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Mental Stimulation for Well-Being

Give your dog some brain exercise and watch their confidence and happiness soar!

Everyone knows that dogs require a certain amount of physical exercise in order to be happy and healthy, not to mention calm. There is no doubt that proper exercise is absolutely essential for your dog’s well-being. But did you know the same goes for their brain?

Boredom is Among a Dog’s Worst Enemy

Dogs are incredibly intelligent, curious and creative creatures and if we do not give them opportunities for mental stimulation, they can suffer from boredom. With boredom comes so many symptoms that tend to be labeled ‘behavior issues’ when the reality is that the dog simply needs more mental exercise. Excessive barking, jumping, separation anxiety and hyperactivity are all common symptoms of boredom.

The good news is, there are many things you can do to give your dog mental stimulation. Today I’d like to share a few of our favorites with you. These types of things will go a long way towards building a confident, well-adjusted and healthy dog.

3 Easy Ways to Provide Mental Stimulation

So, what do we mean by mental stimulation? Simply, it's giving a dog something meaningful (to them) to do that enriches their life. And again, because these activities are designed to alleviate boredom they decrease the likelihood of developing behaviorial issues like excessive chewing.

1. Let Your Dog Hunt for Food

Feeding time is a huge opportunity to provide mental stimulation and enrichment. While there is nothing inherently wrong with just setting down a bowl and letting them go to town, it wastes a very valuable opportunity to let them use their brain and "hunt" for their food.

Try changing the feeding routine. If you feed twice a day, you can start by making one of the feedings a fun game for your dog. One of the easiest and safe ways to do this is with a food dispensing toy (you'll often hear us refer to them as enrichment toys). There are many different variations but they all work on the same idea; you place the meal into it and they have to roll it around, flip it, and work at it in order to eat. What used to be an uneventful 45 second meal out of a bowl can now be a fun, activity filled 10-20 minutes! You'll be pleasantly surprised; it becomes obvious how much fun it is for your dog.

2. Hide and Seek

This may seem obvious, but life often becomes so busy that we forget to play with our dogs. Certainly, we can all find 15 minutes each day to play a fun, interactive game with our best friend. Not only will you have fun, but your dog will be healthier and happier for it.

Have you ever played hide and seek with your dog? There are different variations, but we love this one...especially for those dogs who are food driven!

Put your dog into a sit/stay in your kitchen (if your dog won't stay, you can get another family member involved to hold your dog). Now, roam around the house, out of sight of your dog, and hide some of his/her favorite treats. It's limited to your imagination, but make it a place your dog can access (on the ground in front of your night stand, in the bathtub, on the couch, you get the idea). Then release your dog and watch the fun ensue! Most dogs enthusiastically put their nose to the ground and run around the house to find their prize, providing both mental and physical exercise. Start by hiding treats just out of his/her sight so they get the idea...then extend the game to hiding treats all over the house. You can even run around and follow your dog as he/she searches, encouraging him/her. When the treats are found, celebrate and praise your dog. You'll literally be able to see the happiness in their eyes.

3. Let em' Sniff

Our dogs experience the world in large part through their sense of smell. It's been compared to vision for us. If you really want to see your dog enjoy life, take them on a walk that's truly for them. What does that mean? It means let them sniff each and every time they want to doesn't matter if they stop every 5 feet or even if they spend 10 minutes sniffing one spot.

Here's a quick little analogy that we love (because it's so true and enlightening). Image if you were on a guided hike in a beautiful area. Each time you round a bend in the woods and are about to come to a breathtaking scenic vista, your guide forces you to close your eyes and rushes you past, allowing you to open your eyes again only once you are back in the woods. That would be so frustrating! Remember, dog's "see" the world through their noses. Now it's easy to imagine how unfulfilling it is to a dog when we impatiently jerk the leash to keep them moving along on a walk when they try to sniff (which is equivalent to seeing a beautiful landscape for us).

Obviously, each walk can't be like this and sometimes we are on a time crunch. But make it a point to frequently go on a walk designed to meet your dog's needs; meaning, let them lead the pace and let them sniff as frequently and as long as they want. I promise you, you will see your dog enjoying the walk like never before. You can almost see their brain processing all of the wonderful information that they are collecting through their nose.

We hope you enjoyed this article. There is a never ending list of great tips and information that will help improve the quality of life for you and your dog, and we hope you will stay tuned as we build our library of articles. And as always, our favorite way to spread this great information is to talk to you in-person at The Better Beagle.

Do you have other ways that you give your dog interesting things to do? Have you tried any of the three suggestion above, or do you plan to now? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and see you soon at The Better Beagle.

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