Okay so I don’t know if he is smart at all. Sometimes he picks up a new trick in seconds, but sometimes he falls over and hits his head on things. He is frightened of bubble bath and the Metro Goldwyn-Mayer lion, but he can tell the difference between me getting ready to leave for work and getting ready to leave for a walk with him (the former makes him sulk)
Jokes aside, I think he is smart. He needs mental stimulation pretty regularly or he paces about and is generally irritating. While a good run in the park with other dogs or with his Kong Wubba is great, it’s nothing if it isn’t combined with some sniffing and thinking! I thought I would share with you guys how I mentally tire my dog and make sure he is mentally stimulated as well as physically. It’s taken a while to get the balance right but with these games, I can get away with skipping a walk if it’s really horrid outside as long as we spend some time doing some good hard ‘thinking’.
The ideas listed are all cheap or free. While Nina Ottoson toys are great, they are pricey and sometimes that has to wait until next months paycheque.
1. Find It!
This game is simple and easy, and great for rainy days. I ask Trevor to sit and stay in the kitchen (with the cue of ‘go hide!’) and I put about 5 treats in various places around my living room, then release with the cue ‘find it!’. He will spend a good half hour doing repetitions of this and his little nose goes crazy! Sniffing is a great calming exercise too so this game could be good for anxious or stressy dogs.
I trained it quite easily. At first I dropped a treat and said ‘find it!’ and clicked when he found it. Start simple so they can see where you drop it. I repeated this until he understood the game, and then started putting it behind things or on things, and eventually made sure he was out of sight when I was hiding the treats.
2. Box time!
This one is great if you have a delivery from Amazon. They tend to stuff their boxes with balls of paper etc. All I do is hide little treats and yummies in the box and let my dog go to town trying to find them. He often ends up wandering around the house with a box on his head…
3. Let your dog train himself
ANY training makes your dog think. If you can’t think of something to train, have a look into Operant Conditioning and let him teach himself. For example I will put some toys in the living room and sit down in the middle of them armed with clicker and treats, and wait and see what he does! If he picks up a toy for example, I will click, say ‘good!’ and treat, then wait and see if he does it again. If he does, then keep it up then bring in a cue. It is letting your dog make up his own behaviours and capturing them. Fun if you run out of ideas.
4. Shell Game
Have a look at this video. Essentially the shell game is a version of that game where there’s an object (in this case a treat) under a cup in a line of cups, your dog has to guess which one its in! It takes a bit of work to get to the point where you can play it efficiently. I learnt this the hard way and my dog has learnt to punch the cups and send them all flying to find his treat… So take it slow! Take the time to teach your dog the game.
5. Red light, Green light
I found this game really useful for my bouncy lunatic. He can get carried away and hasn’t got much impulse control, so we use it fairly often to reinforce that if he slows down, then he can speed up! It’s all self rewarding and great fun. Learn how to do it by watching this video. The general idea is to make a dog excited, then calm, then excited, then calm. You’ll teach them great impulse control and how to turn on and off on command.
These are the ones I do with my dog, but I am by no means an expert! What do you guys do? How do you make sure your pooches are mentally tired and not eating your sofa out of boredom?