Mental stimulation is important to the mental health and overall wellness of your dog. It ensures that they have something that challenge them and help prevent boredom. When dogs are bored or feel that they do not have anything to do, they will find their own source of challenge and entertainment, such as getting into the trash, chewing up furniture or shoes, or trying to escape from crates or yards.
Here are 10 ways you can keep them mentally stimulated
Rotate Through Toys - Many of us spoil our dogs with what feels like endless amounts of toys (myself included!). This is great, but our dogs can easily become bored with them. This is when rotation can come in handy! Depending on how many toys you have, separate them into 4ths or in 1/2 and only allow your dog to play with one group of toys at a time. They can play with them for a day or two, even up to a week, depending on your dog then swap them out for another set. This will keep it fresh and give them what feels like something new to play with and entertain themselves with.
Take a Different Walk - If you typically walk your dog on the same path each time, of course there will always be new things to smell. However, going on some new walks will help them explore new things and help get them thinking more of their surroundings. There will be new things to smell, new sounds, new people or dogs also on that route, and new sights to see.
Play Interactive Games - There are so many types of interactive games for dogs these days! They help to give your dog something to do and a task to complete. Usually they are a form of a puzzle, which if solved will reward them with a treat.
Play the "Find It" Game - This is a great one because it can be done anywhere! Use a towel, carpet, blanket, or snuffle mat. Hide treats under or in any of these items and have your dog try to sniff them out. The towels or blankets can be rolled up with the treats inside while the carpets and snuffle mats are great for treats hiding inside the excess fringe.
Teach New Tricks - This one can be super simple or more challenging depending on your dog. Try to train them into learning a new trick. They love to earn rewards and also to please their owners by completing a task. If you're out of ideas for new tricks, try combining tricks instead! For example, if your dog knows sit and knows stay but doesn't usually sit while staying, train them to do both!
Work on Old Tricks - Chances are your dog knows more than one trick and may do one way more than others. It's not often that you ask your dog to roll over compared to how much you tell them to sit. Remind your dog of those old tricks they learned for fun but that may not be in their every day agenda.
Give a Task to Complete - Your dog needs to feel needed. They want tasks to complete and things to do for you. Think about what qualities they may have that would make them good at a certain job. For example, a hound dog loves to use their nose. Try to place some things in the yard for your dog to find.
Agility Training - Now this isn't to put our dogs into competition or anything like that (unless you want to of course). This is more just for fun and to give them something new to learn and give them some physical stimulation as well. This can be done inside or outside and can be made very simply. Use water bottles and teach your dog to walk in between them or stack books with a broom stick across it and teach them to jump over it.
Hide and Seek - Just like you play with kids! Have someone hold your dog and go hide. See if they can sniff you out.
Try New Dog Friendly Place - New places are great for so many reasons. It socializes your dog and can also give them new things to explore that they may not have before. Similar to a new walk, but this will have more engagement from others and more stimulation. Try parks, outdoor restaurants, hardware stores, etc.