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Beat the Boredom! Why Fetch, Walks & Tug Aren't Enough

When it comes to playing games with our dogs, most people simply throw a ball for them to fetch or hold a toy for them to tug with.  We take our dogs on long walks hoping to wear them out.  These activites certainly provide our dogs with enjoyment and allow them to release their engery, but they do very little in terms of stimulating their minds.  Mental stimulation is one of the key things to dog's happiness and we forget this fundamental element all the time with our dogs.  Mentally challenging uour dog will not only help beat any boredom as they are exposed to new things, but it can also help boost their confidence and hep establish an even greater bond between you.  Most importantly have fun!

1.  The Muffin Tray 

This is a great game to start with, as it is relatively simple.  Unfortunately for you dog there aren't any real muffins involved in this game, but there will be some treats!  Place come kibble or some training treats in certain pockets of the muffin tray.  Place some balls or other items over those pockets.  Your dog will have to work out how to move the items to gain access to the treat!  This is a fantatic game for puppies or beginners (dogs that haven't been doing puzzles).  Amazon and Chewy also sell puzzles with the same concept but they are expensive!

2.  Use a Treat Ball

Treats balls are excellent at making your dog work for their food, both physically and mentally.  The idea of a treat ball is that it only dispenses food when it is positioned or squeezed in a certain way.  Fill a treat ball with kibble or training treats and watch your dog roll the ball around and work out how to release the food! Treat balls or interactive toys can be bought in most pet stores.  I am in love with the Starmark Green Treat Ball and the PetSafe Sqeak n' Treat Ninja Star. 

You can also fill up a lidless water bottle without the cap as a cheap alternative, and it will require your dog to do some problem solving to earn theri dinner.

Starmark Green Treat Ball

PetSafe Squeak n' Treat Ninja Star

3.  Hide and Seek

Once your dog has mastered the "Stay" command, try going out of sight and into another room before tell them to "Come!".  You should start by keeping the proximity close, and progressively increase the distance as your dog becomes more disciplined at the game.

Make sure you only say "Come" one time, rather than repeating saying it or shoutin their name.  You need to give them a chance to think hard and work out what you are asking them to do by that once commmand.  When your dog comes to you, reward them with a lost of praise and a treat!  This will also build reward history with your actual Come command in a fun way.

4.  Treasure Hunt

Smell is a dog's most powerful sense, so use it to stimulate their brains with this game!  Place some open cardboard boxes around a room and place treats in just a few of them.  Associate the game with the "Search" command and watch them run from box to box wokring out where the treats are.  You can increase the difficulty of this game by removing the boxes and placing treats in different objects like a laundry basket.

5.  Name You Dog's Toys

Increasing your dog's vocabulary is a brilliant way to challenge them mentally.  Start with two of your dogs favorite toys.  Teach them to fetch each one bu givin gthem a specific name.  For example, you might say "Fetch Rope" or "Fetch Tug"!  Use lots or praise or training treats when they pick up the correct toy.  Once they have mastered two toys, you can begin adding more.  This game requires a lot of patience, but as with all tricks, it is incredibly satisfying when they work it out.  You can also use a clicker to mark when they pick up the correct toy.  Click, praise, treat!


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