Monday, February 27, 2017

Mental Games for Dogs

Not only do dogs need their daily physical exercises like a walk or run, but they also need to be exercised cognitively. Mental challenges help make your dog smart and intelligent while keeping her from getting bored and destructive. Just humans, dogs are cognitive and emotional beings. So, they need experiences that stimulate them at both a cognitive and emotional level.

Basic Mental Exercises

Mental exercises for dogs don't need to be all that complex. Even what seem to be basic physical tasks involve a mental component. For example, a game of fetch requires that your dog focus her attention. Attention is a mental task. Any activity that requires your dog's attention will be great for her mind's growth.

Another simple mental exercise that has become quite common is the Kong toys. Kongs require that your dog strategize about how to get the biscuits out of the toy. While your dog won't be very physically active, she will certainly be mentally active. This is a mental exercise that your dog can even perform in her crate, and will serve a double purpose of keeping her from boredom.

Complex Mental Exercises

Simple mental exercises are more than sufficient to keep your dog psychologically healthy. However, there are some tasks that will require your intense involvement. For starters, you can play games with your dog. Any game that your dog learns will be great mental exercise because it will require that she know and follow rules. Learning and following rules of any kind is a great form of mental exercise.
For example, a game of hide and seek can be played both indoors and outdoors. Many dogs will naturally play this game both because they are instinctually good at tracking and retrieving and because they want to be in their owners presence. Hide and seek requires that your dog use her mental skills to track you down.

Another game that is great for dogs is keep away. Grab some item that your dog has a special relationship (a ball or toy) and start running away from her. Keep your back to her the whole time. She will chase you trying to get the object. You can also reverse the tasks. Give your dog an item and then start chasing her. Many dogs will playfully start dodging and avoiding your attempts to take the item away. Slowly increase your resolve to get the item back, changing strategy, and your dog will likewise adapt, figuring out the best way to keep away!
Of course, the most complex set of mental exercises are those that involve formal training. Training your dog to perform tricks, to obey commands or even to perform in dog competitions will pay huge dividends. As your dog goes through training, she learns a large amount and her mental capacities are greatly expanded.

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