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Not only should you exercise your dog physically, but exercising them mentally is just as important. Finding the perfect balance is key.
What is mental stimulation?
Mental stimulation gets your dog's brain working, which can tire your dog out.
Why do dogs need mental stimulation?
Mental stimulation is an essential aspect of a dog's life to keep them healthy and happy.
A phrase often heard is "A tired dog is a good dog" however, it's not just about physical exercise. It's essential to find a balance between mental and physical activity because not all dogs need hours of mental/physical training.
The general rule is, the smarter your dog, the more mental stimulation they will need, and the more active your dog, the more physical activity they'll need. Keeping your dog's brain occupied is always positive; it alleviates boredom and can help keep them happier. Without some mental training, your dog can develop behaviours that you wouldn't want to stick. Behaviours they could display are chewing on furniture, barking incessantly and any sort of destructive behaviour. Just the same as physical exercise, mental stimulation is needed every day.
Even just walking your dog to the local shop, to the park or even a stopover at a friend's house will place your dog face to face with a variety of stimulants. They're experiencing new environments. All different sights, sounds, and even smells, this gets the brain working due to taking in all these new stimulants.
Dogs need to sniff. Sniffing is the primary way that they experience the world around them; it's also a sensory enrichment for them. Fun fact, they have 50 times as many scent receptors in their noses as humans. To put into perspective, they can 'detect the equivalent of a ½ a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool'.
Therefore, while taking your dog for a walk, let them stop to sniff around and explore the area. It's about the exploration in the trails that are exciting for a dog. Even if you are taking the same route, they're most likely going to come across a new smell to check out. However, if you're not comfortable letting your dog lead you around, it's perfectly fine to designate areas in your walk to let your dog sniff around. By letting them explore and sniff around, you'd be surprised at how tired your dog will be afterwards.
Your dog is never too old to learn new tricks, and this is why mental stimulation is great for dogs of all ages. It is a fact that ageing can take a toll physically and mentally on a dog, although many stay active well into their senior years, there are older dogs who have limited mobility. This is when mental stimulation is especially important to introduce and keep in your dog's life.
Working through new tricks will mentally challenge your dog. Work through the basic tricks, and once you've moved past those, there are always books that teach you more advanced tricks. Additionally, there are other sources to learn more advanced tricks such as blogs and videos created by dog trainers, etc. Overall, training your dog is beneficial in a variety of different ways. Gaining more control of your dog while building a strong bond between you and your dog are a couple of benefits from teaching new tricks.
Mental stimulation for older dogs can help fight off symptoms of dementia. A great start to sharpening your dog's mind is to name one of their toys, once they've learned and recognised the name of the toy move on to naming their next toy. Do this until they have a name for each of their toys. Their toys don't have to be the only things you name; you could name simple things such as their dog lead, dog bowl, dog bed, the list is never-ending. Get creative with objects you can name, for your woof to learn.
Another great way is nose work. Unlike a dog's eyesight and hearing, dogs usually maintain an excellent sense of smell. If you don't have a snuffle matt, throwing kibble on the grass is a great alternative for them to find all the pieces. Another nose work activity is to hide yummy treats around the house for them to sniff out. Obviously, this would mean the smellier the treat, the better, and what's smellier than fish?! This activity makes a perfect excuse to reward your dog with our range of fishelicious treats! They're not only smelly but healthy and packed with greatness!
Mentally, these ways are great. But you still need to keep your older dog as active as possible. They may move slower, but they can still partake in a lot of different activities such as; venturing to less crowded areas and playing fetch, short walks and, all the other things they've always loved to do. Just take note that your dog will most likely be more sensitive to things such as extreme temperatures.
How can I stimulate my dog when I’m not home?
There are a mass amount of toys and even easy DIY toys that are great for stimulating your dog's brain even when you’re not there. To put it simply, using a low-fat treat such as one from Skipper's, you can get your dog to get the treat out from the toy. An easy and straightforward DIY toy is using a water bottle and slightly filling the bottle with treats, then carefully make a few holes that are big enough for treats to fall through. Skipper's Fish Shaped Training Treats are a great treat to use for this sort of enrichment. Complete food/raw food can also be used in the toys to replace normal bowls at mealtime or in kongs.
Another simple and easy way is to give your dog a treat which will keep them occupied for a period of time. Treats such as our Fish Skin Flatties, Fish Skin Twirls or our Fish Skin Throw Sticks are an amazing way to keep your dog busy and their brain working. Other benefits are that they are a healthy and all-natural treat that will clean their teeth due to fish being naturally abrasive, a perfect alternative to a dentastix!
There are a mass amount of toys and even easy DIY toys that are great for stimulating your dog's brain. To put it simply, using a low-fat treat such as one from Skipper's, you can get your dog to get the treat out from the toy. An easy and straightforward DIY toy is using a water bottle and slightly filling the bottle with treats. Then carefully make a few holes that are big enough for treats to fall through. Skipper's Fish Shaped Training Treats is a great treat to use for this sort of enrichment. Complete food/raw food can also be used in the toys to replace normal bowls at mealtime. More information regarding canine enrichment will be in the next blog.
There are a tonne more ways for you to stimulate your dog's brain; you can even get creative and come up with your own mental exercise for your furry friend! Email us or message us through Facebook with your canine enrichment inventions; your work of greatness will be posted on our social media to show to everyone.