As our dogs age it becomes increasingly important to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. As dogs age they may show signs of slowing down including sleeping more and general inactivity. Mental exercises and stimulation are actually very easy to do and can further cement the bond between you and your dog well into old age. Read on for a few easy, every day brain activities you can do with senior (and young) dogs!
Name Their Toys
Try giving a name to your dog’s toys. Start with just one toy (it’s usually best to start with his favorite) until he begins associating the name with the toy itself. Then you can start asking him to bring it to you when mentioned by name.
You can continue this process until he knows all his toys by name. Here is a great resource on how to teach your dog to fetch objects by name.
Use All of Their Senses
For those dogs that have a difficult time running an activity using all of their senses might be a good alternative to both mental and physical stimulation. When you take your dog out on a walk find places that are more varied than your usual route. This means places with different sounds, smells, sights, and textures. Your dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than yours and allowing her to “see” the world through her nose can challenge her mind.
Try to avoid taking your senior dog on the same walk route every day. Look for trails or forest paths nearby that you can take. Encourage her to walk over curbs, on benches, steps, and even playground equipment. Get creative and make sure your dog is safe.
Even though your dog can’t do a crossword puzzle there are special toys and feeders out there designed as a puzzle of sorts to challenge him. Find one that your dog responds to and try feeding him his meals in it or with a few of his favorite treats.
You can find all kinds on Amazon or at your local pet store. You can even make one yourself out of household items such as milk cartons or toilet rolls. I recommend checking out Pinterest for ideas and instructions.
Teach and Reinforce Basic Commands
Whoever says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks clearly hasn’t been around very many senior dogs before. In fact, teaching your aging dog new commands and reinforcing ones she already knows through 10-15 minute training sessions daily not only is a bonding opportunity for you and your dog, but is also a great way to stimulate her brain.
Some good basic commands to consider are sit, stay, come, heel, drop it, leave it, wait, no, come, and down. Once your dog has the basic commands down you can change it up by teaching her some basic tricks like shake, roll over, high five, fetch, turn around, walk backward, and kiss. Here is a great resource from dog training guru Brandon McMillan.
Whether you have a senior dog or a young puppy these brain activities are great to start at any age!
**The Woof Warehouse is not a paid sponsor of companies or products mentioned in this blog post.**