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Work your dog's body

Busy? How to Work Your Dog’s Body and Brain

Brain games for dogs: 5 strategies for a calmer, happier pal, even when you barely have time to stop for lunch!

We all struggle with days (or sometimes weeks!), when our favorite dog-life activities fall by the wayside. Work, crazy schedules, or illness can make it hard for you to give your dog the active play he needs to be at his best. 

Using stairs for exercising your dog

Just like humans, our dogs are wired for both mental stimulation AND movement. Which makes busy days even worse for both of us: our dogs get bored, frustrated, and stressed right when we’re most exhausted… and stressed!

These tips provide basic brain games for dogs: no-fail ways to help canine com

panions that are in danger of going STIR CRAZY to get mental and physical workouts… even if YOU’RE super busy! 

They take minimal set up, and your furry friends can work away with little to no supervision.

1. Search-and-Snack Brain Booster

This activity helps bring out your dog’s natural sniffing instincts, and offers excellent brain games for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Food-motivated pups will be particularly happy with this one!

Without your dog present, hide tiny-morsel-sized training treats either around your fenced-in yard, or your main indoor living space. Tuck them into the grass, carpet, and on surfaces where it’s okay for them to go. Then release your dog on a search-and-find mission!

Alternatively, you can get a toy that creates a similar challenge: a snuffle mat, or Pickle Pocket are great options. The soft “pickled” surfaces provide slots into which you can stuff kibble and other tiny treats.

IQ treat ball for dogs

2. Roll-n-Rewards Brain Games for Dogs

This is no hamster ball! The IQ Treat Ball is a clever dog-treat dispenser that keeps pups of all ages interested and working for their rewards (all by themselves!).

Fill this ball with a handful of low-cal treats (kibble, celery chunks, frozen peas, berries, even ice chips) to keep your four-footed friend brain-busy and their tongues happy, too. As dogs work for treats they’re also working their brains!  

Avoid this one if you’ve got an aggressive chewer – and instead, try the Kong Wobbler. It’s a larger version of the basic Kong ball, dishing out rewards more intermittently, working your best pal’s brain as it wobbles!

3. Stairway Fetch Brain ‘N Body Mover

This one does need you for a few minutes, but it’ll engage them in vigorous movement for that short time to help them burn off BIG steam, with tiny activity on your part! 

  • Toss their favorite toy upstairs several times. Mix it up by tossing it only a few steps up the first time, then halfway, then 3/4 and finally all the way. Give them plenty of praise each time.
  • Keep it short: This activity is intense; 5 minutes might be more than enough! The added concentration and effort of climbing uses up a good deal of energy. 

When this brain game is finished, give them a toy they like to chew actively for a little while—a dog-safe chew, bone, or stuffed animal—so they can calm down and direct any remaining energy in a positive way.

4. Dog TV

Whaat? TV for mental stimulation? This creative digital option might be just the thing to help your pup be less-stressed while you’re busy. It’s a channel packed with programming that’s “scientifically designed streaming for dogs” (read more about their science here). Programming looks a little different, adjusting for the differences in how dogs see and hear, and rotates through stimulating and relaxing activity to help keep your best pal happier, longer. They offer a free trial, with monthly subscriptions starting at $6.25/mo

  • PRO TIP: Set aside a special chew- and/or comfort-toy that they get only when you’re not home… even your furry friend likes their environment livened up a bit!

Work your dog's brain on busy days5. Arrange for help to deliver more brain games for your dog

If your routine has changed and you need longer-term help, here are a few options to fit different budgets: 

  • Swap play-date time with a friend or neighbor. They can bring their dog over for a play date when you’re swamped, you do the same when they’re busy.
  • Find a dog-walker who does more than just walk. 
  • Enroll in a short-term Brain Games class like this one from College for Pets.
  • Look for a regular drop-off program – for fur-families in Central New Hampshire, our canine day camp is in constant demand, but if you live elsewhere look for well-regarded programs near you. 

The investment in time and/or money to get help is not only good for your dog’s health, it can work out well for your wallet compared to the cost of damaged furniture from a frustrated dog!

Providing brain games for your dog isn’t just a nice-to-do, it’s essential for a healthy, balanced, member or your family. Dogs absolutely thrive on human company and our love—and as most dog owners soon discover, we’re healthier and happier when our dogs are too!

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