Mental stimulation is as important to puppies as it as for adult dogs and almost as important as food and water. They need mental stimulation to keep their brains sharp, prevent boredom, lower stress, decrease hyperactivity and for their overall happiness.
Mentally stimulating exercises keep the puppy excited and happy while providing an opportunity to have fun and get rid of tons of puppy energy. Keeping a puppy's mind stimulated can oftentimes reduce destructive chewing habits. A mentally stimulated dog will have less energy for destruction!
Working for Their Food
One of the most common, easy, and fun exercises you can do with your puppy is making the pup work for its food. Puppies love to eat and they love to play. Combine the two, and your puppy will have the best of both worlds.
Start off by showing the puppy where you’re hiding the food so he’ll know where to look the first couple of times. Once he realizes that he’s supposed to find the food, he’ll have a ball searching all his favorite places until he finds the food.
From the time you bring your puppy home right to adulthood, try to take your puppy everywhere you go. There will be places where you can’t take the dog, so consider checking an app like Bring Fido for pup-friendly ideas.
The more places you take your puppy, the more adventures the pup will have and the more he’ll become acquainted with the outside world and its many adventures. It’s also excellent socialization for your puppy and gives him the opportunity to learn what is and is not appropriate behavior.
This is by far my dog’s favorite activity. He’s still young at 9 months, and he loves going on a walk somewhere new. It’s fun to see him just taking everything in. New sights, sounds, smells. I also find it makes him much more relaxed after a walk like that!
6 Puppy-Friendly Exercises for the Brain
You can do many mentally stimulating exercises with your puppy. Try to find both age and breed appropriate exercises. Here are half a dozen good exercises to keep your dog’s mind in top shape.
- Fetch – This game is as old as the hills but continues to be a favorite of dogs of all sizes and breeds. They love the excitement and fun of chasing and retrieving a ball or their favorite toy and bringing it to their owner just to do it all over again. It may take a while for a puppy to get the hang of actually chasing it, picking it up and returning it to you.Start off with short distances and with toys that your puppy enjoys picking up on his own. Use the terms “fetch” or “go get it” and “bring it back”, and give the puppy a treat each time he does what’s expected of him.
- Interactive games and puzzles – Interactive games and puzzles, designed specifically for dogs, can keep a puppy busy and stimulated for a very long time. Those that hold food or treats are especially popular. There is a wide variety of interactive dog toys on the market today. KONG is one company that offers many types for dogs of all sizes and ages.
- Commands for Food – Dogs (puppies in particular) love nothing more than playing with and pleasing their masters. Something as simple as rewarding with a treat after a command like “sit” is followed is a strong form of mental stimulation for your puppy. Each time the puppy learns a new command, or performs a command for you, reward the pup with a treat. They’ll never want to stop learning!
- Find it – Dogs have the same drive for hunting and finding things as their ancestors, and puppies are no exception. Begin this exercise by hiding some food or treats while the pup watches you. Say “find it”, and praise the puppy when he finds the food. You may have to lead him to it the first couple of times, but if you use things with a strong scent, they’ll learn this exercise real quickly. As they become more familiar with what “find it” means, hide food when they’re in another room and not watching.
- Hide and Seek – Dogs love this game every bit as much as kids have loved it through the years. When your puppy is in another room, find some place to hide, and call the puppy. As soon as the puppy finds you, reward him with a treat and some loving attention.
- Shell Game – This is another stimulating game that dogs love as much as kids. Use three identical containers for this exercise. Allow your puppy to watch you put treats under one of the containers. Move the containers around in circles a couple of times to confuse the puppy, then watch as he sniffs until he finds the right container. Give him the treats and praise him when he chooses the right container.
As you can see, mental stimulation comes in a variety of forms and plays a huge role in their overall development. There’s bound to be an exercise or game that will capture the attention of your puppy. So try a few and see what they think!