How to keep your dog mentally stimulated
Although being stuck at home during the lock-down period, might not be your idea of fun, you can be sure that your four-pawed buddy is ecstatic to have you home! As dog owners, we have the responsibility to take care of our dog’s physical and mental needs. It is vital that our dogs are physically exercised on a daily basis, but it is equally important to stimulate them mentally.
When a dog is bored, it will find something to do to keep occupied. This can result in an attempt to landscape the garden, chewing furniture, self-mutilation, excessive barking and other destructive behaviours.
The following games are a wonderful way of stimulating your dog mentally:
1. Slow release feeder toys
Slow release feeder toys are a great way to stimulate your dog mentally. Dogs enjoy the challenge of trying to access treats and kibble hidden inside a toy.
a. Fill a slow release feeder toy (Kong toys are fantastic) with peanut butter (that is xylitol free), plain yogurt and treats like biscuits and flatties, pellets or meat (such as liver).
b. Pour a little bit of water in the toy and over the stuffing and put the toy in the freezer.
c. Once frozen, place the toy in a brown paper bag. It is best if the toy fits snuggly in the bag, making it slightly more difficult for your dog to remove it. If your bag is too big, place the toy at the bottom and add fillers such as crumbled up balls of paper or brown paper so that your dog would need to work to get to the toy.
2. Treat Puzzle
Making your dog work for its food is a great way to keep its mind stimulated. You can either use treats or the kibble from a meal which ensures that mealtime is loads of fun!
a. Find an empty bucket.
b. Fill the bucket with a filler such as the paper roll found in a toilet roll and paper towel, crumbled up balls of paper or brown paper, tennis balls, chew toys, etc.
c. Take a handful of treats or your dog’s meal and scatter amongst the fillers – ensure that this has not all sunk to the bottom. The harder it is to find, the more fun your dog will have!
3. Spin the bottle
There are a few ways to make this.
a. The wooden structure Click on the following link to learn how to make this – https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/122602/diy-activities-dogs/
b. String and two trees
i. Find an empty plastic bottle.
ii. Place treats inside the bottle.
iii. Cut a hole on two opposite sides of the bottle.
iv. Place the string through the bottle.
v. Tie each end to a tree on two opposite sides – make sure that this is low enough for your dog to reach.
4. Snuffle mat
Snuffle mats are pieces of fabric with lots of loops, flaps, or pockets that can be used to hide treats. The purpose of the mat is for your dog to sniff for treats hidden in the fabric. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can make your own snuffle mat out of sturdy fabric. Simply stitch pockets and flaps all over the fabric to allow you to hide bits of food.
A simpler, sew-free alternative is to purchase a plastic mat. Look for one with a grid of holes already in it, like a rubber sink mat, or poke holes in the mat. Tear fleece into strips that are 15-20cm long. Tie a fleece strip through each hole in the mat until the top of the mat looks like a fleece forest. Once you’ve filled all the holes, toss a handful of treats on top of the mat then watch your dog snuffle through the fleece to retrieve them.
An even easier version of the snuffle mat can be made using a tea towel. Lay a towel flat on the floor and place some treats in the center. Fold the towel in its length across the treats. Next, tie the towel in a loose knot so that the treats are in the middle. Your dog will have to figure out how to untie the tea towel to get to the treats inside. To add to the challenge, several tea towels can be tied together in a row, with treats in each one.