Did you know that your pet can benefit from activities that are good for their brain? Just like us humans, pets need to have their brains challenged to remain at their peak, fend off boredom, and to stave off dementia (or cognitive dysfunction). The brain is a muscle, and every day more research shows that our brains (and the brains of our pets) have the ability to build a reserve of cognitive function, which can help prevent dementia in older pets.
Cognitive stimulation occurs naturally in the wild and should. be a life long endeavor for you and your pet. That said, it is never too late to start! In the wild, dogs are challenged on a regular basis to find food, navigate the world, stay out of danger and deal with the politics of pack life. Their brains cannot stop working!
Our pets, beloved as they are, do not have the need to be on high alert all day, problem solving for survival. We give them food and water, toys to play with, we put a leash on them and guide them on walks, and most of us do not have a full pack of dogs for them to socialize with! In our effort to love our pets, and we do love them, we have forgotten to provide them with something that nature does on her own- provide them with cognitive stimulation!
The cost of this easy life? Often our dogs can become bored, depressed, anxious. The are at a higher risk of cognitive dysfunction as they age (similar to dementia in humans), and their overall quality of life is not as good.
Providing your pet with cognitive stimulating activities to your pet is easy, and can be as much fun for you as it is for them! In addition, the benefits for your pet will remain with them long after the activities have stopped! Pets who are challenged cognitively, are more satisfied, less anxious, tend to have lower rates of cognitive dysfunction and are better at problem solving!
The few minutes you spend every day doing these activities helps to reinforce your bond with your dog as well. The relationship is stronger as you teach them to use their brains again in fun activities. You will also have the benefit and joy of watching your pet learn new activities and develop a new energy in life.
Providing Cognitive Stimulation for your pets is easy:
There are games and puzzles that you can buy for your dog, and those are great. My dog loves his puzzle toys! However, you do not need to purchase expensive toys to provide your dog with cognitive stimulation. Below are some affordable ideas that you can incorporate into your daily routine. The important thing is to do the activities on a regular basis- daily if possible, for about 10-15 minutes.
Remember to keep the activities fun and change activity or stop if your dog is getting frustrated. We want to keep it fun and rewarding for both of you!
- Teach them a trick: teaching your dog to sit, stay, come, etc engages their brain. Treats work well with most dogs as rewards and reinforce the learning of the behavior. Teach your dog a new trick like high five, roll over, or play dead.
- Hide and Seek: this activity takes two or more people but can be a lot of fun for the human and the pet! One person distracts the dog while the second person hides somewhere in the home, after hiding, call your pet. Your dog will need to search for you! When he/she finds you, the other person hides and calls the dog. This engages the brain to find their human using cues like smell, sight and hearing!
- Walk a new route: ever notice that when you walk your dog somewhere new, they stop to smell EVERYTHING? The new sights and smells are engaging the brain of your dog in a way that is new, exciting and stimulating for him/her! Walking in a new environment allows them to safely explore the world with their humans and allows their brain to learn new things!
What are some fun activities that you do with your pet to engage their brains and keep them from getting bored?