Mental stimulation for dogs: Preventing Boredom

In HEALTH by Rachael Summers2 Comments

dog playing with ball

I have a golden retriever that seems to constantly bounce off the walls from morning to night. I’m being dead serious! She literally runs up and down the house all day. And to top it I also have 2 daughters under 5, so they never fail to keep her entertained.

But there are many benefits of mental stimulation for dogs that I never knew of. The crazy part is that I thought I knew exactly what it was until I read this…

What is mental stimulation for dogs?

Mental stimulation for dogs is when a dog is encouraged in raising levels of physiological activity. This can usually be found in taking part in physical activities as well as mental stimulation toys.

When my dog is stimulated she tends to play at a higher level of energy over a longer period of time. This can be great for professional dogs and tasks that are required for your dog t use higher levels of energy.

Why I decided to start digging into this…

The main reason I started looking into it. Was purely on the basis that I would notice my dog sometimes really energetic or so the times should be really lazy. It’s really interesting to know the reasons why this would happen at regular intervals. Even when I would be on my way out for a walk with her.

It seemed that based on previous activities throughout the day, she would sometimes be happy or sometimes down. That’s what sparked my initial interest. So I decided to dig deeper and get to the bottom of it. After understanding exactly what mental stimulation for dogs is. 

And so I started to research to see how I could use it to benefit my dog on a day-to-day basis. Now,  I’m not specifically into any type of fitness or professional sports. But I do like to go out for a morning jog every now and then. It would be great if my dog would be up for it too.

Especially,  when she has so much energy at other times when it’s not needed. And I mean a lot of energy when I say it. So out of everything that I managed to find online,  I think they were around 3 main benefits that I could sum the information up in.

So what 3 benefits are there?

  1. Encourage learning
  2. Prevent boredom
  3. Health

Encourage learning

I never knew how important it was to keep a dog’s mind stimulated to increase they’re learning capabilities. After researching hours on end I managed to find a few answers that I think describes exactly how this works.

So we’ve in dogs it is guaranteed that you can scientifically increase or encourage their learning capabilities. That means when you are providing their mind with stimulation you can then expect them to take on new abilities a lot easier.

You see it’s just like pushing a car. When you start out pushing it can be quite difficult at first. But once he builds up a bit of momentum it starts to become easier and easier.

That’s the way that I found encouraging learning in your dog to be. It may be quite difficult at first but as you continue they will be a lot more happy to continue learning and learning. This is because their brain adapts to it and with your support and encouragement it makes it an easier process. Crazy to think about!

Preventing boredom

I literally think just about anything and anyone with a brain in this world can get bored. This is something that attacks me on a day-to-day basis. And I can sure say that this blog has helped me take a lot of boredom away from my life.

But in regards to my golden retriever, there are very few things that I see help her with boredom. I mean, sometimes when she’s not in the mood. She just doesn’t want to move. And believe you me,  I know that feeling. At first, when it used to happen I assumed that it was to do with an illness.

Which then resulted in multiple trips to the vets. But every time they told me that nothing was wrong,  however, on the last occasion, they advise me on a few things. Know the funny thing about this is that when the doctor told me that there was one problem. It wasn’t actually with my dog. But instead was with me.  They said I wasn’t keeping her mentally stimulated.

before diving into the topic I had no idea that dogs need to be kept stimulated. Might have been a silly thought, but I thought that dog s keep themselves stimulated. Shows how much of a long road I have come down! I quickly realized I was wrong and after speaking to a few experts I managed to find a few ways to improve this for my dog.

Health Benefits of mental stimulation for dogs

Isn’t it funny how everything somehow relates back to health? No matter how far or how high you tried to get away from it.  It always seems to creep up. Whether it’s in people or in dogs I found it to work the same way. And that’s just what I found to be a factor that plays a part in mental stimulation.

The obvious is we already know that if you have a healthy mind and usually have a healthy body. I know that dogs can be smart to especially golden retrievers. But I did not know the health benefits that this could have for a dog based on how stimulated they were.

So it just so happens that by providing your dog more mental stimulation you can increase the life expectancy by up to 2 years. That’s simply astronomical. Or in layman term, crazy. And that’s fine,  believe it or not, you can increase your dog’s health true basic mental stimulation. So now that we have established a few of the benefits of mental stimulation in dogs.

You might now ask yourself the question of why it’s so important. Well, let me explain a little further on that….

Why is mental stimulation important for dogs?

When I decided to research this topic the first question that came up was. Well, why is mental stimulation important for humans? And I honestly believe it to be a great question. Firstly because what makes us think that we’re so different. I mean yes, our minds are a lot more complex. But in the grand scheme of things, what really makes us so different from a dog?

By the way, I managed to find a few accurate answers on exactly why it’s so important.

Behavior

I found that there was 1 main factor that is affected by problems with mental stimulation. No yes,  we can say after going over the benefits there could be health risk motivation. That would be nitpicking. As everything seems to come under one umbrella which is behavior. I guess you could kind of expand that into obedience as well. And you may have noticed this previously in the past.

A disobedient dog is usually caused as a result of lack of stimulation. Just like when you’re back at school and your sort of energetic in the morning. But by the afternoon You’re down and Out. That’s pure because you are wasn’t stimulated. However, when a practical task comes into play, you usually got all the energy in the world.

And that’s purely just based on the way that we learn. Dogs can behave in a very similar fashion. I find that when I keep my dog stimulated,  she tends to behave a lot better throughout the week. It’s almost an ongoing practice that I keep in the house. The great part about it is that everyone can take part too. So you might be wondering about where you can exactly get this stimulation.

Where can I get it for my dog?

There is no specific place that is fine you can get stimulation from. Furthermore, if you’re asking that question then I think you’re looking in the wrong place. It’s more based on activities and tasks that your dog can take part in?

There are certain toys that can provide this or different games and activities that provide an emotional response. Because all simulation comes down to is fulfillment in certain parts of the brain.

Now as I always tell you on all of my blog posts.  I am not a science teacher. So if you want answers like that.  then click here to find them. Otherwise, keep reading the blog keep it shut…lol. If we’re talking in regards to location based on where we would like to find simulation. And there were many different activities you can take part in the house and outdoors too.

You don’t have to make long trips to the park every day. It could be something as simple as just creating its activity in the back garden. Whilst you can keep it cheap and take part in games at home. You can also buy some toys that can do the same too. Heres 5 that are doing the best this year.

5 Best toys for mental stimulation

Is fetch a good game for this?

I beg to differ, on the fact of if the game FETCH is classed as a stimulating activity. This is only based on the reason that that requires no real thought process to any extreme. It’s almost more like a second nature activity. A little like driving a car if you can relate to that. At first, it’s a very difficult task but once it becomes fluent then there is no challenge.

If there are no challenges then there is usually no stimulation. It then becomes repetitive and almost boring. That’s exactly how I see fetch. However,  every time you get a new car.  It’s almost like passing your test again.

So by changing the environment, you can encourage stimulation.  change is good. I’m sure you get the gist of where I’m going with this. Although you might play fetch in the garden on a day-to-day basis. You might need to change the stick to a frisbee or location from the garden to a park.

There is no definite way to doing this. But I recommend you just mix it up and make it fun. That always seems to do the trick. With all of this information, it now brings us to the question of how much stimulation your dog needs. Let’s expand on this….

How much mental stimulation does a dog need?

There are many different variables that would depend on how much stimulation your dog needs. I believe personally it can be very subjective. So it is different for each and every dog. A few things to look at would be:

  • Age
  • heritage or history
  • Health
  • Personality
  • behavior
  • Ability

And the list could go on forever. A simple way to look at it is to just ask yourself a basic question of what you think would be suitable. There are many different things that could play a part in it.

But every single dog is different and come from different backgrounds and live in different environments. All of these factors can play a part in what may be determined as-as suitable amount of mental stimulation.

It is not something that’s going to be put into cement. Nor what you find it ever written down in black and white. You as a parent will always know them better than anyone else. So I’m sure you can determine how much is needed.

All dogs behaving different ways.  and react to different things differently. If I say different again one more time, I think I’ll write a different post. But you get the gist of what I’m trying to get at. You just got to try and test. Is there many different ways of providing mental stimulation to your dog. That you simply just got a test to see what works best.

Some activities they would just genuinely take to,  whilst others they may completely refuse to take part in. If you find yourself in that situation, then it may be best to join the community to find out what works for other parents.

What can affect mental stimulation?

There is not much that I would say can really affect mental stimulation. But it’s more on the fact of what can affect a dog without it. This is because the mental stimulation is purely an active engagement.

So it’s a result of an action that your dog is encouraged to take part in. Almost that when we’re trying to do a crossword puzzle. It’s mentally stimulating because you have to think to figure it out. And it’s no different for mental stimulating games for dogs.

Of course apart from the fact that they don’t play crosswords. But, there are some great games that I’ve seen that would give crosswords a run for its money. A few of those mental stimulation games that I’ve seen have been all on Amazon. So what I decided to do was pick 5 of the best games I found.  And then provide an in-depth review of them.

That way you don’t have to fatigue of trying to figure out what ones are good and what is it. And that leads us to the next question of when dogs need mental stimulation.

When do dogs need mental stimulation?

The short answer to this question is it every day. I don’t personally think that there is a time where you can go over the limit with stimulation. Unless you’re putting them on a ride on top of a plane outside on the wing. Although it would be cool to see a flying dog. That would be crossing over the limit just a little bit.

You’re probably thinking that I have a wild imagination and I make you right on that!

Day to Day with mental stimulation

However, if you are talking about normal day to day activities that they can take part in. Then I think it should be an essential part of the day, every day. Whether it’s something as simple as playing fetch in the garden. To go up the road and playing ball with them.

Whatever it is, it is important that they are engaged in this type of activities on a regular basis. Like I said earlier in the post, every single dog will depend on how much you think is suitable. But that decision can be left down to you and your dog. 

What I personally do 

With my dog (Bella), I tend to take her out at least twice a week to a local play gym where she can go in and out of rings. The great part about a game like this is it requires her to focus and think in order to achieve her goal.

It’s a great way for me to also take part in activities along with her. And they found us to sort of bond that little bit extra since we’ve been doing it weekly. It was only because I can be quite strict with her at times. And my husband is always overfeeding her, whilst I watch her weight. So because I look out for her, she seems to think I’m the bad one at times. 

But really, I’m doing what’s best for her. And I do honestly believe deep down she knows it too. In the next part and the final part of this post. I’m going to go through a few activities that I personally use indoors and outdoors to take part in with my pup.

Why this post was written

I purely put this together to give you an insight as to what you should be doing with your dog in order to provide such type of stimulation. There is nothing too difficult inside of it, however, I picked up a few effective methods that are found to perform well.

Again, I just want you to remember that this will be different for every dog. So do not wholeheartedly expect this to work for your dog 100%. It’s purely a method that works for me and then positive it will probably work for you from my experience. Let’s get into it.

How to provide mental stimulation for your dog at home

There are many different mental stimulation activities and games that you can take part in with your dog at home. A few of those were earlier mentioned above. The few I described were the different games that I came across an Amazon.

It could be as simple as just a brain training dog game. Or even an activity that just encourages your dog to take part and think on their feet with. That’s just a figure of speech by the way. If you never saw that section then I suggest you go back and read it.

The best games I like to play at home with Bella are games that involve using her senses. One of the most simple ways that I use is by just placing her food in different locations. Now although you might think this could be quite frustrating for your dog, it’s actually quite enjoyable for them.

When I place the food in a different location she has to use her nose to find it. Another game I tend to play is, by simply tying a stuffed toy to a string and hanging it on a tree. If I do this I tend to stuff it with some treats or food. That way it gives her an incentive to try in either get it down or hit it to get more food.

And it works like a charm every time. The only time she tends to come back in it’s after the stuffed toy is out of food.

How to provide mental stimulation for your dog outside

Being outside is not any different to being inside to provide a dog with simulation. This can be done in many different ways and sometimes it requires a little creativity. You could simply approach this in two different ways. Or you can use some old containers and boxes to create some sort of circuit around the garden. Another way is to just purchase some reasonable price toys to use outside.

The route that I chose 

I personally went down the route of purchasing some toys. You can see the 3 of the best-listed toys for mental stimulation below.

3 best selling dog toys for mental stimulation

However,  if you are are looking for something that’s priceless. Then I would always go with a tug of war. That’s only if you got the energy for it too. A great part about this game is that, in order to win your dog has to think strategically. This is because by Simply pulling they’re not able to overpower your weight.

So a majority of the time they have to use a tactic or strategy in order to gain the upper hand. This results in their mind becoming stimulated and for filling the goal you trying to achieve. Not only that but I can be pretty funny if you get some other family members involved. It’s a fun great game to play and some good weather.

Conclusion

To sum it up we can safely say that providing your dog with a higher level of mental stimulation can improve many other areas of their life.

It encourages them to get into a learning mode which can be then beneficial in the longer term too. With me and my dog (Bella), I have been taking part in many different activities and using multiple brain training toys.

Which has helped us to establish a stronger bond as well as resulting in her being a happier dog? This can be such a helpful hand into getting your dog set in a routine too. And as you can see from the 3 benefits of mental stimulation for dogs, you can expect a great difference in behavior too. 

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