“Going Mental” 3 Things You Can Do to Decrease Stress and Increase Pleasure For You and Your Dog.
Adding the Balance to Your Dogs Needs Decrease Your Stress and Increase Joy
The bulk of the work I do with dogs is dealing with unwanted behaviors. In many cases, I get contacted as a last resort and at that point the dog and the owners are going mental. That is, they are at whit’s end and whether they know it or not so is their dog. When I tell them the problem and the solution is mental, they don’t believe me – until they try.
With many dogs the problem is not enough or the right kind of mental stimulation. Frankly, a lot of dogs are bored and that leaves them searching for things to do that allows them to use their brain. This is especially true for working breeds but it is not limited to them and the behaviors that develop as a result are often unwanted by the owners. Barking, destruction, reactivity, guarding, not listening in general, etc. In some cases these dogs are physically exercised plenty as it is often said a tired dog is a good dog. While that may be true, many find that all they end up doing is building an athlete. What used to take a 15 minute session of chuck-it now takes an hour. What used to be a 5K hike is now 10K. There are limitations to physical exercise. There is nothing wrong with it and I highly encourage it. But if that is your dog’s only outlet it may be a problem. Your dog has other needs that require fulfillment.
If you work at a job that requires a lot of physical activity but not a lot of thinking, at the end of the day you may be left physically exhausted with a restless mind. Conversely, if you sit at a desk all day problem solving, at the end of the day you may be left mentally drained but with a restless body. You need both and so does your dog.
Your dog needs both physical and mental exercise to strike a balance and fulfill their needs. I recommend meeting these needs first before tackling any behaviour issues the dog may have or to prevent them from happening in the first place. Many find simply adapting this lifestyle with your dog solves most of their problems or diminishes them greatly at the very least.
Here are some ideas on how to provide mental stimulation to your dog:
- Obedience or Trick Training: Teaching obedience or even tricks gets your dog thinking. Every time you teach your dog something new and then develop it to perfection it engages their brain and gets them to think. It is no different then us. We use our mental capacity much more when learning something new compared to doing something we already know. With the dogs, I recommend continually teaching them new things and once they know them randomly run them through several of the things they know in a session. This gets them thinking and concentrating on what you are going to ask of them next. As long as they are willing to work for whatever it is you have to offer they will do it very willingly and try their hardest to succeed. These drills are able to exercise your dog mentally and physically at the same time. Get your dog to do obedience or tricks between launching the chuck-it ball or playing tug.
- Nose Work: Whether it be tracking or scent work, dogs tire very quickly when using their nose. They do so naturally but when we teach them how to do it for a specific purpose we can exhaust them mentally very quickly. I like scent work in particular because it is a great option when the weather outside isn’t cooperating. It is an easy activity to do in the house or yard.
- Agility: Agility combines both physical and mental into one. The only downside to agility is the equipment required. But if you have access to a facility or can install some in your yard you can make a dog think while they are physically exercising at the same time. It’s a win-win.
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