The energy levels of dogs are often unparalleled. This calls for mental as opposed to physical exhaustion and the name of the game is “Set the Brain to Work”. This is what we call Mental Stimulation.
It is basically any activity which involves neurological stimulation provided through either internal or external stimuli. In simpler words, we help you- the pet parents – to identify what your dogs is good at and get the dogs to utilise their own faculties to navigate through problems and solve them.
Mental stimulation works best with puppies because everything for them is a new concept and experience. This also translates to shorter duration of brain-stimulating activities being required by them. Essentially, the duration of these activities depends on the age and energy composition of the dogs. While they typically go on for 5-15 minutes a day, the frequency can be varied for dogs with higher energy levels.
WHY MENTAL STIMULATION?
Dogs need work to do. When they don’t have a job at hand, they get bored and, as anyone would, try and entertain themselves. For humans, this often means destruction all over the house. It includes chewing and tearing inappropriate things like sofas, cushions, shoes, clothing, garbage and even walls. And to have all of it avoided by only a few minutes of activity… wouldn’t that be just great? Over and above, dogs – just like humans – need to exercise and be challenged to remain happy and healthy.
WAYS TO ENGAGE YOUR DOG.
Training or obedience is the best form of mental stimulation. Learning new tricks becomes trickier when more and more commands are learnt. The dog focuses on the tried and tested commands/routines (i.e. the commands that have been previously learnt) and when all fails, tries something new (what you are teaching him/her now) to get the reward.
Other forms of mental exercises can include giving the dog a job to do like finding treats/objects around the house. Take it a step further and teach them to get their own leash or even identify and pick up toys by their names. Another could be to run an errand with the pet parent and assist them with it. For example, carrying a bag for them. The most common way though, is interactive games and toys. Figuring out how to work them becomes a self-rewarding act for the dog and they are highly driven towards it.
Here are some more ways to keep your dog engaged.
- Board games – these are essentially puzzles that make your dog use their sense of smell, snouts and paws to solve the puzzle and get treats.
- Lick Mats – these are rubber mats that cling on the surfaces like walls and door and come in various shapes, size and textures. The idea is to smear the mat with peanut butter, soft banana or even cheese and to have the dog lick it.
- Kong Toys – it is a an irregularly shaped rubber toy with a hollow centre. When stuffed with treats, dogs can chew on it and if they throw the toy around, its irregular bounce keeps them intrigued.
- Scent enriched natural surroundings – dogs can’t resist the urge to sniff. Natural surroundings like hills, trails and lawns are full of different scents that the dogs can pick up on. Taking note of these stimulates them and keeps them engaged.
- Hide and Seek – An all-time classic, this game not only pushes the dog’s auditory senses but also strengthens the human-canine bond.
ADVANTAGES OF MENTAL STIMULATION
Now that we’ve talked about why dogs need mental stimulation and how do we give it to them, let’s go over the advantages that these activities have to offer.
- Help Lessen Hyperactivity – when the energy of the dog is channelised into mental work rather than physical exercise or play, the dogs get tired more and quicker. When there is less of pent-up energy, the excessive and often uncalled-for activity is reduced.
- Prevent boredom: Dogs are otherwise just sitting around getting bored. Such activities give them something to do and keep boredom at bay.
- Get Rid Of Destructive Behavior – destructive behaviour is a result of boredom and loneliness and nothing else. When the dogs have something to do, they don’t need to keep themselves entertained and so the destructive behaviour is eliminated.
- Improves behaviour: It has been found that the dogs whose brains have been trained regularly are far calmer around other people and dogs and in new environments.
- Makes them happy: Like we always say, a tired dog is a happy dog and brain engaging activities tire them out. Along with this, the activities and games make full use of their smell and sound senses. Dogs love this.
All in all mental activities can be of great assistance with high energy dogs or dogs with medical conditions which require them to curtail physical activities. They also come handy when the dog needs to be left alone for a long period of time and needs to be sufficiently tired beforehand. It goes a long way in the holistic development of the dog and should be an inalienable part of their lives. It improves behaviour and most importantly makes them happy! What more does a pet-parent want?