Mental stimulation is a very important concept that contributes to the overall well being of your dog. Without providing any kind of mental stimulation, they would be bored out of their mind all day long. They would also not be enjoying a high quality of life. Luckily, as a pet parent, there are many easy things you can do to increase your canine’s psychological stimulation. Keep reading to uncover five easy and practical tips that can do just that!

What is Mental Stimulation?

Before diving into how to increase your canine’s mental stimulation, it is important to look at what it actually is. Mental stimulation for dogs is any activity or event that excites, challenges or intrigues their brain. 

There are many reasons why mental stimulation is important for dogs. As mentioned before, it prevents your pup from boredom and it can increase their level of happiness. In addition, when dogs are cognitively stimulated they are using their brain more to think, which can make them more intelligent. Possibly best of all, when you are working with your four legged friend to keep them cognitively excited, you are reinforcing your bond together. You might be wondering, how can I keep my furry friend psychologically stimulated? Keep reading to find out.

Engage in Physical Exercise Activities

As contradicting as it sounds, one of the best ways to increase your canine’s mental stimulation is to ensure that they engage in various physical exercises each day. This can be done through going on daily walks, runs, hikes, and so on. When they are outside, allow them to sniff and explore freely. When your pup uses their nose to wrap their head around a new scent, they are getting a mental workout.

Ideally, you should take your dog to new places they haven’t explored before, like a local park or hiking trail. The location should be physically challenging for them too. This way they cannot just walk without thinking. Instead, they will have to consciously pay attention to where they are going for added mental stimulation. 

As a word of caution, exploring new trails with tough terrain can be dangerous for your dog, so make sure you are prepared ahead of time by considering dog insurance. Exercise injuries are fairly common to any dog breed, and many trails contain loose rocks and roots, increasing risk for accidents and injuries. Dog insurance will help cover their medical bills, so they can get the care they need if they sprain their ankle, break a bone, or experience some other freak accident while exercising, or in general.

Bring Your Dog to Daycare

One of the best ways to keep your dog psychologically engaged is by letting them meet others and make new friends. What better place is there to do that than at doggy daycare? Bringing your pooch to daycare is great for them because they will interact with so many other dogs, which increases their brain activity and makes them happy. Furthermore, they will learn how to properly interact with others in a shared environment. For example, they will learn how to share toys, how they are expected to behave while there, and how to settle disagreements. All of these contribute to decreasing boredom and increasing their mental capacity.

When canines become isolated and never interact with other animals, not only do they become bored, but they can become aggressive to other pets and humans! At the very least, they can become more anxious and stressed if they have to interact with others and are not used to doing so. Clearly, allowing your dog to socialize or attend doggy care can serve their mental health well, along with providing stimulation.

Teach Your Dog New Commands

Teaching your pooch new commands and tricks can help increase their physiological excitement. Anytime they work to learn something new, their mental capacity is expanded. Do not give up on them if they initially seem confused and not making much progress. Every repetition will be better than the last, and your dog will pick up on more hints, until eventually they master the new command or trick.

Teaching your furry friend new commands is great because it increases their confidence levels as they start to master the new command. Likewise, it will help the two of you bond because you will have to spend hours a week practicing until they get it down. Best of all, there are so many easy tricks to teach your dog that are fun and useful, regardless of their age.

Use Puzzle Feeders and Toys

Similar to teaching your dog new commands, using a puzzle feeder when it is time for them to eat can enhance their cognitive stimulation. Puzzle feeders encourage your four legged friend to use their problem solving and critical thinking skills in order for them to get their food. It keeps them entertained, while also preventing them from eating too quickly. If you have multiple pets, puzzle feeders can help keep them out of each other's food as well.

Puzzle toys work in almost the same way puzzle feeders do. Some are objects that you put food or treats in and require your dog to think about what he has to do to get the food. Other toys that require greater mental function have interacting components built into them. For example, some make noises when they are not being played with to encourage your pet to find out where the noise is coming from.

Build an In-Home Obstacle Course

A more creative way to stimulate your pet’s psychological side is to create a pet in-home obstacle course that challenges their intellect. An in-home obstacle course or agility course can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. It also can be made out of anything that you have like chairs, stairs, pillows, blankets, etc. For instance, start by arranging chairs diagonally that your pooch has to maneuver around. Then lead the way upstairs where there is a section of upside-down laundry baskets that they have to jump over. Finish the in-home obstacle course by making a tunnel out of some blankets and chairs that they have to crawl through.

Your dog will find this game to be physically entertaining and mentally capturing. This is a great way to spend some extra quality time with them to strengthen your bond too. As a word of caution, you might have to use a few treats to get your pooch to participate throughout the course.

Regardless of age, all dogs need to have some kind of mental stimulation everyday. After all, it affects their well being and their quality of life. You do not have to go drastically out of your way to invoke their cognitive ability. Simply following the tips above will help keep your dog mentally stimulated and always entertained.