Just like people, dogs are living, breathing, thinking and feeling animals. Their thoughts and emotions may not be as complex as ours, but they still need to exercise their minds. Putting effort toward your dog’s physical health through exercise is great and necessary, but channeling your dog’s mind is just as important.
Remember that all dog breeds were developed for a purpose, and even mixed breeds are subject to their genetics. If you have a purebred dog or know what breeds your pup is mixed with, consider their history when deciding how much mental stimulation your dog needs. Hunting, herding and working dogs were all created to help get jobs done for their owners. This means they require a lot of physical and mental exercise. Doing too little of either is a recipe for disaster.
If your dog is bored you’re going to find out very quickly. Dogs that lack mental stimulation are often ill-behaved. Dogs need an outlet for their minds and if they aren’t provided an appropriate resource, they’re going to come up with their own. This often means chewing on items like shoes and furniture, excessive barking and howling, digging and other destructive behavior. This usually isn’t from a lack of training per se, but from a lack of mental exercise.
There are many different ways to employ your dog’s mind. Training of any kind, from basic obedience to fancy tricks, will make your pup put his thinking cap on. Training is an excellent way to tire out your dog’s mind, it’s a great bonding activity for the two of you and you’ll see some neat results! If you or your dog get bored or run out of things to learn, consider taking agility, nose work or obedience classes to get the two of you learning together.
Certain toys and games are made specifically for dogs with active minds, such as food stuffable toys, puzzles or long-lasting chew toys. These are perfect for any time your dog needs something to do but you’re unable to work with him. Many are recommended for very active puppies or for use when you’re out of the house for an extended period. These are an excellent choice when you are going to have people over but need to keep your dog occupied and out of the way of company.
Physical exercise can include mental stimulation as well. Even just changing up your walking location can let your dog experience a whole new world than he’s used to. The newer the place, the more mentally exciting it is for your pooch. Play at new parks or at different times than you normally go, so your dog can see something new. You might be surprised how differently your dog reacts to new scenarios.
Mental stimulation is important. A bored dog is an unhappy dog that is usually in some sort of trouble. This isn’t good for anyone in the home, including the dog! Take the time to make sure your dog has enough mental exercise and be sure to switch up the mind games you play to keep everything feeling new and fresh. Remember that health comes in both body and mind, and the right amount of exercise is going to make a world of difference in both of your lives.