Dogs need both physical exercise and fun mental challenges on a daily basis. If you don’t give your dog something to do, they will find something else to do, and usually this will not be something that you approve of!
Meeting your dog’s exercise and mental stimulation needs is not as challenging as it sounds. It just takes a little planning. Here are some things that you can do:
- Go to an off leash dog park for a play session with other dogs.
- Teach the rules of Tug and play it regularly
- Throw a ball or Frisbee for them to chase
- Take them for an off leash hike
- Take your dog swimming
- Get involved in a dog sport such as agility or fly ball
- Hire a dog walking company that can tailor walks to your dog’s specific needs
Mental Exercise: these are also excellent for rainy days or to keep senior dogs or injured/convalescing dogs occupied:
- Feed meals from a Kong or other work-to-eat toy. Make it easy at first by packing the food loosely. Gradually pack the toys tighter as your dog gets hooked on the meal game. You can even freeze them to make the process more of a challenge.
- Make your own work-to-eat puzzle by putting kibble in a muffin tin with tennis balls on top or feeding kibble out of a cardboard egg carton or ice tray or simply scatter kibble on the grass instead of in a bowl.
- Provide them with plenty of chew toys. Chewing is an important pastime for dogs.
- Reserve a portion of their meals for short training sessions. TV commercial breaks or when the kettle is put on are excellent times to have a session.
- Hide treats around the house.
- Give your dog plenty of time to sniff when on leash walks.
- Take them to places with you.
- Take them on car rides.
- Play hide and seek.
- Teach your dog a new trick.
- Teach your dog the Find It game. This encourages them to use their nose, something dogs were born to do.
Don’t give your dog a chance to learn that pulling the stuffing out of your couch or rummaging through your garbage is a great way to pass his time. Give your dog lots of physical and mental exercise and they will bark less, dig less, nip heels less, chew less, sleep more, and be more relaxed when left alone. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
Have fun with your dog!
by Sarah Pennington
Sarah Pennington is the owner and trainer at Yaletown Dog Training. She received her certificate in Training and Counseling from Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers, she sits on the board of West Coast Cocker Rescue, and is committed to dog training using science-based methods without the use of pain.