Guest post by Isabella Lovett
Dogs need plenty of exercise, but they also need mental stimulation to keep them happy. Without this dogs will get bored and this is when they start to develop behavioral issues. Often they will become destructive, chewing things or barking excessively. If you don’t have a big backyard space, there are plenty of ways that you can keep your dog stimulated mentally and physically, so that they have plenty of fun. Even your dog’s mealtimes are an opportunity to play games. By challenging your pup’s mind, you’ll have a happy and well-behaved dog who is engaged and content.
Some easy indoor games
Just like humans, dogs like to play games too. They enjoy puzzle games, mazes, obstacle courses and sociable training games. If your dog could speak and had opposable thumbs, they would be sitting at the table with you every week playing Dungeons and Dragons and their character would be heavy with XP. Once a week, think of yourself as the Dungeon Master and play some indoor games with your dog. Get them some doggy puzzle toys to play with at home. Create a hidden treasure hunt and place small treats around your house for them to find. Have a game of tug with them. Dogs love an obstacle course—set up a route for them to walk through using plastic bottles. Small breeds like corgis will excel at this kind of game.
Make your dog work for his food
When it comes to dinner time, most of us simply place a bowl of food on the floor. If you want to challenge and mentally stimulate your dog, make meal time more interesting. If you’re feeding your dog kibble or mixer, place this in a slow feeder. These come in different shapes like spirals and swirls. They will then need to work out how to get the little biscuits out of the bowl. If you are feeding your dog treats or healthy snacks, then try using a food dispensing toy, such as the Bob-a-Lot or a Kong Wobbler. These make a bit of noise, but your dog will have so much fun trying to get the food out.
Teach your dog tricks
You can teach a dog to do some tricks at any age and they will enjoy the challenge. If your dog is timid and shy, then learning these new skills will help them to build their confidence. Learning tricks is also a great way to strengthen the bond between dog and owner. It will help your dog to improve their manners and focus for longer periods of time. Start off with the basics – sit, stay, lay down and paw. They will generally pick these up quickly if you use treats and gestures for each command. With repetition, they will soon be able to do these simple tricks with just the gestures. More advanced skills like weaving in between your legs are relatively easy to teach and look very impressive.
Nose work games
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, it is about 40 times more powerful than ours, this is why dogs train to be professional sniffers working with the police, rescue teams and even doctors. Some nose work games are a great way to keep your dog entertained and it will also tire them out quickly. Place a piece of cheese under one of three paper cups, then mix them up like you were doing a magic trick. Your dog should quickly be able to work out which cup has the cheese under. Another good game is to put a little truffle oil on a rag and let your dog smell this, rewarding him with a treat. Then hide the rag in the backyard and see if they can locate it. It’s one of the ways that people train dogs to hunt for truffles.
Your dog not only needs exercise, but also mental stimulation. Every day play some games with your dog that will help to keep them entertained and happy.