Is your dog mentally, emotionally stimulated?

Published 8:21 am Tuesday, April 3, 2018

By Helen Palmer

I got an e-newsletter on March 23, 2018 from Dr. Karen Shaw Becker. The main topic was boredom in pets’ lives. After reading the article, I decided to write about the subject since it isn’t something you see often.

The first thing Dr. Becker stated was that just because your pet, she includes feline pets as well as canines, are sleeping a lot, that doesn’t mean they are tired or content that much of the time; it could mean that they are just bored with their living conditions.

Email newsletter signup

Dogs need exercise and mental and emotional stimulation just to stay healthy. Becker gives a list of signs to watch for if your dog sleeps a lot. These are: chewing on furniture or upholstery or carpet; knocking objects off tables, counters, dressers or bookshelves; excessive attention-seeking behavior; general rowdiness; excessive vocalization; playing “keep away” with your belongings; tail chasing (theirs) or ankle chasing (yours); excavating the backyard; or sneaking out or digging out to roam and investigate.

Becker says that “lots and lots of exercise cures boredom in dogs.” However, my experience is that most of us don’t have the time to make sure the dog has “lots of exercise.” Fortunately each pet dog is different. I had only one dog that required a lot of exercise and I used a bicycle, four miles in the morning and four miles in the evening. There are other ways too. One man exercised his Dalmatian when he exercised his horse. Another family used their ATV to exercise their three dogs at the same time.

However, there are a number of activities you can use with your dog that will provide mental and emotional stimulation. Obedience training opens a variety of possibilities. Back in the 1970s there were a lot fewer activities to select from so I trained my dog in obedience followed by tracking. Tracking is fun and gives the handler a good workout too since you start by laying the track and progress to having someone else lay the track with the dog out of sight.

Obedience is also basic when practicing Rally obedience. It has been observed that 15 to 20 minutes of Rally exercises, where the dog has to concentrate on your body language and your commands, really wears the dog out and makes him nap before doing anything else.

Now there are feeding dishes that hide food and make the dog puzzle it out in order to be rewarded. With several dishes filled and hidden the dog gets to sniff out the dish and then solve the trick to get the food.

Running isn’t the only exercise and puppies and older dogs should not be asked to run. Walks or jogging for large breeds provide excellent stimulation especially if the dog is allowed to sniff around a bit and if you change the layout of your walk so it isn’t boring to the dog.

Becker adds that playing ball (especially if you have a retriever) or use a flying disk (aka “Frisbee.”) gives the dog plenty of exercise.