Challenging a Dog’s Mind and Senses for Overall Fitness
This week, we are participating in two blog hops. Our FitDog Friday hop (of course) and also the Zukes Fuel the Love Blog Hop. We often use Zuke’s treats when training our dogs and when we play games with our dogs that challenge their minds, bodies, and senses. Today’s post is about the role that mental and sensory stimulation can play in your dog’s overall fitness.
Being fit encompasses more than just physical fitness. Yes, physical activity plays a role in the well-being (behavior, mood, and overall health) of your dog. Still, your dog requires mental and sensory challenges as well. These types of challenges tend to keep your dog’s mind and senses sharp and in many cases can provide them with some great physical activity as well.
How a Dog Benefits from Mental Stimulation
There are many reasons why you should challenge your dog with mental and sensory stimulation.
- Use it or lose it. Like with our muscular systems, the brain requires activity to keep fit. This is true for humans and it is also true for dogs. Keep your dog sharp and mentally fit by using an assortment of games, activities and different exercise routines.
- Added intensity. Any physical activity that includes a mental challenge or new sensory input is more intense, and your dog will expend more energy (i.e. they will burn more calories) doing it. You can add mental and sensory challenges by taking your dog to new places to walk or run or by adding tricks and game type of drills while you are playing or working out with them.
- Human canine bonding. Exercising and playing games with your dog can foster the human canine bond.
Benefits of Exercise on the Mind
There are numerous studies (see references below) showing that intense and consistent exercise can also help improve brain function in humans and the same should hold true for dogs. The old expression: “A healthy body yields a healthy mind” sums it up and has been proven to be true. So make sure your dog’s overall fitness program includes a variety of intense exercise (appropriate for their age and injury history), and a variety of mental and sensory games, so that they remain fit in the fullest sense of the word. One of our favorite games is called Find the Food.
Find the Food for a New Challenge
One of our favorite games, or perhaps I should say our dogs’ favorite games is called “Find the Food”. This game provides both mental stimulation and nose work. The way Maggie May plays, with such energy and enthusiasm, it becomes a mini-workout as well. We started playing this game many years ago with our Chocolate Lab Sally. Although it is hard to know for certain, I doubt that even Sally loved the game as much as Maggie and Slimdoggy Jack do.
How to Play Find the Food
The game can be played indoors or outside. We prefer outside as it is more challenging to the dogs. Grab a handful or two of low calorie treats. We often use the Zukes Mini’s due to their low calorie amounts (3 kcals per treat). With the dogs waiting inside at the front door, we walk around the yard and hide the treats: on the flower pots, on the garden hose, on rocks, in trees, and all over the porch and driveway. We then return to the house, have the dogs sit and stay before opening the door and letting them go find the food.
The dogs run all over the yard searching for the hidden treats and absolutely love the game. They are forced to use their eyes and their nose to locate them all. Our yard is large enough that they get a little exercise as they cover the yard during their hunt. When they are done, which can often be after 20 minutes or more of searching, they come back into the house and collapse on their beds. The combination of sensory load, mental stimulation, and physicality really knock them out. Maggie May looks like she just ran a marathon!
References and Further Reading
Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!
We are joining our friends over at Dog Tipper and AllThingsDogBlog.com for the Zuke’s #FueltheLove blog hop! For the next two weeks, you’ll be seeing over 30 blogs taking part in this great hop, each sharing news about Zuke’s treats, their Dog and Cat Cancer Fund, their eco-friendly practices, and much more! Many of the blogs will be hosting their own giveaways; some will be participating in a group giveaway. Others will be reviewing treats with their dogs’ opinions on these USA-made treats so be sure and check out the blogs below: