The Mental Game

Most pet owners know there is more to keeping your pets healthy than simply providing them with food and medical care. Exercise is a huge part of every pets health, especially dogs, but some owners don’t realize that mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Most pets will develop bad behaviors due to boredom. To combat those behaviors it is highly important that you keep your pets mentally stimulated.

The phrase ‘nothing in life is free’ should apply to your dog just as much as it applies to us (well, except in the love and affection department, that can be given and received for free of course). Your dog though, should earn his keep, and in turn, that will help keep him mentally stimulated. Your dog should always have to work for his dinner, whether that is by performing a few tricks on cue before being given his breakfast and dinner, or by ‘hunting’ for his food as his wild cousins do. So how can we simulate hunting for our domestic friends? Create games like ‘hide and seek’, hiding parts of his dinner around the house so he has to find them. I do this my dog frequently, its become quite the game for her. She waits in her crate while I hide three bowls of food around the house in a closet, behind the couch, or in a corner of a room we rarely frequent. When I release her, she races around the house using both her nose and her eyes to locate her ‘prey’, tail wagging endlessly. Another, slightly less time consuming way to stimulate your dogs brain is simply by using a puzzle feeder. These come in various forms, such as Kongs, some being more difficult than others, ensuring there is one perfect for every dogs intelligence level. Making sure that your dog has to use his brain in order to find what he desires most, his food, will help keep him stimulated, and not bored.

For cats, similar processes can be used. Moving their food bowls around everyday can trigger there hunting instinct. Also, moving water bowls around everyday helps trigger their desire to drink, which thus helps keep them hydrated. With cats you can take moving their food bowls around to new heights, putting it on book shelves or dressers, increasing their activity level as well. There are also treat dispensers made specifically for cats, and watching them bat them around is fun for everyone.

Birds. If you own a parrot, you have a whole different kind of challenge. Parrots and macaws are highly intelligent, requiring so much more mental stimulation than your average dog and cat that usually I never recommend one as a pet. Owning a parrot is much like having a two year old child with a weapon attached to their face (if you own a parrot or macaw, you know exactly what I mean). Their beaks are incredibly strong, some being able to crack a brook stick in half with one chomp. If you don’t keep these guys stimulated they will use those beaks on anything and everything they can get to. Providing them with toys and things they can destroy is one way to combat boredom, but nothing takes the place of time spent with their owners training. There really is not enough space in this blog to really go over the mental needs of a parrot or macaw, but if you own a parrot and need help with trouble behavior, give us a call or shoot us an email. We’d love to help.

There are all sorts of games you can play with your pet in order to keep their mental game up, including simple training. Training is a game in its own right, your dog trying to figure out what it is you want them to do in order to get that delicious treat you have in your hand like some kind of backwards charades. Keep your pet mentally stimulated and you will, without doubt, have a better behaved, more fulfilled pet.

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