Puppies are full of energy. While training them involves teaching them basic commands, you can also help their development by keeping their minds stimulated. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation and can help to decrease behavioral issues in a growing dog. For a few simple ways to keep your dog’s brain active, try these solutions at home.
1. Make Them Work for Food
When it comes to mealtimes, your dog is probably a huge fan of food. However, adding some mental stimulation to this time is a great solution. Dogs are going to be motivated by food, so you can keep them interested and engaged. Consider a food dispensing toy. You place the dog’s food in the toy and they have to roll it around to get the food to come out of the hole. It can be noisy and will take some time, but it’s a satisfying experience for your puppy.
2. Create an Agility Course
Dogs learn a great deal from their environment. You may have had dogs that have figured out how to open doors, food containers, and similar tasks. Instead of encouraging negative behaviors, try creating your own agility course for the puppy to navigate. Use a variety of obstacles and encourage the dog to figure it out with the use of treats or other rewards. They may not get through it right away, but they’ll enjoy the challenge. This is a great way to stimulate a dog that is very intelligent and prone to getting into trouble.
3. Use Interactive Dog Toys
Not only can mealtimes be a chance to introduce an interactive toy, but dogs also enjoy playing with interactive toys during the day. Get him an interactive toy that will keep him occupied when you are not around. This is especially a good idea when you have to be away from home for hours at a time. Find reviews of the best interactive dog toys online to find those that will be appropriate for your dog’s level.
4. Go on Wandering Walks
Going for a walk is probably already a part of your routine, but it’s a great chance for your puppy to experience the world around him. The best way to allow your dog to have more mental stimulation is to allow him or her to stop and sniff periodically. This exploration time is great for puppies who are just learning about new scents around them. If you need to teach your dog to heel, allow some time at the end or beginning of the walk that’s designated for free sniffing.
5. Teach New Tricks
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, both puppies and adult dogs can and will learn new commands. How many tricks does your dog know? The basics include come, stay, and lay down. But there are many more you can teach. The process of learning is great for dogs and can be especially helpful for shy dogs. Consider agility tricks or more specialized commands that may be beneficial for your puppy.
6. Play the Shell Game
This game is great for bonding with your puppy and they’ll also enjoy the treats they get along the way! The shell game is easy and great for families to play with dogs as well. Take three cups and, with your dog watching, place a treat under one of the cups. Shuffle them and then let the dog choose the cup that has the treat. The shell game will give your dog the ability to develop problem-solving skills. Use small dog treats that will motivate your puppy to find the right one!
7. Play Interactively
Although some dogs do great playing on their own, it’s always a good idea to engage in some sort of interactive play. Dogs that engage in this type of playing tend to have fewer behavior problems. Interactive play means that you actively engage with your dog. This could involve playing a game of tug or fetch for starters. Not only does this keep the puppy active, but it’s also a valuable bonding experience for you and the dog. Tug is a great game to play although make sure that you don’t cause any type of aggressive behaviors with this game.
8. Teach the Dog Their Toys
Dogs can learn the names of people and things fairly well. Does your dog know his or her own name? They learn this basic one fairly early in life. Learning identity is mentally stimulating for dogs and is also practical on a daily basis. Learning the names of their toys is a great way to get started. Focus on teaching the dog the name of each toy and then work on them to go find the toy by name. Provide a lot of praise when they can identify the correct toy. This is a hard thing to learn though, so start slowly and with one item at a time.
9. Try Nose Work Games
This is a great way to stimulate a dog that has a keen sense of smell. Although all dogs can play this game, you may have the best success with breeds of dogs that have been hunters historically. Having any dog use their nose to find things is a good way to help hone natural skills.
Start by hiding some treats around the house and playing a game of go find it with the puppy. Always start with something more pungent as it will take some time for the dog to identify what he is searching for. When they find the treat, praise them and provide regular encouragement. Also, make sure to start with easy spots at first. With time, the dog will be able to pick up on harder-to-find items.
These are nine great ways to keep your puppy stimulated. The first few months of their life are incredibly important, so make sure that you’re giving them a mental boost on a daily basis. Try one or more of these tricks to get started and your puppy will pick up on it quickly.