During your everyday routine, do you ever wonder if you're doing enough to contribute to your pet’s quality of life? Mental stimulation can be one of the best, most under-utilized tools that a pet owner never knew they needed. No matter the shape or size of your furry friend, enrichment can benefit both you and your pet in a multitude of ways.
I think many can say that it can be hard to come home after a long day at work and dedicate the proper amount of time and energy to your pet’s mental well-being. This is where enrichment tools, tips and tricks can come in handy! Mental stimulation is the process of engaging your pet in an activity that stimulates their brain and utilizes energy in a productive manner. Destructive or undesirable behaviors are often-times the product of boredom. While we're at work, running errands etc. our dogs are usually at home being unproductive. When a pet has pent up energy, destroying furniture and belongings can be the aftermath. There are numerous ways to engage your pet to assist in warding off bad behavior - including treat and puzzle toys, snuffle mats, and scent games, agility and obstacle courses - the list goes on. The categories vary for type of enrichment, and each pet is different as to what is most engaging for them. Feline friendly options are also available!
In our household, we use frozen pet-safe foods in Kong's, along with quite the menagerie of treat dispensing toys. We have one of those stubborn, crazy-energetic Bluetick hounds. Physical exercise is one of his most favorite things, however activities that make him use his mind and snout are much more gratifying.
The scent games started with playing indoors. Waylon would wait 'patiently' in his crate while we hid tiny bits of treats in various locations throughout the house. We gave him a small piece to smell and taste, then instructed him to "find it." The search began. It took only two rounds for him to figure out, with minimal direction, what his task was - and he loved it! Our hiding places would get harder and harder, which would make him even more invested each time. Eventually we tried an outdoor version of "find it" with his favorite stuffed racoon, using liquid scents instead of treats. This was a much more difficult challenge level for him - however he is still very much enthralled with the game.
There are many options to mentally stimulate your dogs and cats. Simply putting on a TV channel can be enough to entrap their attention. Even old dogs can learn new tricks, and taking a few moments a day to work on something new can be so beneficial. It also helps to keep building on that connection you've created with them. When going out on walks, let them sniff if time allows. The stimulation from the environment will no doubt create a sleepier pup when you get home. Rotating through toys to keep things fun and interesting can be another small step to enriching their everyday life. It’s fun to see how excited they can get after pulling out an old friend they haven't seen in a while!
A lot of mental stimulus games are correlated with food motivation to keep your pet engaged, although you can incorporate any high-value reward that your pet desires into your enrichment plan. There are so many options of tools and treats to be utilized to mentally stimulate your pet - ultimately making them happy, content and a better-behaved animal. You know what they say, a tired dog is a good dog!