Did you know that mental exercises for dogs are just as important as physical exercises? Dog owners understand how important physical exercise is for dogs. Every dog owner walks their dog, plays fetch with balls and ropes, runs with them around the yard, and does a variety of other things to keep their pups happy. Even in their golden years, dogs like physical activity.
That said, physical activity should not be the only type of exercise that your dog gets. You need to engage your dog’s mind in addition to keeping them physically fit. Dogs are extremely intelligent creatures, but their minds must be challenged on a daily basis in order to reach their full potential and remain healthy.
Why Are Mental Exercises for Dogs Important?
Aside from keeping a dog’s muscles and heart in good shape, your pet requires frequent mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Sometimes dog owners overlook this essential aspect of a dog’s life, preferring to just physically tire out their pets.
Senior dogs require more mental stimulation than younger canines. As a dog gets older, their mental capabilities begin to deteriorate. This can cause disorientation, a loss of awareness, and memory loss. Stimulating your dog’s mind can be a good way to deal with this deterioration, and to keep them sharp for much longer as they get older.
Mental exercise is especially crucial for dogs that have restricted movement or injuries, because they are unlikely to obtain as much mental stimulation through experiences like social contact or walks.
An interesting benefit of mental stimulation for dogs is that it improves their behavior. Mental exercise can influence your dog’s interactions with both people and other pets. Dog owners that routinely engage their dog’s brain have observed that their canine companions are more calm and well behaved around other dogs and people, and in unfamiliar environments.
It also prevents boredom in dogs. Dogs that are not mentally engaged will frequently get bored and begin to act out. They may start scratching up furniture, chewing on objects, digging out flowers or plants, or barking incessantly. Dogs are generally less bored and less prone to misbehave if they receive frequent mental stimulation.
Dogs need mental activity, and teaching them to utilize their brains may make them extremely happy. Furthermore, it will be a bonding opportunity for you and your pet, which will also help improve your relationship.
12 Mental Exercises for Your Dog
Here are 12 great mental exercises that you can take your dog through:
The Magic Trick
This is a basic activity, but it engages your dog’s mind. You can have three treats with you for this activity, but keep them hidden at first so that your dog does not see them.
Have your dog come over and sit in front of you. Take a treat, then ask your dog where the treat is as you hold out your palms so that the dog understands what the activity is about. With both hands, reach behind you and take a treat in each hand.
Clasping your hands together, bring back both your hands to the front. Ask the dog where the treat is. It makes no difference which hand the dog selects since they get a treat either way.
Do this a few times until your dog gets accustomed to receiving a treat. Then begin holding just one treat in each hand. Continue to change the pattern and watch your dog’s face brighten up with joy when they pick the right hand.
Have your dog count
You might be amazed at what you uncover if you stretch your dog’s mental capabilities. Dogs can most certainly count, and possibly even perform simple math like addition and subtraction. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s an actual fact.
According to the American Kennel Club, scientific studies indicate that dogs know how to count, and dog owners who research the notion have a great time engaging their pets with number games. For example, a mother must recognize whether all of her puppies are there or if one of them is missing, which necessitates the start of search-and-rescue efforts.
However, bear in mind that you don’t want to set your pup up for failure. Create a fun approach to convey the idea of numbers and arithmetic to your dog while exploring his or her mental ability. If the dog doesn’t understand it at all, remember that not every pet is good at the numbers game. You will still have a lot of fun practicing these activities together.
Do chores with your dog
Find a chore for your dog. Dogs, just like people, need their brains to be active, and they need to feel a sense of success. Make your dog do a simple job such as opening the fridge by wrapping a towel or cloth over the fridge handle so that the dog can pull it.
Being helpful and learning new skills is an excellent approach to improve your dog’s mental capacity. Teaching dogs how to participate in doing housework is a great way to have your pet involved in the day-to-day activities of your home.
Engage them with puzzle toys
Puzzle toys are a simple and effective way to have your dog engaged and active. Puzzles and other engaging toys can keep your dog concentrating on an activity, and the additional mental stimulation is just what they need.
One game every day can make a significant impact on the dog’s life since it gives them something to concentrate on. When a dog has more purpose in its day, it helps reduce troublesome behaviors. With puzzle toys, your dog can put some of his or her innate problem-solving talents to use. It may also increase your dog’s confidence along with keeping them entertained.
Allowing your dog to use their nose to discover items is an easy approach to help them improve their sense of smell, and flex their mental muscles. Going through the search activity will offer much more cognitive stimulation throughout the daily routine for your dog. While the dog is in the stay posture, go about the household concealing some toys or treats.
Begin with straightforward hiding places if your dog is new to the nose work games. Make sure that you encourage your dog whenever he finds an item and give them a treat. Keep it interesting and entertaining for them by applauding them whenever they locate an item.
After they’ve gotten the knack of the game, you may now hide them in more difficult-to-find places, pushing your dog to use their nose more while depending less on sight. This will also be significantly mentally stimulating for your dog. Letting your dog sniff on walks can also be as effective.
Naming toys with your dog
The first stage in this exercise is to make sure your dog understands what you’re going to hide. Have a sit down with your dog and have the toy with you. Tell your dog the name of the toy while you are holding it out to your dog, or when it is on the floor right in front of you. Right after your dog touches or grabs the toy, lavish them with praise.
Do this several times. You can substitute a new toy for the previous one for further games. Go slowly enough to verify that your dog understands what each toy is named before moving on to the next one.
After your dog has learned the names of some toys, you may now tell them to go find the toy. For example, if you named your toy “Blue Bear”, you can tell your dog to go find “Blue Bear”. When they bring back the toy, praise them then give them a treat.
An obstacle course
Navigating an obstacle course is a great mental workout for your dog. If there are no poles or agility jumps available you shouldn’t panic. You can create your own obstacle course, or utilize items from around the house as substitutes.
If you are not creative or resourceful enough to construct your own agility course, you can choose to use alternatives that are available at home. You can even make do with just a blanket, a few toys, and some hazard cones from an athletic store. With these, you can create a small course that is really beneficial in teaching your dog new skills and engaging them mentally.
You can have your dog do several exercises with these items. They can weave through the cones or jump over sticks for example. The advantage of arranging hurdles in this manner is that it provides a significant brain exercise for your dog. They will not just be doing one thing. They’ll do several things at the same time.
The shell game
The shell game is a game in which you hide a reward under one of three similar containers then move them around. You then allow the dog to select the container that has the treat under it. It is a variant of the magic trick game, only you use containers in this instance.
To play this game, you simply place a treat beneath one of the containers while the dog watches. Plastic cups can make for great containers. Shuffle the containers about then urge the dog to choose which of the containers has the treat. The shell game is a mental exercise that provides additional mental stimulation, and is an easy method to help them improve their problem-solving skills.
Obedience exercises are great for your dog. They stimulate the mind and keep them engaged. Even older dogs can learn something new, and having them in a working state keeps them mentally healthy.
When you see the first signs of boredom sneaking in, reinforce obedience training in 15-20 minute spurts all through the day. Diversification, just like with many workouts for humans, makes it interesting for dogs as well.
Make your dog earn his or her food
During mealtime, dogs have things fairly easy because the majority of us simply set their dish down, and let them get to business. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do, but it is not in line with their natural scavenger behaviors. If you’d like to have additional mental stimulation in your pup’s routine, begin by switching up their food schedule.
Rather than simply giving over their meal several times in a day, you could turn it into a wonderful experience for your dog by using a food-dispensing toy. This is where you set your pet’s meals inside a toy, and they must roll it around for the food to trickle out through a hole. Although this will be a little noisy, it’s definitely mentally engaging, and you will see how happy your dog is.
Have more engaging games for dogs
Every dog owner knows that a dog likes playing with you, which is why interactive play is among the most effective methods for getting them mentally engaged. While play may appear to be a no-brainer, it is often easy to overlook how critical it is for pets. According to research, the more a dog gets to play, the less the probability of them having behavioral difficulties.
Whenever you are engaging actively with your dog, you are undertaking interactive play. Playing tug or fetch is an example of interactive play. These kinds of activities are quite beneficial in terms of providing your dog with additional mental engagement. These games also contribute to the strengthening of your bond. It’s terrific exercise, and it helps your dog work on controlling impulses.
Play a game of fetch
If your dog understands some basic obedience instructions, and loves playing catch with you, they will enjoy playing fetch. Try this clever combination of exercises executed at breakneck speed next time. The twist in this kind of fetch is that it requires your dog to engage its mind in order to retrieve the ball.
To play this fun game, throw the ball. When the dog brings it back, have them drop it and leave it there. Instruct the dog to do a number of brief obedience actions in rapid succession. Switch up your exercise routine each time the dog brings back the ball to catch her unaware. This is great both as a physical and mental exercise.
Dogs require mind exercises just as much as they require physical exercise. The good thing is that there are a multitude of dog toys geared towards mental stimulation, and also a variety of mental stimulation activities. You can try some of these to ensure that your dog is mentally fit and physically healthy.
It’s never too late to teach your dog a new trick. There is always something new to do with your pup, whether that’s repeating things your dog already knows, or training your dog to do something else that keeps them active and stimulates their mind. You could even construct an improvised obstacle course to create a mix of physical and mental activities.
Taking your pet through mental acrobatics may appear like a pastime, but designing mental activities that your dog will look forward to, enjoy, and also learn from takes imagination and more than a little creativity. You both benefit at the end of the day.
And as always, Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often!
Love you guys,
P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.
This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.
How do you mentally tire a dog?
Larger dogs are more difficult to exercise in confined spaces than tiny ones. However, providing a huge dog with a decent workout is still very doable. Challenging a dog’s mind along with its body might help her tire out faster. You may buy or build a variety of fun items to aid in tiring out your pet.
How Much Mental Exercise Does a Dog Need?
Dogs, just like people, require mental stimulation and exercise in order to live long and healthy lives. Regular mental exercises for dogs promote not only positive conduct but also deters harmful behavior. Many dogs require at least 20 minutes of active mental stimulation per day, in addition to 1-2 walks. High energy dogs may need more activity, but this should be assessed on an individual pet basis.
Is Chewing Mental Stimulation for Dogs?
When it comes to your canine companion, mental stimulation can be provided by chew toys. Dogs require mental stimulation in addition to physical activity. Chewing is a fun activity for dogs that needs a lot of concentration. This keeps their brain engaged. Chew toys, and engaging dog toys, are excellent methods for stimulating your dog’s brain.
How Can I Exercise My Dog in the Winter?
During the winter, there are several indoor exercise activities that you can engage your dogs with that may keep their mind and body active without exposing them to the elements.
Brain games are great activities that can provide exercise for your dog. Your dog may still need some fresh air, but if the weather is terrible, consider a twenty-minute walk followed by another twenty minutes of engaging indoor games that the dog will enjoy.