You can use puzzle toys to stimulate your dog’s mind, ensuring that they spend at least part of the day entertained, even when you’re not there. Puzzle toys are sturdy rubber or plastic containers that you can fill with dry food or dog biscuits. There are small openings that allow your pet to access the food.
Your dog will have to roll, lick and position the toy correctly to get the reward. These games exercise dog’s problem-solving skills and once they realise they can get at the food, it becomes a fun game with a worthwhile prize at the end. The best thing is that your dog can play with these toys by themselves – all you need to do is fill them up and leave in the house before you head out.
Out in the wild, dogs and wolves spend the majority of each day in a pack hunting for food. It’s their natural instinct to hunt for food but many dogs spend a lot of time indoors, often dozing in their beds or on the sofa. The closest that your dog comes to hunting or scavenging may be begging for table scraps or scratching their bowl to remind you it’s dinner time.
You can encourage their natural scavenging skills by hiding small treats around the house and letting your dog hunt for them. Teaching them a simple command like ‘find the treat’, tells them that there is something to hunt for.
It is important that you engage with your dog and play together on a daily basis. A brief game of tug, a few rounds of hide and seek or a quick game of chase or fetch can help to keep your pet engaged and active. If you work outside the home, make it part of your routine to play an interactive game before you leave or as soon as you get home.
Dogs of all ages enjoy learning new tricks, no matter how easy. It can be as simple as teaching them to roll over on command or to offer their paw to ‘shake hands’. Gently move or show your dog what to do and always offer a reward for a trick well performed. This type of training will exercise your dog’s brain and keep them focused and engaged.
Social opportunities are important for dogs. Take your dog to a park where they can run free and socialise with other dogs. This kind of interaction is fun and socially stimulating and after running around with a few new friends, not only will they get plenty of exercise, they will feel thoroughly happy and engaged. If possible, try to arrange for play dates with your friends and their dogs to give your canine companion more time to socialise.