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Why Your Dog Must Have Mental Stimulation

dog fetching frisby in Madison, AL

Pet ownership has come a long way in the last few years. Many owners are now prioritizing a healthy diet, holistic medicine, and regular exercise. One area that is often neglected though is mental health. It's easy to forget that our four-legged friends need more than a healthy diet and physical movement; they need mental stimulation.

Mental stimulation is often referred to as enrichment and covers a wide variety of activities. They often appear to be fun games or clever ways to feed snacks, but they're really so much more than that! Here are 4 reasons why your dog must have mental stimulation.


The most obvious reason to provide your dog with mental stimulation is the entertainment value. Most dogs live pretty boring lives. They don't travel or explore. They don't visit friends and family. They don't have social lives. Even though we think of dogs as simple creatures they do experience boredom just like us. 

Regular enrichment helps prevent boredom and since boredom often leads to trouble it's best to avoid it. Providing your dog with fun activities makes their day a little more exciting and breaks up their routine. You may have heard the idea that every dog needs a job. Often we think of these jobs as herding, drug sniffing, or retrieving. But in reality, their job doesn't have to be anything too intense. Their job can be learning tricks, fetching your slippers, or even just digging holes.

Improve Anxiety

Unfortunately, a lot of dogs suffer from anxiety. The reason is up for debate but it may be related to our city lifestyles, inadequate diet, bad genetics, or trauma.

Regardless of the source, helping our dogs feel calm and relaxed, especially in their own home, should be a priority. An enrichment activity, for example, a stuffed frozen Kong, can help relieve stress simply through the act of licking and working for their food.

Mental stimulation isn't a miracle cure for an anxious dog but it is a valuable tool. Consistent enrichment activities in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise can provide relief for mild stress and anxiety and improve the mental health of severely anxious dogs.

Wear Them Out

Physical exercise is of course important to a dog's health but it's not the only solution to wearing out a high-energy dog. In fact, over-exercising can lead to injury or create a dog with high endurance that needs even more exercise in order to relax.

Exercising your dog's brain is the perfect way to wear them out, especially when the weather is poor. Consider the human equivalent. A mentally taxing job will leave you drained and exhausted at the end of the day even though you didn't participate in physical labor. The same applies to dogs. 

Mental stimulation is also gentle on the body and an ideal form of exercise for senior dogs or dogs with mobility issues. Dogs recovering from surgery and on required bedrest will greatly benefit from gentle enrichment activities as well.

Provide An Outlet For Natural Behaviors

In order to fit in with humans and our lifestyles, dogs have had to sacrifice a lot of their natural behaviors. Activities like barking, digging, and sniffing is not only natural but also highly enjoyable! Stifling their urges can create boredom, stress, and problematic behaviors.

Providing an outlet for these natural urges will help prevent them from redirecting in inappropriate ways (like chewing shoes) and lets them be dogs. Performing these behaviors releases dopamine and serotonin and literally helps your dog be happier.

Your Dog Will Thank You

It doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming to give your dog some enrichment and mental exercise. It can be as simple as providing a sand pit to dig in or as complicated as scent training. The benefits will far outweigh the amount of effort you have to put in. Not only will your dog have a better quality of life but you will improve your bond and have fun with your pup!

This article was written by Maggie Reid for Top Gun Dog Training


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