Just as we need to regularly keep our minds engaged and get bored without anything to do, dogs also need mental stimulation. The question many dog owners may ask is how do you do this? The solution is usually rather simple – dogs do not need expensive or complex challenges or entertainment. Usually, the simplest toys and activities, along with some daily interaction is enough to keep dog mentally stimulated.
One of the most important ways to canine mentally stimulated is through training. Some owners have a mental block against dog training, as they feel it goes against the dog’s nature. However, the fact is that living in a human family and by human rules is already against the dog’s nature. Given that you have made a choice to own a dog and treat it as part of a human family, it is essential that you give it the tools to play this role well. Training is essential for proper communication between you and your dog, and helps your dog to understand what behavior is and is not allowed, and also when and where it is allowed. Equally important is the fact that training provides great mental stimulation. Leaving your dog idle all day is not natural or good for it. In the wild, dogs and wolves have plenty to keep them occupied. If nothing else, there is always the search for food. In a human household, food and shelter are provided, and if a dog has nothing to do, it will start to get bored. This is often the start of numerous dog behavioral problems, ranging from relatively minor ones like constant barking and chewing, to more serious problems such as aggression or outright neurotic and compulsive behaviors. Spending a few minutes with your dog a couple of times a day, teaching it a new task not only keeps its mind occupied, but is great fun. Training is best when it is fun for both you and your dog.
Of course, training rarely takes up more than an hour of a dog’s day. In addition to this, you can give your dog interesting toys to play with. These need not be expensive, store bought toys. Dogs often find household objects like old plastic bottles much more fun than the fancy toys we buy them. Just ensure that the objects you give your dog are safe, and they cannot be confused with objects that are not toys. Besides this, it could be greatly rewarding to take up a sport with your dog, or even some activity that the dog was bred for, such as herding.