Just like people, dogs need mental stimulation to keep them healthy. Mind exercises increase your dog’s intelligence and help to deter the boredom that can lead to destructive behavior. You need to spend only a few minutes a day to keep your pup’s mental health in good condition.
Food Puzzle Toys
Food puzzle toys are sturdy rubber containers with holes on each end. They hold food or treats inside. Pop a treat inside one and let your dog figure out how to get the food out. At first Farfo will probably just lick at it, but eventually most dogs figure out creative ways to get the food out, including pawing, rolling, shaking or dropping the toys, or jamming them into a corner. Food puzzle toys prevent boredom and hone your dog’s problem-solving skills while developing patience.
Give your dog a chance to use the nose nature blessed her with. To play Find It, place your dog in another room, hide her favorite treat or toy, then let her look for it. At first hide it in places she can easily find, partially in view, then work up to more challenging places, such as underneath pillows.
A variation is to play hide and seek with your dog. Instead of letting her find treats, let her find you. These games exercise her mind and allow her to use her sense of smell. Hide and seek will also reinforce her coming when called.
You can also toss some dry food in your backyard, spreading it out as far as possible. She will happily sniff out each morsel until she finds them all.
If you have a friend who owns a dog, get together once a week and let your dogs play together. A 30- to 60-minute session of play with another canine can relieve boredom, exercise your dog physically and allow him to use his communication skills. Enclosed dog parks are fun and safe places in which your dog can exercise his social skills and meet new canines.
Take your dog for a car ride. If you're running errands, bring another person along so that you don't have to leave the dog in the car by himself. Allowing your dog to accompany you lets him experience new sights, sounds and smells, providing mental stimulation.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.