Mental and Physical Activities for Dogs

Dogs have been part of our history for thousands of years. No one knows for sure when the relationship started, but we do know that dogs were initially used to work alongside their humans. Dogs were bred for a multitude of purposes that ranged from fighting in wars to eliminating rodents.

People chose dogs based on their intelligence, size, and breed for specific purposes. As humans evolved, their four-legged companions did too. They developed together to the modern age, where people now leave them alone for long periods of time. This means that dogs bred for activity have nothing to do.

Learn some activities that can keep your pup actively engaged and healthy, and can keep you busy as well.

What Does Your Dog Need?

Dogs of all breeds and sizes need to have their minds and bodies exercised. Many of them lay around waiting to be fed, for you to come home, or for something to happen. This is not only a recipe for disaster in your house but can lead to health problems for your dog.

Dogs are much more intelligent than many people think. Scientists and researchers put them at close to a two-year-old human's level of intelligence. Most people are familiar with the term ‘terrible twos’, an age that many parents dread and enjoy at the same time. 

Two-year-olds are discovering, learning, moving, and having fun. Your dog is very much the same. They need to find things, explore, learn, and have fun. This can be difficult for people today who are busy with work and life in general. Your absence creates a need for dogs to be entertained and mentally exercised while you are gone.

Enriching Activities for Dogs Left Alone

If you have to leave your dog at home while you work, there are several things you can leave out to keep them entertained or engaged. One of the most effective is a puzzle toy. Food puzzle toys make a dog work to solve a puzzle for a reward. 

Many of these puzzles are designed to give treats as a reward, so take care not to fill puzzles with too many treats. If the puzzle toy has multiple holes for treats, make your dog work for their treat by placing a treat in one or two of the holes. They’ll have to investigate and find the spot with the treat and figure out how to open it. 

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Dog chew toys are great to leave out as well. If you give them something to chew on and play with while your gone, you’re less likely to come home to shredded couch pillows. 

If you can afford it, hire a dog walker to check on your pooch and take them for a walk while you’re at work. If your neighbors are home during the day, see if one can stop in and say hi to your dog, take them for a walk, or let them out every once in a while.

Activities to Do With Dogs

If you like to be active with your dog, here are some activities that will stimulate their minds and give them the exercise they need.

Go for a walk or hike. Walks are by far one of the best activities for a dog and their human. Walks let them get out of their usual surroundings and explore. It also gives you both a chance to practice the behavioral commands you (might) have been working on. 

You don’t need to take the same route for every walk. Let your dog sniff around and find things to investigate. This doesn’t mean you should let them wander at full leash length all the time, but you should allow them to look around to fulfill their natural curiosity.

Geocaching. Geocaching is an activity where someone hides something and uses their GPS to mark its location. Have someone place treats or toys at a site and take your dog out for a hunt. When you get close, have them try to locate the toy, and celebrate with them when they do.

Swimming. Many dogs love the water. Find somewhere to take your dog for a swim. Dogs can play fetch in the water, and most love to swim with their humans too. Get in the water with them and enjoy the swim.

Dog Activities

If your dog needs activity, but you're not feeling up for it, there are also things you can do with them that require less action on your part.

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Playdate. Much like humans, dogs are social animals who need time with others. If you have neighbors or friends that have dogs, see if they would meet up and let their dog(s) play with yours. There should be a period of letting the dogs get to know each other before letting them off the leash to play. Once they are familiar, let them run and have fun.

Fetch. The all-time favorite game for dogs and their humans. You don’t need much for this game. Your tools might depend on the type of dog. A Czechoslovakian shepherd can play fetch with a two-inch diameter tree branch, while a Chihuahua might need something a bit smaller. Of course, you can always have your dog fetch a ball. 

Dog Park. If your area has a dog park, you can take your (hopefully) socialized dog to the park and let them run with other socialized pups. This can give them the interaction they need as well as all the activity they can take in a day.

Older Dog Activities

If your pup is getting on in years, it is still important for them to get exercise to keep their muscles strong and joints moving. If you’re worried about exercising your older canine, take them to your veterinarian and have them checked out. The veterinarian can give you some exercise tips for older pups.

Most older dogs can still go for walks. They might even be able to play fetch, just not as energetically as they used to. You can also teach your older dog to use a treadmill to help them build their endurance and keep them active.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club: “15 Outdoor Activities That Will Keep You and Your Dog Entertained This Summer.”, “Alone Time for Dogs: How Much Is Too Much?”,  “How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day?”, "Brain Games for Dogs: When Can a Puzzle Be the Solution?"

American Psychological Association: "Smarter Than You Think: Renowned Canine Researcher Puts Dogs’ Intelligence on Par with 2-Year-old Human.”

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