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How to Keep Your Canine Friend Mentally Stimulated

How to Keep Your Canine Friend Mentally Stimulated

| by Editor | Posted in Telford Pets

Do you have a pooch that is often irritable, over-excited or bouncing off the walls? Our community partner and local Telford dog trainer, Sharon Kelly from Sharon Kelly Canine Behaviour, offers advice on how to keep your dog mentally entertained.

People often think that if their dog is excitable, hyperactive, unable to settle and generally badly behaved that the answer is more exercise. This is not the case, in fact, the opposite is often the case.

Dogs are like adrenaline junkie humans, the more they get the more they need. This adrenaline then makes them more excited, which fuels more unwanted behaviour and so we go on.

How often do you come home from a long/exciting walk and your dog is still bouncing off the walls? This is because the adrenaline is pumping.

Physical exercise is, of course, important for a dog’s well-being, but a balance with mental stimulation will result in a more balanced dog. Aim for about 10% of your dog’s activity to be traditional exercise and remember that a big part of their day is resting. Like overtired children overtired dogs often display behaviour you would rather they didn't.

There are also times when a dog may be on limited exercise, for example, post operation/injury, if you have an older dog or in extreme hot/cold weather.

Remember that mental stimulation tires a dog for longer than physical activity does.

Most of the ideas below don't take a massive amount of time input from us humans, so they are easy to make them part of your daily routine. For the ideas using food, you can use a portion of your dog’s daily meal allowance – you don’t need calorific or expensive treats.

Novel Feeding
There are loads of ways that your dog’s normal food can be used to stimulate them:
* Stuffed Kong (or similar): a little spreading cheese and a handful of kibble is great. You can even pop it in the freezer for half hour to make it harder work. If you feed meat or raw food, this can also be stuffed into a Kong.

* An empty pop/milk bottle with holes drilled in it: and some of their daily kibble. (Remember to remove tops/rings). The dog then needs to shake the bottle to get food out.

*Greedy feeder or puzzle feeder: There are loads on the market.

*Cardboard box, filled with newspaper balls: again some of the daily kibble so the dog has to root around to find it.

* Treat Ball 

Monitor and remove any chewed bottles. You can start things easy (bigger holes, less newspaper), and then make them harder as the dog gets used to it.

Practice sits, downs, stays or anything else that your dog knows

We all tend to teach our dogs things and then sit back. Brush the dust off and use them. They can just be for stimulation but they can also be useful, such as a sit/stay while loading the dishwasher.

Teach your dog something new

It really does not matter what, have fun and use your imagination:

*Name their toys, and get them to retrieve a named article

*Teach them how to touch

*Teach them to go to their bed or mat                                                     

*Teach them how to play dead and give paw                                                           

*Teach them to spin or roll over

Find the sweetie
This may need a higher value food to start with, depending on how much food motivates your dog.

*Have 3/4 beakers/old plant pots and place a treat under one. Move them around and encourage your dog to find the treat.

*Have a few empty boxes, pop treat in one, put them in a pile, encourage your dog to use their nose to find the treat.

*Hide food around the house and garden

*Throw a handful of kibble on the lawn.

Find the person/toy
This game is a bit like hide n’ seek for dogs and is great for getting children involved. With the dog watching but restrained by one person, get a second person to show the dog a favourite toy or treat, then go and hide it and let the dog seek it out. Start off easy, such as hiding things just behind a door and build it up to a more challenging game.

These are some ideas to start you off, use your imagination and have fun with your dog. Remember fun does not always need to be energetic.

When you do go for a walk, make it more interesting for your dog. Put that work into practice, do ‘stays’ in a new place, go to different terrain, vary what you do, sometimes do a lead only walk and sometimes go for a run.

Talk to your dog, praise them, engage them in the walk. We tend to wander along thinking our own thoughts and then wonder why our dog is entertaining themselves. Make your walks a special time with your dog.


If you’re looking for a local dog trainer in Telford, get in touch with Sharon Kelly or connect with her Facebook

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