You often hear us talk about how important it is for your dog to have a mental release, so if you feel like you need a couple of pointers on how to achieve that, this post is for you. There are hundreds of ways to stimulate your dog’s grey matter from something as simple as letting them sniff a tree to something more complicated like trick training. So let’s start with some very simple 5-minute activities.
Sniffing on a walk
Put time aside to take your dog for a walk, and keep in mind, that it’s your dog’s walk and not yours. So, if your dog wants to spend 5-minutes at each tree to sniff, take that into consideration as part of your dog’s walk. Your dog enjoys sniffing three trees for 20-minutes, then that is what he gets to do.
Scavenging for food
If your dog is not a fussy eater, scatter and hide his food around the garden or space for him to find, instead of giving it to him in a bowl. It will immediately calm him down and he will really enjoy sniffing his food out. If you have multiple dogs, rather let them take turns to do this or feed them in separate areas so that they do not feel like they have to rush or protect their food from the other dog/s. You might have to help him understand the game at first, but they pick it up very quickly.
Present a toy to your dog and give him a yummy treat for sniffing it, while saying the word ‘touch’ after a couple of repetitions place the toy on the ground and prompt your dog to touch it with his nose again while you say the cue ‘touch’. Start putting the toy further and further away from your dog, asking him to ‘go touch’. An easy and fun brain game your dog will love because you are playing as well.
As soon as a dog is a champion at touching the toy when you ask him to in plain sight, you can start hiding the toy and encourage him to find it, in order to touch it. Of course, he should get to play with the toy as well, if your dog does not play with toys, receiving a treat is just as rewarding.
The hot or cold game
Remember playing this? When we were children we loved guessing where to go or what to do based on if we were hot or cold. We have a similar game we play with dogs. While you are lounging around on the couch glance over at what your dog is doing, any body movements? Start marking the movements your dog make with a ‘Yes!’ and toss him a treat. Try to time the ‘Yes!’ with the movement precisely. See which movement your dog offers most often and only reward that one. Once your dog offers that behaviour reliably, add a cue to the exact moment the movement occurs and reward your dog. It’s a really good game for the dog to use his grey matter to figure out what to do in order to receive the reward, it’s also a very good bonding game.
Give these activities a try and let us know how much your dog enjoyed them.