We all know that dogs need exercise, but did you know that we need to be exercising their minds as well? Dogs are smart, and it is crucial we provide them with mental stimulation to exercise their brains. Mental exercise is important to keep a dog from being bored, which could lead to behavior problems. There is actually a term for this, it’s Canine Enrichment. What do I mean by this? Enrichment uses a range of activities designed to mentally stimulate your dog and challenge and exercise their brain. Here are some fun and easy ideas to create something fun for your dog. (These should always be used under supervision and are not designed for times when you are away.)
Kongs® and other “stuffable” toys. These heavy rubber cylinders have a handy hole that’s perfect for filling! My dogs’ favorite ingredients are a mixture of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) and plain non-fat yogurt. After mixing together, I put it into a zip bag, cut off the bottom corner, and fill up the Kong like a pastry chef! Then I stick them in the freezer for an hour or so until they are solid. This makes the experience last longer! Shop for Kongs here.
Snuffle Mats make dinner time fun! These are small mats made up of long fleece strips that have been woven into the base. (See picture.) You take their meal and scatter it into the fleece strips, so they have to use their nose to find all the tasty morsels! You can make your own at home or purchase one from Amazon or Etsy.
Interactive Feeders can slow down a speedy eater. Not only are they more fun, but they don’t have to be used solely at meal times, they can also be used for serving up treats. There are a wide variety available at all different difficulty levels. Find a variety of choices here.
Slow lick mats provide tasty treats. These can be filled with pureed pumpkin, non-fat plain yogurt, or organic peanut butter. The raised patterns help promote healthy teeth, fresh breath and gums by stimulating saliva and scraping off bacteria from the tongue (see picture above). Find them here! My dogs’ favorite is pureed pumpkin, frozen on the mat to provide a longer lasting lick.
Cardboard boxes and treat balls. Enrichment can be found in a myriad of household items. Those Amazon boxes can be filled with treats, toys and newspaper to make a search game. Multiple boxes set in a row with one filled with treats can be a fun nose work game. You can even purchase balls that are designed to be filled with treats, then rolled around to dispense them. Click here to shop!
I hope this gives you some ideas for fun and easy stimulation of your dog’s mind. Keep in mind your dog’s breed when thinking up activities. For instance, Labs were originally bred to retrieve, Terriers to hunt out vermin, and Spaniels to track scents. Games can be made out of most anything around the home, so use your imagination and have fun!