How to Keep Your Dog's Brain in The Best Possible Condition
Dog owners understand the importance of good nutrition and exercise. But did you know that exercise shouldn't only satisfy your dog's physical needs; they also require mental exercise to keep their brains going?
Giving your dog a mental workout reduces boredom and bad behaviour while slowing cognitive decline. Keeping your canine's brain stimulated is one of the crucial things that will make your pet relaxed, happy and calm.
Let's check out some creative ways to keep your dog's brain in the best possible condition!
Work on a new trick
Every time you start training your dog, you provide them with a mental challenge. Dogs are curious by nature and natural learners, so life-long learning is imperative for their mental health. Always research new tricks to work on and if you are ready to move past basic commands, look online or ask a professional dog trainer for additional ideas.
For example, you can teach your dog to retrieve various objects or jump through a hula hoop. You have to be patient, show trust and respect the dog's limits.
Have them work for their food
Our dogs have everything served on their platter since most of us just set their bowl and let them go at it. While there is nothing wrong with that, it's a good idea to encourage their natural scavenging habits. Start by changing their feeding schedule if you want to stimulate your dog's brain and spice up their feeding routine.
Instead of handing them over their food, make a fun game out of it. You could place meals or snacks into toys and have your dog work for their food. They will have to roll the toy around to get the food out of the hole. While it can be noisy, it's a perfect brain training for dogs.
Let your pet sniff while on walks
Going on for a walk is one of the most exciting parts of your dog's day. You could let your dogs spend some time sniffing around to boost their brain activity. While walking is one of the best physical exercises, dogs need to explore their surroundings.
Even though you have walked the same road countless times, there are always some new and exciting smells for your pet to explore. If you don't feel comfortable letting your dog lead you around, you can always teach them commands like "go sniff" and allow them to explore the terrain for a while.
Walks that include sensory enrichment and exploration tend to tire dogs more than straight-line walks.
Brain toys for dogs
Puzzle toys can be an excellent way to keep your dog busy and entertained. Your pet will focus on a particular task, which stimulates their brain. A daily 15-minute game can make a huge difference to your dog, giving them purpose and something to focus on, which means a lot when correcting bad behaviour.
Puzzle games will make your pet use their natural problem-solving skill and by keeping them interactive and engaged with interactive toys, you are boosting their self-esteem and tiring them out mentally. Make sure to adjust the toy size to the size of your dog to avoid choking hazards.
Do some nose work games
Many dogs love a simple nose work game. You can make them use their nose to find things and, in that way, boost their natural hunting skills. All that search will further stimulate your dog's brain. One of their favourite games is "go find it."
You can chop their favourite fruit or vegetable into pieces and hide them throughout the house. When trying this for the first time, we recommend using something smelly since it might take them several tries to find the hidden treat.
Keep this activity fun and simple and praise your dog whenever they find a treat. After your canine gets the hang of it, try hiding treats in harder-to-find spots and encourage them to use their nose more actively.
Start with the agility course
Whether you have access to a proper course or need to make your own version, your pet may benefit from participating in an obstacle course. Canine agility courses are excellent for mental and physical workouts as your dog needs to figure out how-to pass-through objects, manage tight spaces and jump over objects.
For elderly dogs, jumping and running can be too tiresome; that's why you will have to modify obstacles and adjust them to their age. You might have to engage them in a physical workout or play a puzzle game.
Use interactive toys
Interactive toys are designed to keep your dog mentally stimulated. These toys have different difficulty levels and require your dog to figure out how to access the treats. Some interactive toys have moving parts or sound effects, keeping your dog engaged.
Dogs can get bored with their toys over time. To keep your dog mentally stimulated, rotate their toys regularly. Introduce new toys every few weeks and put away toys your dog hasn't played with for a while.
Dogs are social animals and enjoy being around other dogs and people. Socialisation can be a great way to stimulate your dog mentally and improve their behaviour. You can take your dog to the dog park, enrol them in a doggy daycare or set up playdates with other dogs.
Play hide and seek
Dogs just love playing this game, especially around the house. Hide and seek will work best if you could team up with your family members. You will have one of your family members sit in a room with your dog while you find a hiding place.
Make sure your pet can find you easily. Standing in a bathtub behind a shower curtain will be a great place for you to hide. Someone else will have to give your dog a command by saying something like "go find him/her". When a dog manages to find you, praise them, rub their ears or pet them for a few minutes.
Dog brain health supplements
Like humans, dogs can also benefit from different brain supplements supporting brain function and cognitive health. Here are some dog supplements that can help improve brain function in your canine:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, are essential for brain function and development. They can be found in fish oil supplements or foods such as salmon, sardines and anchovies.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants help protect the brain from free radical damage and may improve cognitive function. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. These can be found in supplement form or foods such as blueberries, spinach and kale.
- Vitamin B-Complex: Different types of vitamin B are important for brain function and can help improve memory and cognitive performance in dogs. Some examples of B vitamins that can benefit dogs include thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
- Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo Biloba is a herbal supplement that may improve cognitive function and memory in dogs. It improves blood flow to the brain, which can help support brain health.
- Bacopa Monnieri: The active compounds in Bacopa Monnieri are bacosides, which are believed to improve brain function by enhancing the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Studies indicate that this compound can boost cognitive function, including attention, memory and learning.
- Green tea extract: Green tea extract is a natural ingredient commonly used in dietary supplements and functional foods. It contains a group of compounds called catechins, which have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can support cognitive function, learning ability and memory.
- Glutamine: Glutamine has been found to have neuroprotective properties, meaning that it can help protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. It has also been shown to improve cognitive function and memory in animal studies.
A balanced diet for better brain activity
A balanced and nutritious diet is important for overall health and well-being, (including brain health) in dogs. Here are some dietary tips to support better brain activity in dogs:
- Choose high-quality protein sources: Protein is essential for brain function and development. Look for high-quality protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish and lean cuts of beef.
- Include healthy fats: Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil supplements are important for brain health and cognitive function. You can also include healthy fats from sources such as coconut or flaxseeds.
- Provide complex carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide energy for the canine brain and body. Choose complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa, which provide sustained energy and are nutrient-rich.
- Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods: Antioxidants can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Include antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens and mix it well into dog’s food.
- Provide plenty of water: Adequate hydration is important for brain function in dogs, as dehydration can lead to cognitive impairment and fatigue. Make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health, which in turn can benefit brain health. A healthy gut can improve nutrient absorption and reduce inflammation, both of which are important for brain function.
Mental stimulation is an important part of our dogs' lives and there is always a great deal of things for you to do. Some are physicals, like playing obstacles, while others include problem-solving activities like dog puzzles or hide and seek. It doesn't matter what type of activity you choose as long as you keep your dog mentally engaged and their brains stimulated.