There are lots of good reasons to work on keeping your dog’s mind active. Would you like to have a happier, more confident animal? Are you interested in finding a way to avert behavioral issues? Helping your pup’s mind stay busy is key. An active mind prevents boredom and the mischief that often comes from it. It also means an overall improved quality of life for your pet. Generally speaking, if your pet’s mind is consistently engaged, it’s better for everyone.
What are the best ways to keep your canine challenged, busy and out of harm’s way? To help answer this question, here’s a look at just some of the plentiful enrichment activities that are great for stimulating your pet’s mind:
- Go on exploratory walks. It’s no surprise that dogs love going on walks. For maximum enrichment potential, however, try to make walks as stimulating, yet calming, as possible. Take your dog outside, surrounded by the soothing, unstructured beauty of nature. Let your dog go off-leash or use the longest leash you can, so your pup is free to sniff and chase to its heart’s content. This is a great, simple way to engage your pet’s mind and provide regular mental exercise.
- Make a snuffle mat. Dogs have a keen sense of smell that allows them to learn about the world around them, track scents, and find lost people or property. Give your pooch a chance to hone this skill by creating a snuffle mat. Tie strips of fleece to the holes of a rubber sink mat, leaving all the free ends on one side. Then, place treats in the mat and let your pup find them. You can make the treats as easy or hard to find as will be challenging for your pet. You can also keep the mat out of sight when done, to help ensure your dog doesn’t get bored with the game.
- Play games together. Games can be a great way to invigorate your four-legged friend. From throwing a frisbee in the park to playing hide-and-go-seek with treats in the house, your animal will likely love the excitement of figuring out how to participate. Here’s a great one to try: Grab some treats and have your pooch sit in front of you while you switch them from hand to hand. Then, close your fists with the snacks in one hand, and get your dog to show you which hand holds the food. If it’s correct, give a snack as a reward; if it’s not, show your empty hand and try once more. After a few rounds of this game, your hound should learn to follow both visual and scent cues, developing useful skills and having fun in the process.
- Try a DIY obstacle course. Use various everyday objects to create a sort of obstacle course for your dog. Learning to step onto, over and around the parts of the course will require your canine’s utmost focus. It will also build confidence in its ability to master a path. This idea is an excellent way to sharpen your dog’s mental capabilities.
- Invest in some food-dispensing toys. Acting as a sort of solvable puzzle for your pet, a food-dispensing toy challenges your dog to figure out how to retrieve the food. Not only do these items provide stimulation to your animal, but they also naturally reward successful work. As a bonus, many of these toys are designed to take long periods to distribute all the food, keeping your furry pal busy and happy for hours.
- Give your pet frozen dog treats. During summer, or days when it’s easy to be outside for extended time with your pet, consider making homemade dog treats that can be frozen for a refreshing snack. While eating a treat is a pretty routine activity for a pet, a frozen version creates a fun and mentally stimulating snacking session.
- Encourage digging. Obviously, most pet owners prefer their animals not to dig and destroy the yard, but what if you gave your dog a specific place where digging is permitted? Set aside a part of the yard for this purpose or create a designated digging box where your pet is allowed to play. Bury some toys and tell your dog to find them. Your animal will enjoy the chance to do something it loves in a controlled space.
As the seven examples above demonstrate, there are many wonderful ways to engage your pet — even beyond pure physical exercise. Enrichment activities offer a way to stimulate your animal’s mind as well as its body. If your pooch has seemed bored, eager for entertainment or ready for something new, try working the suggestions in this post into your routine. Think of it like a workout for the brain!
Author bio: Stephanie N. Blahut is Director of Digital Marketing and Technology for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.