Do you have a dog that is full of energy and just can’t get enough of anything that is happening around him? You are probably thinking “Am I a bad owner who can’t take care of my own dog? Why other people dogs are so calm and relaxed, but mine is jumping and running around like crazy? Do I need to exercise him more? Or he is just a bad dog?”
No, your dog is not a monster or a bad dog. He just needs your help to be on the same level as you are. You need to teach him how to be relaxed and to behave around other people or dogs. And one thing how to do it is to work on your dog’s mental health.
Not all dogs are the same. Some might need more attention and guidance than the others.
Mental Stimulation for dogs
What is that? According to Health Engine, mental stimulation is to do something that stimulates the brain. It can be achieved internally via thoughts or externally through the environment.
Have you heard that mental stimulation (thinking and working a lot using your brains for a longer period of time) tires you more than physical activities? That’s more than true. And the same thing is for our dogs.
1. Have your dog earn his food
As you give your dog food twice a day you already have two chances to stimulate his mind. A lot of dog owners choose the easiest way of feeding the dog. But even with a little thought about the way of how the food is served can actually change your dog’s quality of life.
- You can use games and toys, for example, StarSmart or lick mats;
- You can use his own kibbles for learning a new trick or strengthen those he already knows. It also strengthens the bond between the dog and the owner;
- You can also make your own toys, for example, super easy one would be to take toilet paper cardboard, or used bottles. Actually, those are one of our dog’s favorite toys.
2. Make him to use his sense to smell
Sniffing is one of the main activities of how they make their brains work. Dogs are born sniffers. It’s how they communicate and explore the world around them.
According to Purina “When a dog sniffs the air is taken in and passes through the olfactory epithelium (nasal skin cells). These cells are also found in a special organ that dogs (and cats) possess, called the Jacobsen’s or vomeronasal organ. This organ is thought to be important in the detection of pheromones (body scents), perhaps giving the dog its tremendous ability to identify, recognize animals and people.”
- Play “go find it” with your dog by hiding his treats or kibbles. Set your dog into his crate or place and go to another room to hide the treats. You can also use the same room, but be sure the dog does not see the places where you hide the treats. Hide them so your dog could reach them and also in places where it’s not too hard to find them. If your dog already knows the game or is well trained to look for the stuff you can increase the difficulty level, for ex., hiding some treats in a blanket or under the pillow, and so on;
- Play “hide and seek” with your dog. It is good mental stimulation for him;
- You can also make breakfast or lunch interesting by putting kibbles into 5 different dishes or boxes and hide them around the house just like with treats;
- Make him use his nose for sniffing and unrolling. You can use your towel for hiding the treats or just buy a sniffing matt;
- You can use a puzzle toy;
- Sniffing on walks. You can let your dog sniff around when you are on your walks, but be careful. I usually don’t let my dog sniff around wherever she wants as there might be some food on the ground, bones, and so on. I let her sniff around the places that are safe for her.
3. Structured walks
Of course, structured walks also give the mental stimulation they need. Most dog owners usually go for walks that look like their dogs are taking them for a walk, not the other way around. Teaching your dog to walk properly makes them think about the walk itself, not the surroundings. In that way, the dog follows his owner and understands what is happening. After a structured walk, your dog is going to be as tired as after a good run in the field.
- Let your dog do his business before the walk starts or at the end of it;
- Afterward, do the structured walk. As Canine Professionals have mentioned that is an experience in which your dog is more closely bonded to you than anything else. It’s a leadership exercise. The way to drain his nervous, excessive, and ultimately toxic energy which, left undrained, is a huge contributing factor to the unwanted behaviors dogs can exhibit, ranging from nuisance to destructive to dangerous.
You can check out more regarding Structured Walks on Natalie Dobkin’s Youtube channel.
4. Teach your dog how to relax
The hardest thing for a dog who only knows how to run around, play all day, and be physically active is to sit, relax, and do nothing.
You just have to teach your dog to stay in place and relax. If you need you can use your dog’s leash so he wouldn’t break out of the command. Start with just a few minutes, half an hour, an hour, and so on. Let your dog to chill, but let him do that by himself. Do not approach him even if he’s whining. He will settle after a few minutes. He will learn that he’s allowed to not worry about the environment and be calm at all times. That also builds your dog’s confidence which is important.