Does this sound familiar to you? No matter how often or for how long you get Fido out for a good run-around and play time, a good hour or so of napping, and he’s ready and rarin’ to go again. And just to make sure you get his message, he misbehaves, vocalizes, or practices any number of other unwanted behaviors. If this does sound familiar to you, it may be that although his body is being exercised, Fido’s brain is not. Let me explain.
Just as we humans need it, dogs also need mental stimulation. Physical exercise is just not enough to keep your dog happy, healthy, and balanced. And for dogs who can’t abide the colder temperatures and snowy conditions of winter, mental stimulation is even more important to their health and well-being.
Scent detection – a great exercise that teaches your dog to use their nose to identify different scents. This is an excellent form of mental stimulation, because the dog must concentrate on using only one of their senses to correctly identify individual scents.
“Find it” – a fun game that engages your dog’s brain as well as his/her body. Hide bite-sized food treats or a favorite toy in different places and help your dog “find it”. This is also a great way to reinforce the bond between you and your dog.
Pick the Color – an exercise in which you teach your dog to select specific colors. Contrary to popular belief, though they don’t see them the same way we humans do, dogs can and do see colors. This exercise is both challenging and fun, and in my experience, it drains out excess mental energy very quickly.
Agility – a fantastic exercise that works your dog’s body and mind, builds trust, and reinforces the bond between you and him/her.
Tricks – teaching a dog a new trick engages their brain in the most wonderful ways. And the more complex the trick, the more mental energy they release. Of course, you want to start with easy tricks first [roll over, spin, etc.] before you get into more complicated things.
Treadmill – one of the most challenging, energy-draining exercises I’ve found to date. Having your dog deal with a moving platform forces them to focus on balancing their body while they’re “walking”. Not only is a treadmill an awesome way to help your dog release built-up mental energy, it’s an excellent way to keep your dog in optimum physical health.
Taking Fido out to let him run and play is a wonderful way to show him you love him and you want him to be happy. Add some great brain games to his activities, and those unwanted behaviors you’ve been dealing with just might go away. A truly happy dog is a tired dog.
Have a fantastic day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.