Mental Stimulation & Enrichment
Mental stimulation is an extremely important factor for dogs to live fulfilling lives. We pride ourselves on making sure they get everything they need to grow and maintain their physique through puppyhood to their golden years and it's just as important to take care of their cognitive ability.
A healthy mind can do wonders for dogs of all ages and they thrive when these needs are being taken care of. An early and continuous routine of enrichment through their lives can help slow down age-related cognitive decline and can be very beneficial for dogs prone to anxiety or those with high energy needs.
These activities can also be useful should the worst happen and your dog is unable to go for walks due to an injury and needs to be on crate rest or is recovering from a surgery. Did you know a 20 minute enrichment activity such as sniffing, can equate to an hour's walk? Mental activities are much more tiring than physical exercise so having these ready when needed can really help your dog feel fulfilled and rested. Obviously, walks are very important and we shouldn’t replace one for the other on a regular basis, but having this ready for emergencies and everyday walks, allowing and encouraging to really get those noses on the ground can do wonders for them.
We like to call these ‘Sniffy Walks’ and I always make sure my own dog gets at least one of these a day. We go at her pace and I just let her sniff anything and everything (except that discarded hotdog we found that one time), there are just days where she doesn’t want to run around so these walks can be just what she needs. A dogs olfactory receptor has 300 million neurons compared to a humans 6 million, they’re used to sniff out contraband, finding survivors, even sniffing things like gluten in our food for a reason!
These activities can also be good to know in case something happens where your dog is unable to go for walks, should they break a bone for example and need to limit physical activity or recovering from a surgery, mental stimulation can be more tiring than physical exercise so they can feel fulfilled without physically leaving the house. On a normal day however, these can be fun for both pet and owner.
🐾 Snuffle Mats: Fabric mats with hidden pockets, fabric pieces and tricky compartments for your dog to really get their nose in and snuffle out those hidden treats. These can also work wonders for dogs who really scoff their food down, using their nose and brain can slow down the eating process and allow for proper digestion. This can also be created by simply folding a towel and hiding treats in the folds.
🐾 Hide & Seek: A fun game to really get those noses working. You can hide treats around your house and instruct your dog to ‘Go find it!’ this will really engage their noses to track down the hidden snacks, this can also work with special toys or items if your dog prefers them over treats.
🐾 Puzzle Feeders: A little trickier than a snuffle mat for those extra smart dogs. Puzzle Feeders often have hidden compartments and locomotive elements that your dog needs to figure out to find the food, perfect for indoor and outdoor play.
🐾 Magicians Cups: I love this game, this is fun for both owner and dog and works exactly how you’re imagining. Hide a treat under a cup, switch it around and see if your dog can find it! This is great for encouraging problem solving and memory.
🐾 Trick Training: Teaching your dog a cue for fun can be great way to really get them to think, these don’t need to be essential obedience cues so teaching them to, for example, weave through your legs, walking backwards, army crawling or even teaching them to dance can be both physically and mentally stimulating, it can also be a great party trick!