Mental Stimulation for Dogs | How to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog

by Crystal Moore on April 02, 2023


We all know that walking our dog on a daily basis is essential for our dogs. But, not only should we exercise our dogs physically, we should be exercising them mentally. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise and, 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 a 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.

Mental stimulation can start as simple as walking your dog to the local shop, to the park or even a stopover at a friend's house. This will place your dog face to face with a variety of stimulants, some new, some old. The new stimulants can be experiencing new environments, different sights, sounds, and even smells. These new stimulants get your dog's brain working and active.

One of the most important factors to your daily walk is allowing your dog to sniff. Sniffing is the primary way that your dog will 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'.

The next time you go on your walk with your dog let them stop to sniff around and explore the area. It's mainly about the exploration in the trails that will excite your dog. If you walk the same route, your dog is 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 your dog 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, many have limited mobility, however, some stay active well into their senior years. When your dog starts to get limited mobility, this is when mental stimulation is especially important to introduce and keep as a daily activity in your dog's routine. Quick fact: Mental stimulation for older dogs can help fight off symptoms of dementia?

Teaching New Tricks

Working through new tricks will mentally challenge your dog and if you haven't already start with teach the basic tricks. Once you've moved past those, there are a vast variety of books that teach you more advanced tricks. Alternatively, there are other sources such as blogs and videos created by dog trainers to teach the public. Overall, training your dog is beneficial in various 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.

Naming Objects

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. Your dog's toys don't have to be the only things you name, if your dog is like most others, the toy won't last long enough to have a name! You can get really creative with objects you can name for your pooch, as an alternative, you could name simple things such as their dog treats, lead, bowl, bed... The list is never ending.

Nose Work

Another great way to stimulate your dog's brain is with nose work. Unlike a dog's eyesight and hearing, dogs usually maintain an excellent sense of smell. Snuffle matts are an amazing way to get your pooch sniffing. If you don't have a snuffle matt, throwing kibble on your grass is a great alternative for them to find all the pieces. Another nose work activity that is just as easy is to hide your pooch's 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!

Remember, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. It is especially important for older dogs to keep the perfect balance as it is still important to keep your older pooch 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, 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 variety of 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.