Have you noticed how curious and engaged your dogs are outdoors? It’s where they can experience a variety of different stimuli - so many sounds, smells and movements to investigate. Being able to exercise all their senses gives them a good mental workout and in fact, mental stimulation makes them calmer and more satisfied than just physical exercise.
Dogs love to use their brains to figure out a problem or to solve a puzzle – what’s that strange sound? Who is that new person? How do I get this treat? Is that a squirrel I smell? But in most city-based households, their scope for puzzle solving is limited. It’s a good idea to supplement their daily routines with interactive dog toys or puzzles that prompt mental stimulation. Some ways to do this include:
Use interactive dog toys: Puzzles and treat dispensers are a great way to let your pet exercise their minds. Just fill these toys as directed and let your doggie figure out how to get the treats out. Trust us, your pet will be engrossed in the task.
Play indoor games: Activities that prompt dogs to use their senses are mentally stimulating. For example, hide treats all around a room - behind a cushion, under a table, on a low chair etc. Let your dog ‘search’ for the treats by using his snoot to sniff them out! Hide and seek is another great game for mental stimulation and pet-human bonding.
Take your time on walks: When you take your dog for a walk, let him or her sniff. This is how they catch up on all the news in the neighbourhood. They find out things like - which dogs and humans visited the area, if there’s a new cat in their territory, the paths they took and so on. Sniffing is excellent mental stimulation for your pet and if you let them sniff as much as they want, you will notice that by the end of the walk, they are pretty spent (be watchful of what they sniff and ensure they don’t pick up trash!)
Use chews to relax them: Chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs. Choose the chews you give them carefully, rawhide bones are made with a chemically intensive process and can be extremely harmful to dogs so avoid these! Instead, look for rope toys, safe edible chews and extremely durable chew toys. Chewing helps your pet unwind as it de-stresses dogs. These are great to give just before bedtime. Remember to match the strength of the dog toys to the strength of your pet’s chewing force and only give chews under adult supervision.
One of the most common reasons dogs indulge in destructive chewing or obsessive behaviour is boredom. Make your dog’s days more interesting with activities that are mentally stimulating. A really simple thing you could include is to let them spend some time outside. If you have a dog-safe balcony, terrace or garden, this is ideal. As you have your morning cuppa or a lazy Sunday reading session, let your dog hang out with you. Watching people go by, noticing the birds, and sniffing the delicious aromas wafting in from your neighbour’s kitchen are all interesting to dogs.
Rashi Narang is the founder of Heads Up For TAILS.