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Most pet owners know their dogs need physical exercise to stay healthy. But did you know that it’s just as important to exercise your pup’s mind?
Try exercising your canine companion’s mind, and you will find you tire her out in half the time. An activity that requires your dog to concentrate and process information is about as exhausting as a half-hour of moderate exercise like walking or playing.
If keeping your dog mentally stimulated sounds like a task you don’t have time for, think again. Keep reading to learn some helpful tips that will make exercising your furry friend a breeze.
It’s easy to get started with scent games and puzzles because nose work helps your dog hone in on natural skills. Always be sure to begin with games that your dog will master as the last thing you want is a dog that loses interest and walks away.
Play Find the Treats – Take a handful of treats or kibble and place it around the room. Give your dog the signal to “find the treats” and give encouragement as your pup goes around the room. Remember to praise your dog after he picks up each treat. Part of the fun for him is the reward of pleasing you.
Once you are sure that your dog understands the meaning of “find the treats,” you can make the game more challenging. Have the dog wait in another room while you hide the treats under or behind furniture, rugs, and pillows so he will have to sniff them out.
Puzzles are a great way to stimulate and entertain your dog. Here are some puzzles you can easily make yourself:
Box Puzzle – If you’ve been doing a lot of online ordering over the past few weeks, you can put all those empty boxes to good use! When your dog is in another area of the house, arrange the boxes on the floor. Hide treats in some of the boxes.
Once you’ve done that, bring your dog into the room, show him the boxes, and let him sniff out which boxes contain the hidden treats. You can even rearrange the boxes, add boxes, and place treats in different boxes for another round of “box puzzle.”
Cupcake Puzzle – For this, you need an empty cupcake baking tray and 12 tennis balls. If you don’t have 12 tennis balls, use as many as you have. Place treats, or even pieces of dry dog food, into some (not all) of the baking tray cups. Then cover all of the cups with the tennis balls. Now the puzzle is ready.
Show the tray to your dog and see how long it takes to move the correct balls to find the hidden treats.
There are many easy DIY toys and treats you can use and make while at home. Some of these toys and treats include:
Ice-block Toys – These are easy to make and they will keep your pet occupied for hours. These will surely be a welcome treat as the weather warms up too.
How to make them: Place a few doggie toys in a bowl or bucket. Fill the bucket with water, and freeze it. Once frozen, give the ice block to your dog and watch him figure out how he will get his toys out of the block of ice. You may want to do this outside since the ice will melt.
Broth-Based Doggie Pops – this treat requires you to freeze either chicken broth or beef broth in popsicle molds or drinking cups (just remember to make sure you use low sodium broth that doesn’t contain extra spices). Additionally, some broths have added garlic and onion, both of which can be harmful to dogs, so check the labels on the products you use.
Once the broth popsicles are frozen, remove them from the popsicle molds or drinking cups. Then, watch your pup enjoy it!
Pupsicles are another great treat to make for your dog. You can freeze combinations of peanut butter, bananas, blueberries, nonfat yogurt, and kibble in ice cube trays. If your dog likes vegetables, add carrot stick handles.
If you need an effortless frozen treat in a pinch, take a hollow dog toy and fill it with peanut butter or canned pumpkin and freeze it. Once frozen, give it to your dog for a tasty, long-lasting chew treat.
If your dog is a powerful chewer, consider investing in a Kong™. It’s easy to fill the hollow center with peanut butter and tough to destroy. Make sure the peanut butter is all-natural and does not contain any added salt or artificial sweeteners. Some peanut butter contains Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs.
Remember to always supervise your dog as he enjoys any of these treats.
Chewing provides a great deal of stimulation for dogs (while also helping to keep their teeth clean).
Not only are slow feeders mentally stimulating, but they are also designed to alleviate the health issues associated with fast eating. Some of the health benefits are better digestion, less bloat, less gas, reduced regurgitation, less choking, and overall better gut health.
Here at PetFirst, we know accidents and illnesses happen to all pets, even those with plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Pet insurance can help cover unexpected vet visits and provides peace of mind that if your pet gets sick or injured, you don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of your pet’s care.