the puzzle and your dog has to figure out how to get them out.
- HERE is a list of our 11 favorite store-bought dog puzzles!
- HERE is a list of 8 DIY puzzles that you can make from common items you may even have lying around your home!
3. Make Your Dog Work For His Food
Along with puzzles that make your pup work for treats, you can also turn your dog’s mealtime into a brain game. If you feed hard food then just drop their kibble into a treat-dispensing ball toy. If you feed fresh food then get a few slow feeders that feature various prong and maze patterns. Spoon your pup’s food between these protrusions and let them work it out! These bowls come in stainless steel and plastic. I personally prefer stainless steel, but I’m linking to both versions below!
4. Work On New Tricks
If your dog already knows the basic commands, why not work on cool trick training? Spending just 15 minutes every day to work on commands and tricks is a great way to fire up your pup’s mind and get them to focus on something meaningful … all while strengthening your communication and bond!
5. Agility Training
Have you ever watched dogs go through an obstacle course where they run through tunnels, walk over seesaws, weave in between poles, and jump over objects? Well, that’s called agility! This is a wonderful way to both physically and mentally enrich your dog. If you’re interested, look to see if there is an agility training group near you. Or, if you just want to have some fun with it at home, you can get your own course right on Amazon!
Whenever your dog meets a new person or pet, their senses heighten. They are seeing new faces, hearing new sounds, and smelling new butts! You know how it goes — Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me!
Socialization is beneficial for so many reasons, and mental stimulation makes the list!
How do you keep your fur kid mentally stimulated? Let us know in the comments below!