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Mental Stimulation Matters: Is Your Dog Getting Their Daily Dose of Enrichment?

Walking, running, swimming, playing fetch – as a responsible pet owner, you’re likely well aware that your pup needs plenty of physical exercise (at least one 30-minute walk and two 15 minute play sessions each day). But did you know your dog’s brain also needs exercising?

Mental stimulation is key to not only helping develop your dog’s cognitive behavior, but also their overall well-being. From the importance of mental exercise, to expert tips and at-home exercises you can try at home, we’ve outlined the top tips and tricks to ensure your pup’s mental health stays as fit as their physical body.

The Run-Down on Enrichment Exercises 

Dogs are incredibly smart and intuitive, so, just like humans, in addition to daily physical exercise, their mind needs to be exercised each day to help them tap into their true potential and maintain their overall health. 

Mental stimulation isn’t just crucial for helping younger dogs break bad habits (like chewing furniture) — it’s also especially important for senior dogs. As dogs age, their cognitive abilities start to fade, resulting in confusion, memory loss and a lack of awareness. Stimulating your dog’s mind and challenging them can help prevent these common symptoms of aging, and keep their mind sharp for much longer.

On top of cognitive improvements, the right balance of physical and mental exercise can improve your dog’s mood. Dogs thrive when they have “jobs” to do, so giving their brain a quick workout each day keeps them satisfied and happy.

Cognitive Challenges to Try at Home

The key to keeping your dog’s mind sharp is to encourage them to engage in their innate behaviors – playing, chasing, smelling, chewing, and scavenging. Follow these fun, DIY activities to stimulate your dog’s mind, and tire them out in a quarter of the time! 

Take Them on an Errand or Two

If you’re heading to a pet-friendly spot to run an errand, consider taking your pet along to join you. Even if it’s just a quick car ride to the mailbox, your dog will get to experience new sights and sounds, which, in processing those, stimulates their mind. 

Play a Guessing Game…

Grab a box of your dog’s favorite treats and play a guessing game

Sit in front of your dog, holding out your palms to show them your empty hands. Then, as you have your dog practice sitting patiently, take a treat and place it between your palms. 

Make two closed fists, placing the treat in one of your hands, then have your dog guess which hand the treat is in. Reward them for the right guess with the treat, and repeat until you’re both tired! 

… Or a Quick Round of Hide and Seek

When your pet is preoccupied sniffing around the yard, run behind the nearest tree or bush and quietly call out for them. Using their innate senses, they’ll instinctively start searching every nook and cranny until they find you!

Tie Up Treats

TikTok sensation @dogs.made.simple shares this easy dog enrichment activity that uses just a towel/blanket and your pup’s favorite kibble. 

Simply place a handful of kibble in the blanket then roll and loosely tie it up, essentially hiding the food in the blanket. Hand it over to your dog and watch as they challenge themselves to sniff their way to untying the blanket and finding their treat! 

You know the saying – a good dog is a tired dog – and just 15 minutes of mental stimulation can have the same positive benefits of an hour of physical exercise in dogs. 

But remember – smarter minds don’t grow overnight. When it comes to improving your dog’s cognitive skills, consistency is key. But, by incorporating mindful activities into your dog’s daily routines, their skills will sharpen in no time! 

Have an opinion or comment? Let us know below!

2 thoughts on “Mental Stimulation Matters: Is Your Dog Getting Their Daily Dose of Enrichment?”

  1. We have 2 dogs, a female French Bulldog 2 years old & A male Shit Zue? 7-1/2 years old.
    They both get along alright but don’t mess with the French’s food. She is also very jealous when Max the Shit Zue when he gets around my wife or me. Some time we put Dottie in time out, large dog cage. She gets relaxed and we let her out. We all sleep together in a California size bed every night. We cook every 5/6 days for them. Chicken. sweet potatoes, apples & rice with honey & canned chicken and chicken broth. They love it and it seems to keep them healthy & happy.

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