The COVID-19 pandemic has altered day-to-day life everywhere, and your dog’s usual routine has probably been impacted too. They may be napping, eating, and walking at different times or spending more time indoors due to a local lockdown. These changes can cause stress and boredom, so it’s important to establish new routines and use mentally stimulating dog toys to keep them entertained and ease any anxiety they may feel.
Why does my dog need mental stimulation?Dogs were originally bred for jobs that made use of their intelligence, like herding or retrieving. Toys, games and training sessions help your dog to express these natural behaviours and exercise their brains by challenging their initiative. These mental workouts are just as important to your dog as physical activity and are similarly exhausting for them. They play a key role in your dog’s welfare, confidence, and happiness.
Signs your dog needs further mental stimulationA dog with insufficient mental stimulation will become frustrated and look for outlets to burn their energy, which can lead to perceived problem behaviours such as excessive barking, digging, jumping, restlessness, attention-seeking, and destruction.
If your dog displays one or more of these traits, it may be a sign that they’re bored and need more mental exercise.
How to keep your dog entertainedWhile the pandemic presents new challenges, there are still lots of entertainment activities you can play at home with your dog – everything from scent games and training sessions, to dog puzzle toys. These not only stimulate and tire out your dog but also strengthen the bond between you.
Give them a dog food puzzleDogs are motivated by food, so any activities that challenge them to work for meals or treats will be very satisfying for them.
An easy way to introduce food toys is with a dog food puzzle bowl. These encourage your dog to forage through ridges, shapes, and patterns and are particularly good at slowing down dogs that eat their meals too quickly or gulp at their food.
Once they’ve mastered the bowl, you can move onto more intricate dog food puzzle toys that require greater problem-solving skills.
Dog toys that you fill with food are another way of keeping them occupied for extended periods – just remember to increase the difficulty slowly as you don’t want your dog to become frustrated and give up.