Most people know dogs need physical stimulation. They need to walk, run and play. A dog that does not get enough exercise will be restless and nervous and sometimes engage in destructive behavior such unwanted chewing or excessive barking. The exercise needs varies a lot from dog to dog and some dogs need far more exercise than others. But what about mental stimulation?
Do dogs need to work their minds just like us humans? You bet they do. Dogs are highly intelligent and they really do need mental stimulation just as well as they need physical exercise. Their needs vary from individual to individual and from breed to breed but all dogs will be happier if you provide some intellectual challenges for them. They will become happier, smarter and calmer so getting your dog to work his/her mind is necessary. But What is mental stimulation for dogs?
Mental stimulation for dogs are pretty much the same as it is for humans but at a different level. A dog who gets to solve problems and figure out how to do things will exercise its brain and with the time become smarter and be able to understand things better. There are all kinds of games and exercises you can do with your dog that will work its mind but mental stimulation is not only limited to various games and exercises. Any kind of new situation will be beneficial for your dog. Things like meeting new people, dogs, going to new places, take a different path when walking will be useful for working your dogs mind. More about this later.
The benefits of mental stimulation for dogs
Mental stimulation has a calming effect on dogs and it can be used to effectively tire them out. A dog who is tired will be calm and happy to stay in his basket or at your feet. The thing is that mental stimulation tires a dog quicker than physical exercise. Physical exercise will also make a dog tired and calm but then you really need to give it a lot of exercise. Lots of dogs can run for hours and hours and to get them really tired will take time. However mental stimulation will tire them more quickly. Of course there are many things you can do with your dog that will exercise the mind and body at the same time.
Mental stimulation for dogs will make them calm and many owners report that their dogs become less stressed and worried and more focused as well. It improves your dogs concentration and thus it can focus on the task ahead instead of all distractions around it. This in combination with your dog’s increased intelligence will make it better suited to various types of obedience training. Lastly and most importantly; its fun. Really these kinds of games can be a lot of fun both for you and your dog. This alone makes it worth it, and on top of this you get the other benefits of training your dog’s mind as well.
So What games can you play with your dog?
There are many things you can do to keep your dog stimulated. Some games are common and already played by a number of people and dogs and others are more complex and require more of your dog. If you really want to make your dog smarter, then you need to start with easy things and then gradually make it more and more difficult. You need to learn how to crawl before you can walk.
The fact is that anything that puts your dog in a new unknown situation will give it mental stimulation. For example things like changing your everyday walk, take a different path so it will see new areas and new things, meeting new people and/or new dogs will make your dog’s mind working and make it think. You can put your dog in the car and drive to a new location. Just the drive in itself will be a new experience for your dog and when arriving at a new place there will be plenty of things to discover for your dog. It will keep it stimulated and happy and at the same time, exposing your dog to new things will give it self-confidence and thus it will better armed to face new things and situations in everyday life.
You will have to try different things to see what your dog like. Different breeds might also have different preferences. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are retrieving dogs and thus they often love to play fetch. Of course many other dogs like this game as well. Playing a game of Frisbee is often appreciated by lots of dogs. It is both a workout for the mind and the body at the same time. Here is a post with 10 fun indoor games you can play with your dog. If you simply search games for dogs on Google or Yahoo you will find many more.
Other games for example, would be hide-and-seek. You can hide a treat or toy somewhere and then let your dog go looking for it. You could wrap up a treat in a towel and then have your dog trying to figure out how to get it out. There are also toys in which you can hide things and the dog has to find a way to get the thing/treat out.
There are dog toys that will test and challenge your dog’s intelligence. You can google something like “intelligent dog toys” and you will find a lot of different alternatives suitable for a variety of dogs.
If you want to take it a step further…..
All dogs need mental stimulation but like already mentioned some like it even more than others. This is particularly true for working dogs. Herding dogs like the Border Collie, dogs like the German Shepherd or Labrador are bred to work and they just love it. If your dog really enjoys various mentally stimulating activities and you want to take it all a step further by making your dog perform complicated tasks then I have a suggestion for you. There is a training program called Brain Training for Dogs. It is an online training program which shows you how to train your dog’s mind and increasing its intelligence and ability to solve problems by constantly giving it tasks or playing games which are increasingly more and more difficult. Once your dog has reached the highest level, it has become a real “Einstein” among dogs. Below you will find a short video introduction to Brain Training For Dogs.
If you enjoyed this video and think that this could be something for you and your dog, you can get Brain Training For Dogs Here
This program is a lot of fun, both for you and for your dog. It contains everything you need in order to train your dog and what is really good about it is the support. If you run into any issues during training then the author (certified dog trainer Adrienne Farricelli) will help you out. I very much recommend this training program and if you like to know more about it, then you should read my post: Brain Training For Dogs – A Full Review.
What I would really like to point out with this post is really the fun and joy you and your dog gets out of this kind of training and mental stimulation. That is really the main point here. Your dog will love the challenges you give him/her. His/her confidence will grow, she will become calmer and more at ease. Furthermore, her ability to concentrate will increase as well as her intelligence and general understanding of things. This will make her easier to train in general and there is much less risk that should will engage in destructive such as unwanted chewing or excessive barking.
Having fun, playing games and discovering new things together with your dog is really fun and fulfilling and it will bring you and your dog closer together at the same time as you both have fun.
So, now you just need to get started. If you have any ideas of fun games and activities to do together with your dog then please post them below.
All the best.