Puppies - Mental Stimulation
Having a puppy isn't easy! But as much as puppies are gorgeous and we love them being so young, cute and cuddly the overall aim for most dogs (whether they be show dogs, working dogs or pet dogs) is to have happy, healthy dogs that will be a pleasure to own and be around. Dogs that we can control and that will be a credit to its breed. Dogs like this don't just happen by accident!
The breeding of a dog is important as to how they grow up, but the biggest influence on how your dog will be is you. What you do with your dog at the critical puppy stage will be with your dog for the rest of its life. Mapping how it sees the world and how it acts in different situations.
Mental stimulation is so often missed out in this puppy (and adult) stage. What do I mean by mental stimulation? Well really anything that gets your dog thinking. What makes your dog tick will be different from dog to dog but there are different ways in which we can get dogs engaged and thinking.
By talking about mentally stimulating our dogs I am not just talking about taking our dogs to training classes. Dogs are extremely clever animals and for most pet dogs they get very little in the way of mental stimulation apart from practicing a few bits you learnt in training class that week. What I am really saying is that we need to do more.
I advise all my clients to feed their puppy a meal by way of activity toy or another way to get them thinking. Do most owners? No, unfortunately not. And then they wonder why their dog is bouncing off the walls and they cannot get them to focus on what are the acceptable behaviours.
As most people know, exercising a puppy too much at a young age can cause devastating events later on in life. But most owners are stuck in between a rock and a hard place though as their puppy is bouncing around with too much energy but they can’t walk them for any longer. The answer? Mental stimulation!
Give your puppy an activity toy and you have solved a number of issues;
- Think about it – We go to work and have to work really hard to work things out. This tires us out! It is the same for your puppy! Therefore, they are using their energy on this instead of running round your kitchen like a devil dog.
- When giving your dog an activity toy you know exactly what your dog is doing if you need to pop to the other room etc.
- Some activity toys are made with rubber and other chew – safe materials. So your chewing is focussed on the right object and not those extremely expensive shoes!
- You should be using their meal so you will be giving them their dinner at the same time
- Activity toys teach your dog to deal with frustration
- They teach your dog to problem solve. A dog that can problem solve is more likely to think about their actions before they feel they have to jump straight into a situation.
Really, the list of positives goes on and on and changes for each individual dog.
There are many toys on the market to try and mentally stimulate our dogs – the Kong, Buster Cube and Dog Pyramid just to name a few! But this doesn’t have to be the only way to stimulate our dogs! Use your imagination… On a frosty morning take their breakfast and throw it on the lawn. Your dog has senses which often don’t get used as much as they were intended to. Doing this gets your dog to sniff out the food using their great sense of smell. Another great idea is to take their meal and hide it in places around the garden/home. The options are only limited to your imagination.
My point is really a simple one. Are we doing enough for our puppies? Probably not! Dogs are clever animals and we expect a lot of them! We need to help them develop their mental skills as early as possible. Mental stimulation is key! It's not a huge change to make to give your puppy an activity toy for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or maybe even all three) but the change it will make to your puppy and your lives together will be huge.