Welcome to part two of my five part series on keeping your dog happy. In part one last week I talked about How to Keep your Dog Physically Healthy If you missed part one you can find it here. Today we’ll dive into how to Keep your Dog Intellectually Engaged which is such an important part of having a happy and well behaved dog.

Part Two: 5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

Keep your Dog Intellectually Engaged

Your dog is an intelligent sentient creature who needs to keep his mind engaged in order to be happy and healthy. Just think about it, if all of a sudden you had to sit at home all day with no books, television, phone, visitors or any other way to use your brain, you would probably go stark raving mad. At a minimum you would start to entertain yourself in strange ways that weren’t healthy for you or your environment (hmmm? I wonder how this peeling paint tastes?).

Well, your dog thinks and feels the same way. Staying intellectually engaged will keep your dog healthy and also keep him out of mischief that will stress you out and cost you money.

How do you keep your dog intellectually engaged?

Lucky for you there are an almost limitless number of ways to keep your pup thinking!

A few points before I get into the nitty gritty:

  • The word trainers use for intellectually engaging your dog is: enrichment. You’ll come across this word in the resources.
  • There is no “better” way to create engagement for your dog than what works for you, your dog and your lifestyle. Some resources will say you must do it this way or that, but you don’t have to. Experiment, have fun with trying out different things, see what activities/toys your dog really gets excited about and base your decisions on that.
  • Lots of advice will be about never feeding your dog from a bowl. I talked about this in part one of this series which you can review if you have questions. Bottom line is do this as much or as little as you like. Jake, for example, is not a fan of having to run around scavenging his food so we don’t do it much but some dogs love it so you be the judge.
  • So long as you are providing enough enrichment for your dog, you are doing fine!

OK, now for some awesome ways to engage your dog’s mind!

30 Ideas for keeping your dog intellectually engaged:

NOTE: If anything you try stresses out your dog, drop that activity. If you have a shy, fearful or undersocialized dog (like Jake), start with easy low-key ideas you think your pup will enjoy. You can stick with local and indoor activities as well. For example, I can take Jake to a new leash-only area but couldn’t take him to a dog-friendly cafe because other dogs might be there. I’ll talk more about this next week in Part 3 which is on keeping your dog feeling emotionally safe.

Here are 30 Ideas for keeping your dog intellectually engaged:

  1. Treat puzzles (DIY or store bought)
  2. Snuffle mats (also DIY or store bought)
  3. 101 Things To Do With A Box Game (you can download a poster on how to play this in our resource library)
  4. Sniffy walks (aka “snifaris”)
  5. Trick Training (on your own with Youtube or by taking a class)
  6. Learning a new skill by taking a class, hiring a trainer or finding something cool on Youtube to DIY
  7. Visiting new places together
  8. Meeting new people (is your pup a good candidate for becoming a therapy dog?)
  9. Trying a new activity. Has your dog ever been swimming?
  10. Experience new  sounds, textures, etc. (you can do this at home or out and about)
  11. Try a new food
  12. Try an agility or rally class together (or DIY a course in your yard)
  13. Learn freestyle (which I would love to try but Jake isn’t into it at all)
  14. Hike in the woods (Jake’s all time favorite)
  15. Run marathons
  16. Learn to surf
  17. Go for a scenic ride in the car (Jake loves doing this)
  18. Take a walk at an unusual time (late at night to see the stars together for example)
  19. Visit an opposite environment (city if you are country folk and vice versa)
  20. Make your dog a digging station by either filling a kid’s pool with sand or choosing a spot in your yard where he’s allowed to dig
  21. Have a PJ party (Jake and I do this. It consists of setting up the air mattress in the living room so we can sleep in the bed together which he loves. He’s no longer able to jump up into my bed and is terrified of dog stairs so he generally sleeps in his own bed on the floor next to my bed)
  22. Play hide and seek either inside our in the yard
  23. Get up early and watch the sunrise together
  24. Try nosework
  25. Try a dog sport I’ve never heard of
  26. Blow bubbles for your dog to pop
  27. Let your dog’s inner artist come out with non-toxic paint, canvas and her bare paws

  28. Find out what your dog’s favorite veggie is by offering a bunch of different (dog safe) kinds to him
  29. Play dress up together (if your dog likes wearing close; Jake is a confirmed nudist)
  30. You get the idea! The sky’s the limit. What else can you think of?

OK! Your mission is to get out there and try something from this list or something you think up yourself.

Activities such as swimming and taking classes has the double benefit of keeping your dog physically and mentally healthy so bonus points for those.

Share your favorite ideas and enrichment discoveries in the comments and I’ll compile a huge list to share with everyone.

Over the next three weeks I’ll share articles on numbers 3-5 of How to Make Your Dog Happy which are:

  1. Keep your Dog Emotionally Safe
  2. Keep your Dog Feeling Loved
  3. Keep your Dog Well Trained

In the meantime, take a look at your current enrichment activities with your dog and look for ways to make small (or large) improvements. Remember to have fun with this!

I’ll be putting all of these articles into a nicely formatted ebook that you can use for reference. To be sure to receive that when it’s ready, subscribe to my mailing list. Subscribing gives you access to our online resource library and you will also receive weekly emails (on Fridays) with tips and resources for you and your dog.