Four ways to mentally stimulate your pup
By Chelsea Kun
There are two things certain about dogs: they’re adorable, and they can become bored easily.
When humans become bored, they’re able to find ways to occupy themselves: watching TV, playing on their phone, running errands, or taking up hobbies. Dogs are not able to do these things themselves, so they resort to what they can do – which is usually destructive.
One of the best ways to cure boredom is to mentally stimulate your pup, and there are many kinds of activities that will do just the trick. It’s important to remember that pups are most stimulated when using their five senses, especially smell. If you’re not sure what will work, give the following activities a try.
Remember: all pups are different and are not motivated by the same things. Test some things out and see what works!
Socializing your dog is one of the most important parts of a dog’s brain development and mental stimulation. There are several aspects that go into socializing your dog: exposure to different environments, meeting people, interacting with other dogs, and professional training.
These constant forms of socialization will surely mentally stimulate your pup and assist in brain development, which as a result, will build confidence.
It is important to ensure, especially in the early puppy stages, that each experience is positive. Every form of learning, interaction, and exposure will have an impact on a young puppy. Taking your pup on fun road trips, to family members’ houses, a good trainer, and to a doggie daycare like Dogtopia is sure to result in positive and exciting experiences.
Licks mats are a great method for not only mental stimulation, but anxiety relief.
Lick mats are basically little pads with crevices in it (kind of like a maze), and you can spread any kind of food onto it. Then, the dogs will lick away and try to get all the food out of the holes and cracks. Dogs often find comfort in the licking motion, and therefore it helps anxiety.
Also, hunting for pieces of food in the small crevices of the lick mat is almost like a puzzle, and the ability to figure out puzzles is great for brain health in dogs!
Lick mats are available on most online and dog retailers. They’re usually made of rubber and are easy to clean.
Long walks, especially on new, nature trails!
As stated previously, dogs are stimulated by their sense of smell, and dogs absolutely love discovering new smells. Smell in dogs is about 40 times better than in humans, and their nose is a key element in their brain’s function.
The same old smells in a pup’s home may be boring, which may cause them to find destructive ways to cure that boredom.
One of the best ways to stimulate your pup’s sense of smell, give them exercise, and make them happy is letting them explore nature. This might entail exploring your neighborhood, going on walks on a nature trail (maybe one you haven’t tried before!), or going on hikes.
Breeds like the Belgian Malinois, German Shorthaired Pointer, Retrievers, Weimaraner, Doberman, and other high-energy breeds might have more stamina for rigorous hikes, but most other breeds wouldn’t mind a stroll in the park.
Puzzles and games
Yes, dog puzzles and games exist, and there are some creative ones out there. Most dog games focus on food motivation, where the goal of the puzzle is that the dog has to find the treat or piece of food. The act of solving the puzzle is a simple way of encouraging learning in your pup, and therefore increasing mental stimulation.
It will also boost confidence; pups enjoy learning new things and love forms of affirmation!
Many online retailers sell doggie activities and puzzles. Snuffle mats are one popular kind of activity, which are fabric mats with different designs — but most of the time look like grass — and you would stick treats in between the fabric pieces. Then your pup has to sniff around and find all the treats.
There are also games that involve a funnel of treats with a little hole on the side or bottom. The dog has to push the funnel around either with their nose or paw and work the treats out of the little gap.
There are so many more puzzles and games out there — give some of them a try!