Mental Stimulation

October 6, 2021

Dogs need daily physical exercise but what are other ways to tire out your pooch? Responses typically include training and mental stimulation.  What does that mean exactly?

Training includes the basic commands: sit, down, stand, stay, leave it, give/drop it and come.  Training doesn’t mean that you’ve completed your group classes and now my dog is trained.  If you don’t work these commands daily you can’t expect your dog to respond the way you want them to when the need arises.  

I love giving the analogy of getting in shape.  Let’s say you’ve gained 25 pounds during COVID.  You didn’t gain the weight overnight, you gained it over several months. You then commit to losing the weight and aftera week are frustrated and want to give up because you haven’t lost a pound.  Just like the months it took to gain the weight, it will take most of those months to lose it.  After working hard to lose the weight, do you then think you can stop working out and maintain your weight loss? Absolutely not!  You need to continue working out/training to maintain.  You’ve heard it said, being healthy is a lifelong commitment.  Well, so is training your dog.  It is forever.

We all love our dogs and want to give them everything but not making them work for what they want is doing them a disservice.  They want structure, they want guidance and they love to work.  Making them work builds confidence which is exactly what you want.  Allowing your dog to make decisions on their own often leads to unwanted behavior.  A couple examples of making them work for what they want:  They should sit before you put on their leash.  Before going outside they should sit at the door and look at you before you release them to walk outside.  Giving them a treat because they look cute doesn’t count. ;)   If worried about the extra calories I would measure their food intake for the day and use 1/3 for training treats throughout the day.

Mental stimulation includes training but can also include games, puzzles and interactive feeders.  I use interactive feeders a lot.  My go-to is a Kong.  You Can feed at least one of their meals in a Kong.  It takes work for your dog to lick out their meal and they will be tired.  My guy is literally panting when he’s done.  Kongs can also help when crate training and/or to help with separation anxiety when you leave the house.  Interactive feeders also make your dog work.  

When your dog develops an unwanted behavior, first go back to basics and start working their commands again.  You may have gotten out of the typical routine and have gotten lax in making them work for what they want but it’s simple to go back to what they know and freshen up their skills.  

An amazing group to join on FaceBook is CanineEnrichme You will get daily ideas to try with your fuzzy and they will love you for it!

If you believe your dog could benefit from my services, please get in touch.