With our ever increasingly hectic lives, it is sometimes difficult to find enough time to give our four legged pals the exercise and mental stimulation that they require. And let’s not forget the temperamental weather… it can all add up to a bored and in some cases, destructive Dog.
What can we do to occupy our Dogs?
There are many different activities we can do with our Dogs if we are short on time, or if the weather is really bad. And they don’t need to cost a fortune!
- Basic Hide ‘N’ Seek
This can be as simple or complicated as you wish, however it is always a good idea to start of basic, and build it up as you and your Dog get more used to it.
For example, take some of your Dog’s daily kibble, (or if Raw fed, use some dry liver maybe) and ask your Dog to ‘Sit’ in one room, and ‘Stay’ there, while you hide the food. It could be under cushions, or the edge of the sofa etc. Slowly build this up to hiding things at various heights maybe. They love this “Dog Brain Game”.
- Basic ‘NoseWork’ / Scentwork
This is a brilliant Brain Game For Your Dog.
You don’t need to pay lots of money to play this brain game with your Dog.
What do you need for basic ‘NoseWork’ / Scentwork?
All you need for basic NoseWork / Scentwork with your Dog are some empty, clean Flower Pots. Yes, as simple as this. The flower pots I refer to are the ones with the holes in the bottom, preferably the plastic ones, all the same colour.
(It is important to ensure the pots are clean, and dry, however it’s important to ensure there are NO Sharp bits. If there are some sharp sections, then you could possibly try and sand them down with some sand paper, or a nail file, then wash them again to make sure all the bits are not going to get on your Dog’s nose.)
So, how do we do the ‘NoseWork / Scentwork?
At the very start of this, I would suggest having a lead on your Dog, just so you can help guide your Dog, and stop them from pouncing on the flower pots. Don’t worry too much at this stage if that happens a time or two, your Dog will get the hang of it.
Place the flower pots in a row, with a reasonable amount of space between the pots. Making sure the pots have the holes on top, upside down. To start with, let your Dog see you place a bit of kibble, or dry liver (as earlier) underneath a flower pot. Wait for a few seconds, and then encourage your Dog to “Find it” or “search” .. Whichever command you wish to associate with it.
At this point, when your Dog goes to the correct flower pot, you can give gentle verbal praise, and maybe a light stroke, but don’t go crazy with the affection, as this will really get your Dog giddy, and that can be when they lose focus, and just want to keep knocking the pots over for the food, rather than paying attention to “finding” it. Then you can let your Dog have the treat.
IF your Dog has a great drive for a ball (or particular squeaky toy), as you progress and both you and your Dog become more used to NoseWork / ScentWork, you can add more pots and also increase the intensity of the Brain Game. This can be done by hiding the food, and rewarding with the toy or vice versa… and then move on to learn your Dog different scents, your Dog will love this.
Check out the book below, you may just get the bug for NoseWork / ScentWork!
- Dog Puzzles
What are Dog Puzzles?
Dog Puzzles are as the name suggests. They are interactive Brain Games For Dogs. There are many different kinds of Dog Puzzles, and many have differing levels of difficulty too.
One brand that has been providing Dog Puzzles for a long time now, and is well established as a market leader in the area, is Nina Ottoson.
Quality products that will get your Dog mentally active, that is for sure! The majority of Dog Puzzles are focused on hiding treats/food, and your Dog has to figure out how to get it out of the various compartments.
(Always supervise your Dog)
- Snuffle Mats
What are Snuffle Mats for Dogs?
A Snuffle Mat For Dogs is a mat for your Dog to forage for food treats with.
They tend to have fleece type material strips of different lengths and colours, totally covering the mat. Some of the newer designs of Snuffle Mats, have flaps of material and pockets too, so your Dog has to work a tad harder in order to retrieve the food.
Many owners have taken to using these snuffle mats to feed their Dogs meals, rather than a conventional Dog bowl method, as different amounts can be hidden/ scattered through the mat throughout a set period of time. These mats can really engage your Dogs mind, and give them much needed stimulation.
What do Brain Games do for my Dog?
Brain Games for your Dog not only provide much needed mental stimulation, (especially when we don’t have much time to do many of the canine activities available) they also help do a much bigger task… helping to strengthen the bond we have with our Dogs.
As owners it is easy to feel a tad guilty when we find it difficult to exercise our Dogs as much as we possibly should, and with Brain Games, we can see the look on our Dogs faces, we can see how they light up with joy because we are interacting with them.. an all round feel good factor.
When our Dogs are taking part in the Brain Games, it also helps them to really utilise their senses, and not focus on just one, like the nose… some of these Brain Games For Dogs actually encourage use of Sight, sound, texture (snuffle mats) and sense of smell, and because of this, Dogs get a really good mental workout.
I once read a study that stated that “20 minute of NoseWork type activity with your Dog, has a similar effect on their Brain as a 2 mile run”.
No wonder Dogs sleep well afterwards!