Find The Balance Between Mental and Physical Stimulation
Does your dog have a weight problem? Is he the perfect weight…but just too short?
Canine obesity is rampant. And losing weight by exercising regularly is one of the most popular and frequently broken New Year’s resolutions, so this year I am aiming low. I hereby resolve to meet all my dog’s exercise needs!
While it is pretty easy to keep up with my dog’s physical needs (aging Bulldogs require little) many of my clients are not so lucky. Meeting a dog’s exercise requirements can be a daunting task. The key here is balance. Without it, you may end up with a bored dog with an over- abundance of energy, and stamina. If you provide a lot of physical exercise and your dog then becomes a very fit athlete, but his mental exercise needs are not being met, you may have developed a very fit, athlete, with all the energy of the Energizer bunny, and no way to expend it.
My favorite way to exercise my dogs is through mental stimulation. Amazingly, training in and of itself can help to tire them out. Simply running through some basic obedience and a few tricks is helpful. But there is so much more!
A number of simple games can be improvised hiding treats or kibble. Even something as simple as placing a bit of kibble under their metal dog food bowl can be challenging, as well as pretty entertaining to watch. I have seen many approaches to solving this dilemma. Some dogs will use their paws and nose to overturn the bowl. Others will push it to the threshold of a door and force it over the edge. Others will just bark at it incessantly till you give up and turn it over. I have seen dogs jump on it with all four, paw at it till it is skidding across the floor like a hockey puck, and others who push it recklessly across the floor til something, anything, stops it.
Another inexpensive toy requires a couple of tennis balls, a muffin pan and a few treats. Cut the tennis balls in half. Put a treat in the muffin pan and then cover each muffin area with one half of a tennis ball. Let the games begin!
Taking your dog to a public place where he can meet new people, and smell new things can be exciting, and exhausting, for your dog. There is a plethora of stimulating events on even the shortest ride. Many times I run short errands and could have included my dogs, but just didn’t think to. I resolve to do this more often.
Innovative Toys and Companies
There are two companies that have especially large selections of dog challenging toys.
Kyjen adds new toys frequently to their developing line of brain games. Some of them involve rawhide so be aware of the dangers associated with rawhide if these appeal to you. Many are treat – finding puzzles. My dogs are much more interested in the “Hide A….” plush toys. Current favorite? The “Ginormous Hide A Squirrel” which comes with six wonderful squirrels to find and do with whatever their little hearts desire.
These are soft toys with squeakers that “live” inside of a soft structure such as a tree trunk or birdhouse. You place them inside and your dog works to get them out. Their Egg Baby Puzzle Toys are a variation on this theme.
They also have a line of “Lil’ Rippers” which appeal to dogs on several levels. The defining aspect of these toys is the lovely, music-to-their-ears, ripping sound that is made by pulling these apart. They are designed for rugged play and can by pulled apart again and again. This one is ingenious.
Nina Ottoson, of Sweden, was one of the first companies to develop an extensive line of toys that challenge your dog’s mental skills. These toys are beautifully made, and are also divided into Level 1, 2 and 3 and come in both wood and plastic.
If you are interested in developing a well balanced athlete who is both mentally and physically strong and agile, as well as having fun and strengthening the bond with your dog, consider adding a handful of these challenging toys. For more excellent ideas on exercising your dog’s puzzle – solving abilities, take a look at Smellorama: Nose Games For Dogs by .Viviane Theby and available through DogWise.