Tips and Treats To Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

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Most pet owners know their dogs need physical exercise to stay healthy.  But did you know that it’s just as important to exercise your pup’s mind?

Try exercising your canine companion’s mind, and you will find you tire her out in half the time. An activity that requires your dog to concentrate and process information is about as exhausting as a half-hour of moderate exercise like walking or playing.

If keeping your dog mentally stimulated sounds like a task you don’t have time for, think again.  Keep reading to learn some helpful tips that will make exercising your furry friend a breeze.

DIY Games and Puzzles

It’s easy to get started with scent games and puzzles because nose work helps your dog hone in on natural skills. Always be sure to begin with games that your dog will master as the last thing you want is a dog that loses interest and walks away.

Play Find the Treats 

Take a handful of treats or kibble and place it around the room.  Give your dog the signal to “find the treats” and give encouragement as your pup goes around the room.  Remember to praise your dog after he picks up each treat.

Once you are sure that your dog understands the meaning of “find the treats,” you can make the game more challenging.  Have the dog wait in another room while you hide the treats under or behind furniture, rugs, and pillows so he will have to sniff them out.

Puzzles are another great way to stimulate and entertain your dog.  Here are some puzzles you can easily make yourself:

Box Puzzle

If you’ve been doing a lot of online ordering over the past few weeks, you can put all those empty boxes to good use!  When your dog is in another area of the house, arrange the boxes on the floor.  Hide treats in some of the boxes.

Once you’ve done that, bring your dog into the room, show him the boxes, and let him sniff out which boxes contain the hidden treats.  You can even rearrange the boxes, add boxes, and place treats in different boxes for another round of “box puzzle.”

Cupcake Puzzle 

For this, you need an empty cupcake baking tray and 12 tennis balls.  If you don’t have 12 tennis balls, use as many as you have.  Place treats, or even pieces of dry dog food, into some (not all) of the baking tray cups. Then cover all of the cups with the tennis balls. Now the puzzle is ready. 

Show the tray to your dog and see how long it takes to move the correct balls to find the hidden treats.

DIY Dog Toys and Treats

There are many easy DIY toys and treats you can use and make while at home. Some of these toys and treats include:

Ice-Block Toys

These are easy to make and they will keep your pet occupied for hours.  These will surely be a welcome treat as the weather warms up too.

How to make them: Place a few doggie toys in a bowl or bucket. Fill the bucket with water, and freeze it.  Once frozen, give the ice block to your dog and watch him figure out how he will get his toys out of the block of ice.  You may want to do this outside since the ice will melt.  

Broth-Based Doggie Pops 

This treat requires you to freeze either chicken broth or beef broth in popsicle molds or drinking cups (just remember to make sure you use low sodium broth that doesn’t contain extra spices).  Additionally, some broths have added garlic and onion, both of which can be harmful to dogs, so check the labels on the products you use. 

Once the broth popsicles are frozen, remove them from the popsicle molds or drinking cups.  Then, watch your pup enjoy it!

Pupsicles 

These are another great treat to make for your dog. You can freeze combinations of peanut butter, bananas, blueberries, nonfat yogurt, and kibble in ice cube trays.  If your dog likes vegetables, add carrot stick handles. 

If you need an effortless frozen treat in a pinch, take a hollow dog toy and fill it with peanut butter or canned pumpkin and freeze it.  Once frozen, give it to your dog for a tasty, long-lasting chew treat.

If your dog is a powerful chewer, consider investing in a Kong™.  It’s easy to fill the hollow center with peanut butter and tough to destroy.  Make sure the peanut butter is all-natural and does not contain any added salt or artificial sweeteners.  Some peanut butter contains Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs.

Remember to always supervise your dog as he enjoys any of these treats.

More Ways To Exercise Your Pup’s Mind and Body

Chewing provides a great deal of stimulation for dogs (while also helping to keep their teeth clean). 

Try giving your dog a raw bone to chew. Your dog will have to focus on the bone while chewing on it.  He will have to exercise the mind in addition to the jaw.

  • If you fill a hollow marrow bone with natural peanut butter or pumpkin and freeze it, it will provide longer-lasting entertainment for your dog. Remember always to supervise your dog when he is chewing on a bone because it may break off and turn into a choking hazard. You should also check with your vet to be sure you’re providing your pup with a safe brand and type of bone.
  • Feeding all meals from food-dispensing toys is also a way to turn mealtimes into enrichment time for your dog. 
  • If your pooch eats too quickly at mealtime, try slow feeders. Slow feeder bowls usually have ridges or other barriers that break up the bowl’s surface area, which prevents the dog from gulping down dinner. Not only are slow feeders mentally stimulating, but they are also designed to alleviate the health issues associated with fast eating.  Some of the health benefits are better digestion, less bloat, less gas, reduced regurgitation, less choking, and overall better gut health.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.