You know the adage, “a tired dog, is a happy dog”, but did you know that mental stimulation can be as important to your dog’s overall wellness as a long hike?
As our dogs become ingrained in our lives, routines and structures it is important to focus on their mental health as much as their physical. Keeping them engaged and interested mentally is a powerful tool to decrease the likelihood of nuisance behaviors and bad habits!
Below we’ll discuss 5 of our favorite options for “brain games” with your pup! These options can benefit all breeds and all ages of dog.
The Licki Mat
The Licki Mat is an awesome boredom buster that combines a tasty snack with a fun game. The behavior of licking is a mechanism that dogs use to release calming endorphins. Licking also enhances taste and can even aid in digestion from increased saliva production.
Coming in a variety of surfaces, it’s likely to appeal to the most forward or passive treat seeker! You can use a variety of tempting items on these mats. Peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, canned food, mashed sweet potatoes and more can be used! Simply spread and offer. If you want to make it a bit more challenging, you can prepare your mat ahead of time and freeze them. Licki mats are also a great tool to use when introducing your dog to crate training or confinement.
Puzzle toys require a little bit more hands-on activity from you but these can make for a fun scent based activity for your genus pup! Most puzzle toys have draws, flip hatches or spin. Your dog gets to use their nose to figure out these various steps to find the treats hidden inside! It’s important for these activities to use something that is smelly and high value. Soft, small training treats work well for this! As your dog learns how to do these, he or she can up their game to the harder level varieties!
Treat Dispensing Toys
There is a wide variety of treat dispensing toys out there! We’re partial to Kong and Petmate’s “Busy Buddy” line because the of the variety of shapes, sizes and methods of dispensing they allow. Treat dispensing toys are often self-entertaining for your dog! Simply fill them up with your dog’s favorite treat or even a little extra kibble and hand it off. Treat dispensing toys are the best of both worlds. They provide the same mental stimulation that a puzzle toy does, and it can continue to be played with as a normal toy!
Filled Marrow Bones
Marrow bones come with a variety of fillers direct from the pet store! The bones take your dog time and focus to lick all of the goodies out! Once they’re done, they still have a tasty bone to chew on! Empty marrow bones can also be refilled with peanut butter, canned dog food or other items and frozen! They function as at treat that keeps on giving!
Our final favorite enrichment toy is a snuffle mat! These bring out your dog’s natural instinct to sniff and root with their nose. They can also be a fun arts and crafts project for you at home. Snuffle mats are often made of soft fleece fabric. Simply toss a small amount of kibble or training treats onto the mat, move the fabric around a little and let your dog start sniffing!