Sidestepping the Same-Old – How to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog

We all know the drag of an old routine.  The 9-to-5, interminable drives with rude commuters, having lunch at a specific place every Tuesday, et cetera…  At times, such routines can be comforting, but it’s still easy to find your mind bored and your world gone gray after a certain span of time.  

For your dog, it can be even worse: they have no job, places to visit, and no internet to surf.  All they have for entertainment is you, which is why stimulating your best friend’s brain is so important.  Don’t let them fall into a routine of sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more.  Even with daily walks and varied games of fetch, life can get boring without anything new to try!  

The possibilities are endless, but here are four simple ways to make sure that a spark still finds its way into your pup’s day.

1. Ditch the food bowl! 

Many pet stores and online shopping sites offer toys for dogs with hollow centers for food or treats.  Hide your pup’s food inside from time to time, and don’t forget to change the toy (or its location if you don’t want to buy a new one) every so often to keep things interesting.  If you don’t want to use your best friend’s lunch for these games, treats work just as well.  Many toys are designed for corresponding goodies that can be bought in the same place, while others are meant for you to fill with snacks like peanut butter.  Alternately, simply hiding food around the house for your dog to find will also do the trick, as will using it to teach some tricks!  Anything that your dog can learn or puzzle out will help stimulate their mind and keep them active.

As a side note, such toys work well for cats, too.  Mine in particular loves mint, and so has recently figured out how to open a (loosened) tin containing minty tidbits.  She’s since moved on to trying to open my tube of minty toothpaste, but that one thankfully requires opposable thumbs to open…

2. It’s never late for training!

Whoever said that old dogs can’t learn new tricks clearly never tried to train an old dog.  Don’t leave your friend’s skillset at just ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ and ‘lie down!’ Signing your dog up for professional training will work just fine, especially if you’re short on time, but your pup will always prefer time with you.  Personally, I’ve taught many dogs to balance a treat on their nose until I tell them to catch it, starting with my childhood four-legged friend.  Additionally, he knew how to jump through hoops and drag me around the house in a laundry basket, if that says anything about me as a child.  The possibilities are endless, from the basic, to the exotic, to the amazing, and even such useful things as teaching your scatterbrained friend to clean up his toys at the end of the day!  Best of all, every trick your dog learns keeps him stimulated and learning!

3. Play games!

On a similar note to teaching tricks, games of any kind are always fun for your dog.  I once met someone who trained his furry friend to play touch football, making that pooch into a Retriever Receiver.  If something less intense is more your style, though, don’t worry; there are more than enough options!  It can be as simple as hiding one of your dog’s favorite toys and having him search for it, playing the shell game with some treats, or any other number of games or puzzles that are easy but still fun for a human.  If you want something a little more stimulating for both you and your dog but don’t want to teach him professional sports, consider games such as hide-and-seek or tag.  Even setting up an indoor agility course with mops and pillows will do!

4. Get out there!

There are few things that many dogs love more than the great outdoors, so explore the world together!  At its simplest, choose new walking routes or destinations when you go out together, or even walk near a pet store or dog park to let him take in all of the new smells.  Those dog parks or puppy playdates let him socialize, too, especially if you only have one dog.  If possible, the beach is also a perfect destination for some fun, even if it’s just for a leashed walk.  Lastly, if you really want to explore with your best friend, look for dog-friendly hiking or nature trails you can try.  Every time you go, your pup will likely find something new!

The possibilities for entertaining your dog truly are endless, just as they would be for you without a phone!  Don’t limit yourself to just this list, either!  Think of new games to play, places to visit, and things to do that your individual dog would love.  They should be your best friend and a part of the family, after all!  Be sure to stimulate their minds just as much as their big, fluffy hearts!

 

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