Using Games to Calm Your Dog

Working your dog’s mind is as equally important as working his body.  However, many owners are not aware of the importance of mental enrichment or how to provide it for their dog.  Let’s consider two scenarios.

Scenario #1: You go to work, come home to make dinner, and then settle down to watch television or read a book. You then go to bed and fall asleep quickly. 

Scenario #2: You stay home from work, take a long nap, then watch reruns of your favorite show. When you go to bed, you are unable to fall asleep because your mind just won’t settle down.

The difference between these two scenarios is that in scenario #1, you had the necessary mental workouts throughout the day, whereas in scenario #2, it did not take very much mental energy to nap and watch television. Many dogs fall into scenario number two but there are some easy and fun ways to combat his boredom by using puzzles toys and games. 

Games to Decrease Destructive Behaviors and Anxiety

Dogs who are bored are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors.  You will often find dogs who have underlying anxiety displaying more frequent behaviors such as pacing, crying, over-grooming, and much more. In the case with Cooper, my eight-year-old German Shepherd mix with underlying anxiety, I saw old behaviors unseen for years resurface, and even new ones develop when our older dog passed away.  

The food bowl is one of the most overrated dog accessories. While it is convenient if you are in a rush to leave for work and need to feed your dog or have a dog that is used to free-feeding with a bowl always full of food, getting rid of the bowl and using your dog’s meals in toys and games can combat his boredom and anxiety. 

DIY Games and Activities

When Brody, our older dog, passed away, Cooper’s old behaviors of pacing, crying and shaking resurfaced.  He normally ate just one of his two daily meals out of the bowl but I quickly took the bowl out of the picture.  Instead, I made interactive toys from items found around the house, such as a PVC pipe, a towel, and boxes. Not only did this provide Cooper with something different to do, but it helped to increase his confidence as he worked to get to the food.

When I had extra time to do 2-3 minute training tasks, I started teaching Cooper new tricks. He has since learned to close the door and is currently working on putting away his toys.  Cooper’s anxiety has drastically decreased we have use these games to help calm him.  

With 10 minutes of mental exercise being equivalent to 1 hour of physical exercise, taking away the bowl and implementing similar activities with your dog can make a big difference in improving his behavior.  Many expensive products can be found online or in the stores.  The problem with most is not only the lack of variety, but also once your dog figures out how to solve them, the difficulty level cannot be increased.  For owners looking for a cost effective way to provide games to help their dog be calm, I have put together the online Boredom Blaster Workshop,  where I show you how to use materials commonly found around the home to make puzzle toys, create training games, and teach new tricks with over 30 activities! You just might be surprised by how much they help your dog relax.

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