Winter can be long and dreary. At least as humans, we can hop in the car to go to work, school, or even the gym, to blow off steam and break up the monotony. But what about our dogs? Mental and physical stimulation are both incredibly important parts of the lives of our dogs.
Winter can be long and dreary. Between cabin fever, the polar vortex, and endless rain, it can make things a bit challenging with our canine family members. At least as humans, we can hop in the car to go to work, school, or even the gym, to blow off steam and break up the monotony. But what about our dogs? Mental and physical stimulation are both incredibly important parts of the lives of our dogs.
Importance of Mental Stimulation
What do you mean by mental stimulation? Mental stimulation is something to make your dog think. They need mental and physical stimulation daily, regardless of the weather. But mental stimulation is something that often gets forgotten. Boredom can lead to frustration, which can result in less than desirable behaviors manifesting.
Exercises to Get Those Gears Turning
What can I do to mentally stimulate my dog? Mental exercise is great for dogs of all ages, and all physical limitations. Here are some fun ideas to entertain the mind and body of our dogs:
- Do you have stairs in your home? Try stair runs, or stair recalls!
- Stair runs: Throw a toy up the stairs for your dog to retrieve it. We advise against throwing a toy down the stairs, a highly driven dog could get going too fast down the stairs!
- Recalls: If you have two people in the household, one of you stand at the top and the other the bottom of the stairs, and recall the dog to you for a reward.
- Trick training There are so many online videos that walk you through different tricks, and are just an Internet search away! Some easy things you can teach your dog are tricks such as shake/wave, roll over, touch an object with their foot/nose, crawl forward/backward, and sit pretty/beg.
- Is your dog really interested in working? Touching their front paws on an upside bowl and teaching your dog to pivot in both directions, is a great way to build confidence and body awareness. This can be a foundation task for many things, such as heeling/obedience, canine conditioning, learning how to use that backend, or just something to work their brain.
- Calling all dogs that love to hunt! Set them up to work for their meals. All dogs love to sniff and search out food or critters, some more than others! Having them track down dinners can be super fun and rewarding to a dog. Take portions of their food and divide it up, hiding it in different places around the house and asking them to find it.
- Another brain workout with their dinner would be to mix their dry food with a little water, pumpkin or yogurt, and freeze it in a Kong or muffin tray. This takes longer for them to eat, and drains some of that pent up energy away when you might be ready for some downtime.
My dog loves to think, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like its enough. But its too cold to run outside, what can do I to get out that physical energy? Games that work your dog mentally and physically at the same time, are the most stimulating (and exhausting!) for them. It’s important to keep your dog’s mind from creating its own games (trouble!), not to mention putting on those pesky winter pounds! Here are some exercises that incorporate the mind and body at the same time:
Exercise to Get The Body Moving
- Treadmill training! If you have a treadmill at home, training your dog how to walk, or even jog on the treadmill, will be an amazing benefit for those days you just can’t get outside. Once they get to a point they're comfortable with this activity, you can have them on it while you catch up on chores! It’s a good idea to stay nearby, you may need to adjust speed for warm up and cool down. They should always be monitored, and you can slowly build their speed and duration slowly. If your dog has any physical health issues, please ask your veterinarian if this is a safe activity. Tethering your dog isn’t advised.
- Doggy push-ups are fun and will benefit your dog both mentally and physically. Asking your dog to transition from sit to stand, then stand to sit. Several reps of this, followed by stand to down, and down to stand. If your dog does not have a stand command, this is a great opportunity to teach them!
- Jump! You can also have your dog jump over objects, or in and out of a box on command.
- Place work is when you place objects of varying difficulty around the house, such as stools and overturned laundry baskets, is a great way to mentally and physically stimulate your dog as well.
Hopefully, spring gets here quickly! But until then, enjoy some quality time with your pups!