6 Great Ways to Challenge Your Dog’s Mind
By Nicole Pajer
Just like people, dogs get bored with the same old everyday routine. Keeping them mentally challenged and constantly exposing them to new things is just as important as taking them for walks and exercising them. Bored dogs develop destructive behaviors and take their negative energy out on things like your furniture.
Here are some creative ways to stimulate your dog’s mind so they don’t get bored and misbehave:
1. Work on a new trick.
Every time you engage your dog in a training session, you are providing him with a mental challenge. Search around for new tricks to work on. If you’re ready to move past the basic commands, check out books, scan the Internet, and ask a trainer for ideas for new tricks and training ideas.
“My dog, Vince just recently turned 4-years old and I finally enrolled him in obedience school. It has changed both our lives. Now on days where I work him on new tricks and such, I have noticed that his temperament has calmed down. Challenging him mentally makes him much less anxious in general and he has become more relaxed around other dogs. Vince is proof that old dogs can definitely learn new tricks.” – Sara Hicks
2. Play with interactive games or toys with your dog.
Purchase a doggie board game or a canine puzzle to challenge your pup. Engage your dog in a game of Dog Memory or Dog Dominos. Give your dog one of the many toys that allow you to hide treats and objects inside and engage your dog to figure out how to work them out.
“This sounds silly but I bought this board game that I saw at the store for my dog Snickers and I to play together. I put treats underneath a peg and she has to figure out which ones to lift up in order to find where the treats are. There is another version where I cover up the treats with this piece of plastic and Snickers has to spin the board around to uncover the treats. It really challenges her and I see her brain working so hard to figure everything out.” – Donna Marr
3. Run errands with your dog.
Even a quick run to the mailbox, a stopover at a friend’s house, or a spin through the car wash will place your dog face to face with a variety of stimulants.
“Even just taking Ryker for a car ride or to the car wash is stimulating for him. He gets to see lots of different sights and sounds and experience new situations. He loves going and gets so excited. And I can see his brain working as it takes it all in. And when we come home, he falls right asleep, even though it wasn’t physically taxing.” – Jennifer Brody
4. Give your dog a job to do.
Dogs are bred to complete tasks such as hunting and herding. When they aren’t able to fulfill these types of duties, they can get restless. Engage your dog in a game of Frisbee. Get him involved in a sport like agility or Flyball. Take him for a long walk, hike, or swim. Find jobs that fulfill your dog’s breed. If you have a retriever, for example, nothing will leave it more satisfied than a hearty game of fetch.
"I can take my dog for a walk or a run, but the thing that really makes her the happiest is a hearty game of fetch. I take a tennis racket to the dog park and hit a ball as far as I can. She will bring it back to me over and over again like it's her job." – John Kurmai
5. Introduce your dog to new faces.
Every time your dog meets a new person or fellow canine, they are introduced to new sights, sounds, and butts to sniff. Taking you pup to places like the dog park will provide him with ample opportunity to engage his senses.
"I frequently take Bruiser to the dog park, which he absolutely loves! Bruiser constantly meets new friends there and finds people to sniff and get petted by. This has really made him listen better, less anxious and truly more satisfied." – Kat Malkowych
6. Give them new toys and rotate out the old ones:
You wouldn’t want to play with the same thing every day would you? Then you shouldn’t expect your dog to continue to love the same toy that he’s had for months. Give him a toy to play with for a few days and when he grows bored of it, replace it with another one.
“Moogly has so many toys but still gets bored. It’s ridiculous! I am constantly bringing new toys into the house but he has a short attention span so they only keep him entertained for a while. We started keeping all of his toys in a bin in the closet and rotating them out. He has so many now and we’ll change up a new toy with one that he’s had for years and that he may have forgotten about. He loves this and whenever we switch them up, he is just as excited as when he gets a brand new toy.” – Katie Adams
We’d love for you to share your ideas for stimulating your dog’s mind below!