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Dogs, like you and I, love to be mentally stimulated. While they also love eating, sleeping, and walks mixed in with an occasional game of catch, they appreciate activities with some thinking. That’s why I wanted to share 3 ways to mentally stimulate your dog, to not only help them combat boredom, but to increase their confidence and your bond.
While us dog lovers know el perro es el mejor amigo del hombre (a dog is a man’s best friend), we also know they aren’t always the most attentive when their needs aren’t met. So before you try to teach a dog nuevos trucos (new tricks), you may want to make sure that they are properly fed. Preferably fed a great meal, filled with real quality ingredients, like those found in Beneful Originals. With meat as the #1 ingredient and no added sugar, I know my dog has all the fuel needed to help him tackle his apetito por la vida (appetite for life).
Once they’re estómagos están llenos (bellies are full), they need one more thing from us – to go for a walk to help them burn off any excited energy that may keep them from learning. A calm, fed body is ideal when trying to keep the mind mentally stimulated with these games.
Red Light Green Light
This game is perfect to train your dog on the beauty of sit/stay, vs overly excited play. So if you have a dog that needs to improve their control de impulsos (impulse control) during play, this game can help because it requires them to stay attentive through all the fun. The rules are simple, everyone runs, plays, etc. until an impartial party yells “red light.” That’s when everyone is required to freeze/sit/ stay, until they hear “green light” to resume play. Introduce the game with your dog on leash and with treats to reward them on good red light sits/stays. Once your dog masters the ability to control their impulses (i.e. doesn’t pull or nip when you red light them), you’re ready to take them off leash and mix up the length of time between luz roja, luz verde (red light, green light).
Hide and Seek
Nothing helps stimulate el cerebro de tu perro (your dog’s brain), like a good game of hide and seek. Instead of finding people though, their job will be to find their golosina o juguete favorito (favorite treat or toy). It should be fun, so start with easy hiding spots to keep them from getting discouraged and give up on the game. Start them in a sit/stay position and let them watch you hide their treat or toy. Then release them to find it and give them lots of praise when they do. Once they get a hang of it, up the stakes. You can choose to hide the treat or toy in another room, under a pile of clothes, etc. Or you may choose to play a sort of shell game by hiding the item among a series of varying boxes or cups. The idea is to just let your dog investigate, using his senses, to determine where the treat or toy is. If they seem to be struggling or looking discouraged, show them exactly where the item is, but don’t give it to them. Place it back and allow them some more time to find it. This is definitely an area where la práctica hace la perfección (practice makes perfect), so plan on doing it more than a handful of times. Once they get a hang of it you can add other retos (challenges) to keep it exciting for them.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “dogs have the ability to distinguish vocabulary words and the intonation of human speech.” So why not put it all to work by grabbing one of their toys, saying it’s name (generally one word names like ball, rope, ducky, etc. work best), and letting your dog grab it. Repeat the toy’s name as your dog plays with it and repeat the word association until your dog can differentiate the pelota/cuerda/patito (ball/rope/ducky) from otros juguetes sin nombre (other unnamed toys). Once they have their first toy name down, move on to having them learn the name of another. Then test out their word association by placing both named toys next to each other and having them correctly pick each by name. Once they’ve consistently picked correctly form a pile of other unnamed items, you’re ready to add more words to their vocabulary, including maybe even “soltalo” (“drop it”) and “guardalo” (“put it away”) so they can help you with clean up.
The key here is la paciencia, la recompensa, y la repetición (patience, reward, and repetition). Some dogs may not even get it, and that’s ok. Most will require quite a few training sessions before they get it, but watching them figure it out is pretty fun. If however, you’re dog seems stumped, don’t confuse them by overly talking to them. Simply add ánimo (encouragement) along the way and you’ll see their confidence grow toward giving you what you’ve asked of them.
And don’t be surprised if after all this mental stimulation, your dog’s hungry or tired. So make sure you stock up on your dog’s favorite Beneful Originals at Target to keep your dog prepped and listo para diversión (ready for all the fun).
Which Beneful Originals does your dog prefer and what games have you introduced in your play to mentally stimulate your dog?