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Meeting Your Dog's Needs. Pt 2: Mental Stimulation

It's pretty common knowledge that dogs need physical exercise. However, mental exercise often gets overlooked far too often. When it comes to your dog's basic needs (1. Physical Exercise 2. Mental Stimulation 3. Structure), working the brain has numerous benefits that you're not going to want to miss out on! Check them out!

  1. Get them tired! We all know physical exercise can burn off excess energy and wear a dog out, but some mental stimulation exercises can make your dog tired faster and longer than physical exercise alone. If your goal is to get your dog tired with physical exercise alone, you will improve strength and endurance over time which leads to doing more exercise. So why not throw in some mind games so they'll snooze a little longer?!

  2. Confidence Building! Having a confident dog is extremely important. Helping your dog become more confident will help in training, traveling, day-to-day interactions, new environments, unexpected events, etc. A confident dog is a well-balanced dog.

  3. Relationship Building! There are various mental stimulation activities that will help strengthen your bond and improve your relationship with your dog. Another avenue in fulfilling our role as a leader and caretakers to our dogs.

  4. Prevent Destruction! If you don't give your dog a job, your dog will provide one themself, and you probably won't like what they choose. Digging and chewing are the most common behaviors people complain about their dogs doing, and they're doing it because they are bored! Providing them with something that keeps their mind occupied will help meet their mental needs so they won't find their own activity to cure their boredom.

  5. Shape Better Behaviors! Why do dogs bark and lunge at the front window when people go by? For them, it is something to do that is fun and exciting! Providing an alternative healthier mental outlet for your dog means they don't have to find one themselves. (Note: To help with some of your dog's reactive behaviors, be sure to consult with a professional trainer. Providing mental stimulation alone may not "fix" your dog's reactive issues)

  6. Lowers Stress/Anxiety! Teaching the mind to settle and work through an anxious state of mind can help your dog to be more relaxed in the home or in public. If you're finding your dog to be restless, providing something that they need to use their brain for, will help them settle.

  7. Independent Thinkers! Training new things with independent thinkers helps them learn concepts faster. It also helps newly learned behaviors stick longer and understand the behavior you're shaping more thoroughly. Plus it's fun for a dog that can think for itself!

Ready to start working your dog's brain? Here is a list of mental workouts you can add to your dog's life!

  • Training - obedience, tricks, anything new

  • Place Bed - huge mental workout of teaching your dog to be bored

  • Nose Work - you can hide treats around the house, teach your dog to find a certain item or specific odor.

  • Food puzzles

  • Interactive dog toys

  • Hide & seek - it may be with their favorite toy or a family member

  • Obstacle course

  • Free Shaping Games

  • Teach your dog names to their toys

  • Working for their food

Just like with physical exercise, all dogs require a certain amount of mental stimulation to meet their genetic and breed needs. Don't skip out on the mental exercise with your dog. For a happy and healthy dog, you're going to need it!

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