Most pet owners know that dogs need exercise. “A tired dog is a happy dog,” is a common theme among trainers and other professionals. Keeping your dog occupied, however, is more than just a physical requirement. Mental stimulation is just as important for a majority of dogs. Lacking proper physical and mental exercise, a dog is more likely to engage in problem behaviors such as digging, chewing and barking. You have several options for keeping your dog busy, whether you are together or away from your dog
Fill a toy with treats for your dog. Some toys require the dog to work to get the items out while others dispense them as they roll around. These toys come in various shapes and sizes, and some can even be frozen to make your dog work harder.
Place treats throughout the house before you leave your dog alone. In the beginning, let it see where you are putting the items and when it approaches the food, say “Find it!” Soon, you can truly hide the treats and say “Find it” as you walk out, sending the dog on a scavenger hunt while you are gone
Rotate the toys that your dog has access to while you are away. Dogs get bored with the same options everyday, just as people do. Have one or two different toys for each day that you work. Your dog learns that it only has a short amount of time to play with it and is therefore more interested in it.
Fill a child’s pool with an inch or two of water if your dog remains outside while you are gone. Dogs enjoy playing in water and this can also keep them cool during hot weather.
Train your dog for 10 to 15 minutes each day. In addition to the mental stimulation, it provides a good opportunity to bond while you reinforce good behavior.
Teach your dog to shake or roll over. Any type of trick requires mental and sometimes physical exertion on your dog’s part.
Play a name game with your dog’s toys. Toss one of its toys just beyond reach and ask your dog to get it by name. Once it knows the name of the toy, add a second toy but still ask for the first. Reward your dog for fetching the proper one; then begin to ask for the other by name. Build this exercise up until you can use all of the toys at once.
Create an obstacle course in your yard. Use everyday items, such as tables, chairs, hula hoops and plant stakes, or purchase cones and play tunnels. Guide your dog on leash through the tunnels and cones and over or under the table and chairs until it understands the course on its own.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep an eye on your dog’s toys to make sure they are still safe for chewing. Aggressive chewers should not have toys with small pieces that can be broken off and swallowed.