Mental stimulation for puppies, the doggie blog
Published on 25th January 2021
Last time, we spoke about physical exercise for puppies, and how moderation was key. Anyone with a puppy will know however, that they can be really full of beans!
So what can you do if your puppy still has lots of energy to burn after they’ve done their quota of physical exercise? The great news is that using their brains and noses uses way more energy than physical exercise, and will leave them tired-out in a calm, relaxed way.
About the Snout
Dogs have the most incredible sense of smell- the part of their brain (the olfactory epithelium) that’s set aside for processing smells is about 20 times larger than ours. As a result, people harness the power of the canine nose to identify diseases (including Covid-19!), to locate landmines, to find illegal substances, to find lost people, to find valuable food stuffs such as truffles, and much more besides.
Sniffing is a really rewarding activity for dogs, and it causes their pulse rates to drop, making it a calming activity. It’s no surprise then, that dogs love using their noses so much!
Nose games for puppies
Even though a puppy’s sense of smell is not fully developed, and their attention span is roughly equivalent to that of a gnat, you can still play games with them that will get those snouts working!
My personal favourite is a treat search, and my own dogs do this every day, at least once.
How to treat search
Choose a nice, tasty snack. I often buy packets of sliced cooked chicken or use cheese, as I prefer natural snacks to highly processed dog snacks! Then, cut it up into lots of teeny tiny pieces- no bigger than your baby finger nail.
Once you have your food ready, find a nice grassy spot. The first time you do this, show the puppy one piece of food and let him see you drop it into the grass. He should find it without too much effort. Then let him see you drop 3 pieces, and let him find those. Then five pieces. By now, he should have the right idea.
Now, take all the treats you want your puppy find and throw them all into the grass at once. Let him sniff around and find them. Don’t be tempted to help him- it’s actually the searching they find most rewarding, the finding is secondary. Stay quiet and resist the urge to praise or encourage him, just leave him be. As well as being great mental stimulation, this activity is also brilliant for building focus and concentration. So time him each time, and watch his focus grow!
If you’d like to find lots more inspiration for nose games to play with your puppy, check out ‘The Canine Kingdom of Scent’ by Anne-Lill Kvam. Please be aware that it is not possible to reserve physical items due to Level 5 restrictions.
Submitted by Stephanie Rousseau: dog trainer, behaviourist, and author of Office Dogs: The Manual. However, you can check out the website here: www.stephsdogtraining.ie
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