Should you be taking your dog for miles and miles of walks/runs? Should you be completely exhausting your pet with endless games of fetch or tug? The fact is, while physical exercise is without doubt essential, mental stimulation and dog training can relax a dog and help him/her become a happy, well-behaved family member.
Mental Stimulation Can Relax a Dog - The Basics
So, what exactly is mental stimulation? Think, for a moment, back to your time at school. Despite sitting at a desk for around 7 hours, rather than running about (which you would, we have no doubt, probably have preferred to tedious lessons), you got home completely exhausted and quite ready to have a nap. The reason you were so tired is simple: you spent the whole day working with your brain, tiring it out with maths calculations, discussions about literature, meaningful conversations, and so on. Like the rest of your body, your brain uses fuel (vitamins, minerals, food) to function. Using fuel leaves you (your brain) mentally tired.
This process is the same for dogs. Ensuring your dog uses his/her brain to get mentally tired through proper dog training is therefore as essential for his/her well-being as providing physical exercise. Increasing physical exercise only will merely serve to increase your dog's stamina, as opposed to tiring him/her out. Mental stimulation can relax a dog by ensuring he/she is mentally, as well as physically tired.
Mental Stimulation Can Relax a Dog - Suggestions
There are many ways in which you can provide mental stimulation and relax a dog. Here are some of them, but please note that this list is by no means exhaustive - find your own ways (it's good to get creative!), get in touch with me, and/or talk to other pet owners to learn how they mentally stimulate their dogs for more ideas.
Basic Obedience/Advanced Dog Training Classes - Training your dog is fantastic fun, builds a stronger bond between you & your dog, teaches your dog to respond reliably to requests and mentally tires him/her out. Giving you a mentally tired, relaxed dog who wants to respond to your requests, dog training is ultimately great for both you and your pet. Naturally, it is important to practise everything you have learned wherever you go, at home and on walks, at other people's homes - in short, wherever you go with him/her.
Puzzle, Treat Dispensing and/or 'Work-to-Eat' Toys - Offering food in toys they have to work on to get the food (as opposed to placing it into a bowl for them to 'inhale' it in no time at all) makes a dog think and will subsequently mentally tire and relax a dog. It will not only relax a dog but will also make the food last longer. There are many such toys on the market, including some that can be filled with a mixture of dry/wet food and some for dry food only. Some examples of such food-dispensing toys include the:
Nose Work Games - Make use of dogs' innate sniffing ability to mentally stimulate and relax a dog. Teach him/her the request to 'Find it' by saying it, then placing food onto the floor. When your dog starts to search for food when you say this even before you have placed the food onto the floor, you know he/she knows what 'Find it' means. At this point, you can get a little more creative and hide food/treats in boxes or other containers. Make finding it quite easy to begin with to ensure he/she enjoys the game, then start hiding these containers (with a treat/food in them, of course!) in harder to find places. I offer Scent Work sessions to fully understand and make the most of this concept.
Teaching Tricks - Use reinforcement-based dog training (giving your dog a nice treat when he/she learns something new) to teach your dog new tricks (i.e. shake paws, 'tidy up' his/her toys, jump through a hula hoop or two, etc.). Reinforcement-based dog training is a fun way to build & maintain your relationship and mentally tire & relax a dog.
Mixing Training & Play - Another way to mentally tire and relax a dog is to bring basic obedience cues into play sessions; mixing your dog training in with fun. You could, for instance, ask your dog to 'Sit' before throwing his/her favourite toy for a game of fetch or tell him/her to 'Sit' and 'Wait' before allowing him/her to 'Take it' when about to have a game of tug. This will not only tire and relax a dog in general, but will also teach him/her to think and calm him/herself down while playing so he/she doesn't get too enthusiastic (and rowdy!)
In the long run, providing a balanced mix of physical exercise and mental stimulation through dog training will physically and mentally tire and relax a dog, so get creative and have some fun with your dog! He/she will thank you for it by being calm, relaxed and well behaved wherever you go.
Sometimes, stress and/or medical issues can make it difficult to properly relax a dog. If this is the case with your pet, it is imperative to visit your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. Consulting a dog behaviourist can also help to calm and relax a dog. Give our experienced dog behaviourists a call on 07776761289 today to learn more.
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