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How to keep your dog mentally stimulated

We all know, giving our dogs physical exercise is critical to their well-being, but never forget - mental exercise is just as important to help develop a happy and healthy pet. These types of activities are even more critical if your doggy isn’t getting as much outdoor exercise as normal perhaps due to age or a recent operation.

Providing brain stimulation is a key benefit to playtime with your pooches so, until they can crack sudoku puzzles or complete The Times crossword, here’s our favourite canine conundrums that are simple and rewarding to fulfil.

Search games - Scatter feeding: 

Your dog’s natural ability to sniff out food and find treats can be done by hiding small amounts of food around the house - maybe stick to dry food on the carpets :) A few pieces of kibble behind the curtains, some more behind the sofa, on a kitchen chair, halfway up the stairs….wherever you choose that makes your foraging friend use his/her senses to find the reward. To begin with, don’t make it too difficult - the idea is to find it to encourage them to keep looking! Whenever they find one of the hiding places give them more encouragement to keep searching. 

Hide and seek: as an adaptation to seeking out food treats, why not get your dog to seek you out!? It’s a great way to reinforce the ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands as well, as you ask them to wait for you to go hide before giving the command to seek you out. 

Interactive toys and puzzles:

There’s a myriad of choices online for dog toys where a shake of a Kong for example will release a small amount of kibble, to more challenging games where food is only released when your dog has worked out how to open or move something to get the treat. Start simple and gradually move onto the more advanced toys that make receiving a treat a great brain-workout as well.

Obstacle course around the room or whole house:

Depending on how much ‘construction’ you want to involve, making an obstacle course around the room can be great entertainment. Chairs, stools, blankets, cushions, tables to go under, cardboard box-tunnels to go through - use your imagination - but don’t use anything breakable! Reward every completion of an obstacle with a treat and praise. It’s guaranteed to raise a smile, and watch your pet’s face light up when they know they’re making you happy. 

‘Simon Says’ for dogs:

A great way to practice commands your dog may already know - but great for reinforcing the habit. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’, ‘high five’, spin around’ , ‘shake hands’ - all the basics with a reward every time they fulfil the command. And why not use the time to teach them new words? Try giving a name to a couple of their familiar toys and training them to fetch the named toy when you ask. New words will really work their concentration which makes them another beneficial brain-workout. 

And don’t forget - chewing works their minds as well. Different shaped chewy toys provide the need for concentration and focus, so always have a couple on hand to keep that enquiring mind engaged. 

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