1. Know the nose
Most people know that dogs have delicate sniffers. The nose is in constant use. On walks a dog needs to sniff the news off the sidewalk, the bushes, or the hydrant. They need to leave a message for the next dog that comes along. Walks are good boredom busters for physical and mental activity. Shake things up a bit by playing a game of “Treasure Hunt”. Place the dog in a sit/stay or down/stay. Walk ten to fifteen paces away from the dog, lay a high end treat on the ground. Walk over to the dog, treat and praise for not breaking the command and release him to get the treat with a new command like “find” or “treasure”. Continue this for a few more rounds until the dog gets it. Then hide the treat in a less visible spot, making the dog work a little harder. This game could be played anywhere a dog is willing to participate.
2. Learn a new skill
Any type of training is good for mental stimulation. Learning a new trick every couple of weeks keeps a dog sharp, focused and eager to learn. For a less than active owner, a good trick to teach a dog is “flip the switch” (turn off the light). All that is needed is a touch stick, some treats and a little patience. If the dog isn’t tall enough to reach the switch, make some stairs out of books or boxes. This is a good nose target game if the dog enjoys touch training. If the dog isn’t familiar with targeting, begin with that. It’s a new base skill for a dozen different uses.
3. Toy rotation
The same toys day in, day out can make a dog yawn with boredom. Put them all out of a dogs reach and only give him two or three at a time. Rotate different toys for different days. Rotating a dog’s toys will keep him interested and engaged in something new and different with each rotation. This includes the puzzle toys as well as the stuffed animals.
4. Shake up the daily jaunt
A dog is routine oriented; it’s very easy to fall into a rut. While smells vary day to day, the same route doesn’t tell much of a story to the dog. Shake up the routine a bit by taking a different route, going for a hike, or even switching parks. Taking a dog to a completely new environment shakes his brain into exploratory overdrive and makes him think a little harder.