How can we be great owners and tire our dogs out? This is a common question shared by many dog owners.
Physical exercise is only part of the equation. So how are you stimulating your dog’s mind and mentally tiring them?” If your answer is “I do not know,” following are some suggestions to help you differentiate between physical and mental exercise, which in turn will help tire your bundle of joy.
This is an area where there is a parallel between dogs and people. If you have a mentally stimulating day where your brain really gets a workout, you are usually very tired and ready to just relax. If you don’t have any mental stimulation, you have more energy at the end of the day. The same holds true with your dog.
Have you noticed that a physical workout energizes you? The physical conditioning builds more stamina. It’s the same with dogs. There is a point where the exercise will tire them, but it takes a lot! Dogs can run and run for hours and still be ready for more, but 10 to 15 minutes of making them concentrate and THINK is exhausting, and they’ll be ready for a nap. Just as the physical exercise will give you and your dog physical stamina, exercising the brain will build mental stamina.
So, how can you exercise your dog’s brain? Training is one great way as they are focusing and thinking. Making your dog sit and stay, correcting their mistakes and praising them for the right behavior is a great way of stimulating their brain. They need to think about what they are doing and need to concentrate. Dogs do not want a correction. They thrive on being praised for doing the right thing.
A very slow walk—making sure your dog is right next to you—is another brain-stimulating exercise. The slower you walk, the more your dog has to think about what they are doing. We’ve seen, over and over again, very high-energy dogs crash as soon as they come back from a very structured five- to ten-minute walk. A “power walk” will give them more energy, but a walk that requires brainpower will be exhausting.
Puzzles are a great way to mentally stimulate your dog’s brain. Take one of their favorite treats, let them sniff the treat and then hide it. Let them try to find it.
Scatter feeding is another great mental game. Your dog will have to search for his supper. Scatter feeding also works well if your dog has a tendency to eat to quickly. We’ve never met a dog that didn’t love this game. Scatter feeing is simply taking some of their food and scattering it around in an area or even outside (weather permitting).
The more you exercise your dog’s brain, the happier and calmer they will be. Dogs need physical exercise, just as we do, but also need mental stimulation. Dogs who are bored are more likely get into trouble.
If your dog is digging or chewing inappropriate items or if he’s running all over the house out of control, look at the mental side of the equation. A mentally stimulated dog is a tired dog and a tired dog is a calm dog. A calm dog is a happy dog, and that’s what we all want.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.