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Fun Ways To Mentally Stimulate Your Dog

There is a theory making the rounds that Neanderthals were ousted by Homo sapiens (our ancestors) because Neanderthals preferred to sit at home, while our
ancestors, being hunter-gatherers, were always on the move. Apparently, the mental stimulation that resulted from being on the move made Homo sapiens smarter and, thus, better able to cope.

Your dog may not be in danger of extinction, but animal behaviorists (and most veterinarians) have no doubt that dog mental stimulation is a close cousin of physical exercise in keeping your pet in great shape.

Here are some of the proven ways of providing mental exercise to your dog.

  1. Change the Walks - It is known phenomenon that regular (human) runners cling to a small set of routes. This doesn’t work for Fido. Your dog will be much more excited if his routes are unexpected. The park, the forest, down the river, the walking trail just mix it up!
  2. Exercise — Variety is the Spice of Life. Variety in his physical exercise is another great way to mentally stimulate your dog. A simple method of incorporating this is to involve additional members of the household into his daily walk; since each tends to have different predilections, it mixes things up for your pet. If you are alone, throw in jogging or a bike ride once in a while.
  3. Obedience Training The mental exercise of obedience training may be just what the doctor ordered for a number of breeds meant to be working dogs. Highly intelligent dogs — like the Border Collie or the bigger Poodle Mixes  — tend to do very well within this structure.
  4. Agility Training Agility training also provides an excellent combination of physical and mental stimulation. This is ideal for dogs that are intelligent, strong and energetic — like the German Shepherd, the German Short-haired Pointer and the like.
  5. Visiting Taking along your dog when visiting friends can be a great way of providing him with mental stimulation. Not only is the ride interesting, but friends at the other end — both human and animal — will be sure to boost your dog’s spirits. Obviously, a certain amount of judgment has to be used; not all your friends may welcome your pet.
  6. Change Toys We all need to change our “devices” every once in a while; corporations know that, and exploit it mercilessly. Unsurprisingly, your dog can also tire of toys. Set up your electronic calendar to send you a reminder to switch his toys around on a regular basis; he will be happier for it.
  7. Games Many dog breeds the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever to name a couple will derive great vicarious pleasure from playing a game of fetch. Retriever Dog fetches stick in water. That’s what many of them were bred to do. It’s a guaranteed way of mentally and physically stimulating your dog.

A Final Word

Studies show that all living organisms are healthier when mentally stimulated dogs are no exception. Highly intelligent breeds tend to need more mental stimulation than others. Dogs that have less access to the outdoors if you live in an apartment, for example will particularly benefit from a structured program of mental stimulation. If you find your dog succumbing regularly to bad habits like chewing, chasing his tail or other obsessive compulsive disorders, one of the best ways to counter those tendencies is to increase his mental stimulation. It does require a concerted effort and a commitment of time, but you may well find that after a while you get used to the new routine enough so that it’s not a turn-off  for you at all. Your dog, certainly, will be much happier and  better behaved.