How to Mentally Challenge a Dog

Car rides are an excellent way to combat boredom.

Car rides are an excellent way to combat boredom.

Many owners think physical exercise is enough to keep your dog healthy and happy. However, if your dog isn’t mentally stimulated, he will turn to destructive behaviors to keep himself occupied. A few simple mind games will challenge your dog and fight off boredom.

Keep your dog on a strict feeding schedule. Dogs are very habitual and will grow bored if allowed to pick at food all day long. Prepare the dog’s food and make him perform a command before letting him eat. A simple “sit” or “down” is enough to make your dog think before he receives his reward.

Divide your dog’s normal rations around your yard. If your dog has to engage his brain and seek out his food, he will feel rewarded every time he finds a pile of kibble. Walk him to the first spot and let him eat, then walk in the general direction of the next pile. Tell the dog “find it” and let him sniff around on his own. If he can’t find the food within a minute or two, point it out to him.

Give your dog a puzzle toy filled with tasty treats. These unique toys have slots and holes that can be stuffed with goodies, and the dog gets a small reward when he moves the toy in certain ways. Puzzle toys are also an excellent distraction for dogs that are crated for long periods of time.

Trade old toys for new ones. Playing with the same toys day after day is bound to be boring, but introducing a new toy will kick-start your dog’s mind. Place old toys in a box in the closet and rotate them once a month.

Enroll your dog in a class. Structured training sessions expose your dog to a variety of stimuli and force her to think about her behavior. Obedience classes are a good starting point, although dogs that already have a solid foundation may benefit from agility or flyball classes.

Take your dog on trips. Even short walks to the mailbox or a car ride to the bank expose your dog to new people and places. Make sure your dog is current on his vaccinations and is leashed at all times to keep him safe.

Items you will need

  • Puzzle toys
  • Treats

Warning

  • Never punish a bored dog. Boredom is a sign of an under-stimulated dog that needs more attention, not discipline.
 

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