As good dog owners we are always concerned about the physical health of our pets but we often forget that they are very intelligent creatures and need mental as well as physical stimulation.
Most people exercise their dog well. They go to the park every day, chase a ball or a frisby for an hour and then go home. Sometimes the dog is lucky enough to get two walks. This is great physical fun but does it stimulate them mentally. The answer is probably not enough! If they walk in the same place, chase the same ball and see the same dogs they may be having a good time but their brains will hardly be working. Then of course what do they do all day at home? Not a lot! Imagine if all you had to do all day was sleep and wander around the house. No wonder some dogs will bark at every noise and every movement outside the house - this is all they have to do to alleviat the boredom.
Dogs will naturally sleep for about 14 hours a day but they tend to do this in short bursts - its only us who make them sleep for hours on end because that is what we do. Now, I'm not saying that you have to keep your dog entertained the whole day but think about stimulating him or her for half an hour in the morning and then again in the afternoon or evening. Here are just some ideas on things you can do -
Chews and bones – Provide your dog with good quality, chews and bones. Chewing is important as it releases dopamine, a major neurotransmitter that helps the body cope with stress. Don't not leave him with chews or bones when alone as swallowing a large piece might cause choking.
Toys – I often hear people say 'my dog no longer wants to play with his toys'. More than likely he is just bored with the same old toys. Give him a variety of different types of toys to play with. Have a stock of about 20 – 30 toys (kept away from him) and leave out five different toys for him at any one time. Once a week swap these toys with some others. He will think he is getting new toys so will not get bored with the same old ones. Keep some toys aside just for you and him to play together with which will keep them special e.g. tug toy
Puzzle toys – there are a wide variety of puzzle toys and activity toys on the market or you can make your own. These are great for helping a dog use his intelligence whilst having fun at the same time. The toys can be filled with treats or food so instead of feeding his breakfast in his bowl, give it to him in a puzzle feeder – this keeps him busy and makes him use his brain. WARNING – do not leave him alone with any puzzle toys with detachable parts as he could swallow these and choke.
Muffin Tin Game - this is a great game for kids to play with dogs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFnWnejG_IU – you can make it harder using different things to cover the toys as he gets the hang of the game
Training & Games– Training is a great way of providing mental stimulation. Teach your dog some tricks so that he can show off to all your friends - this is also an excellent way for older children to interact with their pet.
Scatter Feeding – Instead of feeding his food in one go scatter the food on the lawn, patio or the floor. Dogs are natural foragers and this will keep him occupied for ages as he searches out the food.
Search game – hide treats around the house for him to find whilst yoFish4Dogs Sea Jerky treats are clean but have a strong scent for dogs. You will have to train him a little so that he realises what is happening but he will learn very quickly that there are tasty things hidden around the house for him to find. Dogs love this game
Treat Blanket – get an old towel or blanket and open it out – put a few treats on one end and fold it over, put some more treats on the fold and fold it again and so on then scrunch the blanket/towel into a ball and let your dog have fun finding the treats.
Treat Dispensers – Feed his food in a treat dispenser such as a ball with a hole in it or a Kong Wobbler or you can make your own by cutting holes in a plastic water bottle but make sure there are no sharp edges and throw the bottle away if it gets torn
Toilet/Kitchen Roll – put a treat inside the cardboard tube from a toilet or kitchen towel roll and wrap it in several sheets of paper. Twist the ends like a Xmas cracker and let your dog rip it apart to find the treat
Doggy boxes – Fill a cardboard box with paper and hide treats in amongst the paper, close the box, put a treat on top and let your dog rip the box and paper to shreds to find the treats. Make sure that the box has no staples so that he cannot hurt himself .
Garden – Make the garden more interesting by hiding treats, stuffed kongs and chews around the garden and teach your dog to hunt them out (See Search Games)
These are just a few ideas - use your imagination! The internet is full of ideas on how to keep your four legged friend entertained
Brain Games for Dogs by Claire Arrowsmith - this is chock full of ideas on toys, training and tricks to keep your dog entertained.
Ideas on home made toys - http://blog.spartadog.com/44-really-cool-homemade-diy-dog-toys-your-dog-will-love/
Ideas for trick training - http://miraclepaws.weebly.com/dog-tricks.html.
More Ideas - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ALvDXUsDQM .