Boredom busters: Dog activities that engage body and mind
April 06, 2020
Looking for fresh ideas to bust through the boredom and add more play and exercise to your dog’s daily routine?
Doing things with your dog that you both enjoy is a sure way to strengthen your bond and build your relationship. But when these activities also engage his mind and increase his activity level, it’s a winner. (But, we get it, what you need sometimes is for your active and attentive dog to calm down so you can get some work done!)
Read on and try some of these fun human-dog activities you can do together at home, in the yard or in the park.
Search and sniff
We don’t always appreciate and celebrate the amazing abilities of a dog’s nose. Within that wet little sniffer, there are 300 million olfactory receptors to our 6 million, plus the area of the dog’s brain that processes scent is 40% larger than ours. Add some nose work to your dog’s day and let him shine, while also giving him plenty of mental stimulation.
Play hide and seek
The classic indoor rainy-day game for kids also happens to be great for dogs. While someone else distracts your furry friend, hide somewhere in the house and wait. It can be behind the bathroom door, just inside the closet, under your bed — anywhere you don’t normally hang out. When your dog finds you, shower him with praise and play the game again. Or, take it outside, while your friend holds the dog.
Find the treat
All you need is a cupcake pan, treats and a few tennis balls. Place a treat inside the opening of the cupcake pan, place a tennis ball on top, and present the concoction to your dog. Can he sniff out the treats, moving the tennis ball aside with his nose?
If your dog is going stir crazy on a rainy day or just before your after-lunch conference call, here’s an easy game that will do the trick. Toss the tennis ball up the staircase (or down into the basement), and the exertion of running up the stairs repeatedly to retrieve can take the edge off. Just a reminder, this is much safer on carpet than hard surfaces. Just make sure his nails are trimmed, so they don’t get caught in the fibers.
If your daily walk is called off for some reason, a flirt pole is a traditional dog-training tool that also presents an enticing stay-at-home exercise alternative. A flirt pole looks like a fishing pole from a child’s birthday party, except instead of a prize at the end of the line, there’s a canine lure, such as a treat, a toy or a rag — something he’d like to grab. What you do is stay in place, swinging and circling the lure, while the dog chases it. While you’ll want to let him catch it every now and then, most of the time, you’ll swing it away before he can grab it. If you’re confined to the house or the backyard, a flirt pole is a great way to get your dog’s exercise session out of the way.
Teaching your dog to go under, around and through things in what amounts to an indoor agility course offers your dog mental stimulation and physical exercise. Indoors or out, you can set up a kitchen chair, an ottoman, a card table, a step stool or some other sturdy object and teach your dog different maneuvers. For example, you can teach him to stand and rest his paws on the steps, or crawl under the chair and jump over the ottoman. Once he’s mastered a few moves, you can teach him to go through several combinations to earn his reward. Clicker training and a treat are great tools to teach your dog new tricks. Here’s a great primer on clicker training.
When you talk about getting active with your pup, the first thing that comes to mind is clipping on the leash and heading outdoors.
The next time you go out, treat your dog to a different mindset, and just let them take the lead. Dogs love exploring the world with their noses. Go ahead, let him get his sniffer down into the grass so he can take it all in, and let him decide where he wants to go. So often, our walks are laser focused on maintaining the discipline and forward motion, but a sniffari is a way to let dogs be dogs. Of course, you’ll be making sure he doesn’t disturb private property, the neighborhood wildlife or other people’s barbecues. Otherwise, putting your dog in charge of your park wanderings can end up being a relaxing and meditative time for both of you.
Another tactic to add a physical challenge for your energetic dog is fitting him with a backpack or a weighted vest before your daily walk or run. To prevent strain and injury on your dog’s neck, make sure it’s no more than 10% of his body weight. Carrying an extra load can give your morning run that extra challenge your canine friend craves.
Now that you have fun ideas for spending some active quality time with your four-legged friend, don’t forget that maintaining a healthy diet will keep your best friend feeling his best. Family-owned NutriSource is packed with Good for Life, an exclusive blend of supplements that give your dog the probiotics and prebiotics their diet needs to help them better digest their food, and absorb more nutrients. Find NutriSource at your local independent pet retailer.