Keeping Your Dog Healthy Also Means Keeping Its Mind Healthy!

7 simple ideas for exercising your pup’s brain

We’ve written a lot about all kinds of food and supplements that are necessary to keep your pup healthy. But did you know your pup also needs mental stimulation to stay healthy?

Mental stimulation can lower stress, help reduce aggression, hyperactivity, opportunities for destructive behavior, and keep older pups mentally healthy. Lucky pet parents today have a variety of options at their disposal to ensure that their pups stay strong, happy and avoid mental degradation.

1. Let your dog smell the roses!

Yup, that’s right – some trainers may suggest that while on a walk, your pup must be right by your side and never be allowed to sniff and check out nature and its environment. However, dog’s want to sniff – it provides them all sorts of information to process. If you don’t want your pup to sniff along their entire walk, then allow them to go to a space and tell them to go sniff – you can point to grass, bushes, etc. to help them understand what you are suggesting.

2. Think about doggie day care.

Of course, doggie daycare is a great way for your pup to not only socialize but to also exercise their mind. There are often additional options for further stimulation like the agility room at our facility, complete with exercise equipment and a sandbox, as well as puzzle time, affording greater variety of mind-stimulating fun.

3. Play with your pup interactive toys.

Doggie toys are a lot neater today than they were when I was growing up. Sticks, rocks, chasing squirrels and cows – yup – those were generally the options available to us. Today, there are all kinds of toys that help stimulate your pups mind as well as increasing bonding time. We are all busy, but having a dog means we need to take a few special moments to work with them – just like we would with our kids. Treat puzzles offer a great mental stimulation. Generally, you will show your pup how to get to the treats just once or twice before they figure it out. Puzzles range from those where a treat is hidden and a puzzle piece needs to be uncovered or overturned, or pushed to the side, to those where treats or kibble is placed inside and your pup rolls it, throws it, etc. – whatever the method to get the food out. My cockapoo has a favorite treat puzzle made of rubber with an adorable New York City skyline inside. She takes it to bed she loves it so much.

4. Hide their treats.

You have heard of dogs hiding their bones. Well, a great way for you to exercise your pup’s mind is to play hide and seek with a treat. It’s good for them to search for a larger treat that offers significant satisfaction when they succeed in their search. We hide Ark Natural brushless toothpaste treats – which are large enough to find and sniff and result in a lasting finish to the game.

5. Teach your dog the names of its toys.

Our old cockapoo that has crossed the rainbow bridge could fetch at least 10 toys by name. She had an entire toy box and would search for the one you told her to get until she was successful! It’s a great and fun way to interact with your pup while teaching them a thing or two.

6. Play some yard games.

Fetching a ball is good, but getting your pup to jump over some obstacles to get the ball is even better. You can use boxes, kiddie pools, anything that might encourage your pup to go through, under, and around to get to either a ball or a treat if that’s what floats its boat!

7. Teach your dog some new tricks!

Dogs love to please and any trick no matter how simple is a good one. At the link below you can find a list of 52 tricks to teach your pup – from the very simplest to more complex ones like jumping over you!

Finally, make certain that you always use the healthiest of low calorie treats as a reward! Organic, freeze dried treats are always the best options because a healthy dog is a happy dog!

Mary and Patrick Kenkel own Whole Dogz, a doggie day care, boarding facility, and retail store located at 4748 Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria. Visit in person or online at and

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