Dogs are intelligent, energetic creatures, and to be at their best they need near constant enrichment. In days of old, all of their needs were met through day to day living, hunting, stalking, exploring. But since we have domesticated them for our own purposes, work and companionship, their daily lives have changed. To be a good pet owner, we need to supply these needs. Last time, we discussed all the various options available to keep up with their physical needs, from exercise to digging, and the ways we can train these natural inclinations so they are healthy and our property stays in tact - a bored dog is a destructive one.
Once your dog’s physical needs are met, you should turn your attention to their mental stimulation. This comes in a few varieties.
If you are lucky, you can be home with your dog most of the time. Some people have jobs where they can regularly take their dog with them. But others have to spend work hours hanging out by themselves. Dogs are very social by nature. Consider a second dog! You’ve already got one, what’s the difference? No? Ok, well if that’s not practical for you there are many ways to get your pup some social stimulation. Dog parks or trips to the beach, provided you’ve got some solid training under your belts, give them a chance to interact with other dogs. Take them along to your own social gatherings if possible, or even shopping. More places are allowing pets year by year, and your dog loves meeting new people as much as new dogs! See if you can pop in for lunch and a quick play. If you’re stretched thin, you can try getting a pet sitter or walker to pop in a few times a week for puppy hangouts. If you have a bit of spare cash and no spare time, try looking into doggy daycare. Just like for little people, you can have your pet taken care of while you work, so they have no shortage of other dogs and people to keep themselves busy with.
Cognitive and Sensory
Your dog likes to figure stuff out. They like to think. They like new experiences. Luckily there’s a massive array of things you can do with and for them to satisfy these desires. Its pretty cheap and easy to pick up little food puzzles, where you put food or treats inside and the dog must figure out how to get it out. Since scent is one of their strongest senses, there are many things you can do around this. Adding certain non toxic spices, such as cinnamon or mint, to their toys will be an exciting new discovery for them. Many dogs can be taught to hunt for scents, some breeds are even perfectly designed for this. You could try taking toys or blankets out to strange places and get whole new scent on them to bring home. Like every innocent, wide eyed little creature, dogs love bubbles! You can grab some for as little as 70 cents and keep them on hand. You can even play hide and seek with them!
A lot of tasks you might try with a human toddler could be great fun for your dog. The more fun and action and experiences you can pack into your dog’s life, the happier, healthier and more contented your friend will be. This means better appetite, better sleep and more love!