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Mental Stimulation Ideas for your Dog

At this time of year, I like to remind people about the importance of mental stimulation for our dogs.  As it gets colder outside, some of the activities that we do with our dogs or the amount of time we spend outside may decrease depending on ourselves (tolerance of the cold), breed or size of dog.  Remember that there are plenty of activities that can do in the house as well.  Let me refresh your memory of a few of them.

·       Recall in the hallway or stairs

·       Hide and Seek of treats or toys

·       DIY your own treat dispensing toy

·       Set up an obstacle course in the house

·       Learning a new trick

·       Teaching a new skill for both of you, scent work, retrieve or agility

·       Take your dog to visit a friend/family or shopping to a store – I also recommend practicing your training skills as these places add another element of distraction

·       Initiate a game of tug with your dog – schedule daily play time

·       Invite some of your dog’s friends over to have a play date.

·       Instead of a cold walk, play (run, jump or climb) with your dog outside as this will increase both your and your dog’s body temperature

As I continue to meet clients either in classes or consults and recommend these games a lot of dog owners say that they cannot treat their dogs as they have allergies or stomach sensitivities.   They believe that since their dog is eating a special diet that they cannot receive treats or use food for enrichment or training.  So, I decided to explore as to how do you provide food enrichment for dogs that have allergies or a sensitive stomach.

My first idea is to always check to see if the diet that you feed your dog comes in canned.  If yes, then always have a can in the cupboard so you can smear it on a lick mat, stuff a kong or roll into meat balls and cook (dehydrate them) them use as treats.  If your dog’s food does not come in canned, you can soak the kibble in warm water to make it mushy in order to smear on a lick mat, stuff a kong and then freeze it.  Another option is to use your dog’s kibble in a kong wobbler or tricky treat ball – so your dog enjoys nosing or pawing at the object to get the food to fall out. 

Most veterinary clinics carry treats that can be fed to dogs that have sensitivities so check at your veterinary clinic. 

If you are feeding a diet from the pet store, I suggest checking the ingredients list for the main meat source.  For example, if it is salmon or lamb then visit your grocery store’s meat department and buy that same protein.  Read the ingredients and make sure there are no additives.  Prepare the meat and then use as treats for your dog. 

Lastly if you enjoy baking there are lots of different recipes for treats for your dog with various ingredients and you can make your own treats at home.

To summarize, your dog can still enjoy being rewarded with treats, doing enrichment activities, and learning new things, you just have to be a little more creative.

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