By Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP owner of Anything’s Possible LLC
When we think of owning a dog, a lot of people think about getting outside and walking, playing ball, or even running with their dogs. It’s true, dogs do need quite a bit of physical exercise, but they also need to be mentally exercised. Just like training for a marathon, if we continue to physically tire out our dogs, they will become stronger and stronger and need to go for longer before they get tired. The unfortunate part is even though their bodies may be tired, their brains will still be going a mile a minute. You have successfully tired your dog’s legs out, but you have not done anything to tire and soothe the brain.
Dogs are social animals who enjoy spending time with us. This does not just mean cuddling on the couch, there are many activities that can mentally tire your dog out and give you an opportunity to bond with your dog. I’m excited to share some wonderful, mentally stimulating ideas with you!
Below you will find some fun activities for you and your dogs to do. I will even include a few ideas that are safe to leave your dog alone with if you are busy working or away from the house.
- Use breakfast or dinner to mentally exercise your dog.
- Use a popular food toy such as the Kong Wobbler, slow feeder bowls, Premier Tug-A-Jug, Squirrel Dude, IQ Ball, and more.
- Use a snuffle mat.
- Use a homemade food toy such as a clean milk jug, bottle, box with a towel inside, or paper towel tubes with the ends closed off.
- Scatter kibble around the room, on top of a fluffy carpet, or outside in the grass for an extra challenge.
- Use kibble for your training sessions. Trick training is a great way to mentally exercise your dog and end up with some cute behaviors!
Games to Play with Your Dog:
- Round Robin Recall: game with all of your family members. Take turns calling your dog and treating them when they get to you. As they get better at the game, add more distance, or even separate into different rooms in the house for ultimate mental and physical exercise.
- Hide-And-Seek: use toys, food, or yourself and the reward!
- Rapid Sits: how many sits can you treat in one minute!
- Flirt Pole (lots of easy DIY directions online)
- Ice Sculptures: Fill a container with water and place fruits or vegetables in the water. Freeze and offer to pups outside on a hot day.
- Roll up a yoga mat and place treats inside every so often as you roll it up. Now your dog has to unroll it to find the treats.
- Boxes: place food in boxes under blankets and work up to nesting boxes with treats in them.
- Muffin tins: place food in the muffin tin holes and cover with tennis balls or other toys.
- Take a training class with your dog, whether in person or online. It can be as simple as a tricks class. Something to break up the monotony of the day for your dog.
- Join a walking group or start your own.
- Work towards an online dog sport title such as tricks or dog parkour!
- A doggy sandbox: If your dog likes to dig but has nowhere safe to do so, building a sandbox for your dog may be exactly what they need! Teaching them to dig in a designated spot can save the rest of your yard from unsightly holes.
Trying to balance physical and mental exercise will help your dogs to be a well-rounded, calmer dog. It can also help relieve your stress and help calm you by seeing your dog enjoying a quieter, more focused activity.
We would love to hear about your creative mental stimulation ideas, so drop a comment below telling us your favorite mentally stimulating activity!
*Some ideas pulled from “Mental Stimulation” by Laurie Schlossnagle KPA-CTP CBCC-KA, owner of Side By Side LLC with permission.