Mind-body workouts are all the rage for us two-legged creatures, and they should be a priority for your pawed-pal, too. To keep your dog happy, healthy, and in the zen, Fanna Easter, National Dog Training Education Specialist at Petco, recommends the following mind-body tricks for your dog.
Unlike people who can turn on their computer, go to the gym, or call a friend when they are bored, dogs find other ways to deal with lack of stimulation, including destructive behaviors. These behaviors can become chronic if a pet owner ignores the behaviors or punishes the dog when he acts out. Dogs naturally want to hunt, forage, scavenge and work for their food, and when they are forced into a sedentary lifestyle, they often appear hyperactive, bark or chew excessively, and, in some cases, will self-mutilate themselves by licking themselves constantly.
“Most pet parents think that letting their dog spend the day in the backyard offers plenty of physical and mental enrichment, which is like you never leaving the inside of your home,” says Easter. “Dogs must have daily enrichment, a combination of physical and mental activities, to keep them busy, tired and fulfilled. Mental stimulation requires your dogs to think and problem solve, which keeps their brain sharp and actually tires them out.” She suggests the following 10 tricks for happy, healthy dogs.
Give your dog a target
Hold your palm about two inches away from her nose, then when she looks or touches your hand, click with a clicker in your other hand and give her a yummy treat.
Play hide and find
Place yummy treats in a box and hide the food-filled box among empty boxes, then let your dog “sniff out” the food.
Tug and fun
The trick to safe tugging games with your dog is to teach him to let go. “After tugging with your dog, stop tugging and hold still until your dog lets go,” Easter explains. “Once he lets go, reward him with another game of tug.”
Exercise in self-control
Teach your pet patience and obedience with this trick: Hold a treat in your closed fist then put your closed fist by your dog’s nose and wait until she stops smelling and pushing on your hand. The moment she stops, offer her a treat.
Taking your dog on a jog is great exercise for you both, but allow ample time for you and your furry friend to just meander and sniff. “Sniffing for a dog is like us updating our Facebook page – we want to read through all the comments before replying or not replying back,” says Easter. “Daily sniffing sessions around your neighborhood are such fun for your dog!”
Add excitement to your dog’s daily routine with puzzle toys that make them “solve” a puzzle, such as moving levers or compartments, to reach a treat. Easter suggests starting with easier puzzles to help keep them motivated and ready to advance to more difficult challenges.
Food stuffed toys
According to Easter, all dogs should have daily opportunities to empty out a food-stuffed toy. This lets them meet their hunting and foraging desires.
A course in confidence
Building your dog’s confidence is as easy as giving her an opportunity to learn and succeed at something new. Consider enrolling your pawed-pal in an intro to agility class.
Let them dig
Some breeds of dogs just love to dig (think: terriers) and often tear into the couch or try to get under the fence when they get the urge to get their paws in the dirt. Provide your dog a digging pit that has chew toys, bully sticks, and treats.
Chew on this
“Dogs must chew; it’s a predatory instinct. And for puppies, it feels good on their swollen gums as they lose their baby teeth,” Easter explains. Chewing provides mental and physical stimulation. She warns, however, that dogs should not be left alone when chewing and to always choose chewies that are larger than your dog’s mouth to avoid choking.