2 Simple Tips for Mental Enrichment: Straight From a Dog Trainer

As everyone is going back into the office or back to school, our dogs will soon be home alone and left to their own devices.  Too often we hear owners focus solely on physically tiring their pups but forget to tire them mentally.  Here are two ways to provide mental enrichment for your dog so that they don’t get bored while everyone is gone:

Transform every meal time into training time.

Whether you’re teaching obedience commands like “’sit”, “down”, or “heel”, or have graduated to teaching tricks like “paw”, and “roll-over”, making your dog work for every bite of food goes a long way. Some dogs will master the “let’s try every trick” approach until they get the treat.  There is very little mental work in paying no attention and trying everything for every command.  We want to have our dogs slow down, pay attention, and carefully choose which behavior they know is associated with the command.

Tip: Since dogs read gestures and body language much better than they understand verbal cues, try to pair a hand gesture with each command.  Say the command first, then provide the gesture, then reward them.  There are millions of free videos on youtube or the tips and tricks section of our Instagram account @knottydog has some great pointers.

Get your dog ready for you to leave before you actually leave.

Teach dogs to sit calmly in place.

Designating a “place” can encourage calmness.

If your dog follows you around the house when you’re home doing routine activities, there is a good chance that when everyone leaves for the day, it will be very challenging for them. Practice a “place” or a “crate” command while everyone is home. Give the dog something to chew on while they are away from you in this space.  The more we help our dogs practice being alone/away from us even while we are home, the more ready they will be for the moments when we all actually leave.  Practicing being calm and relaxed away from everyone is a huge confidence builder, and can be very mentally draining if they are used to always being close.

There are tons of resources for teaching these commands online and if you ever need help with implementation, send us an email or find us on Facebook! 

About the Author: Bryan Heafy

Bryan is a dog trainer behind the Knotty Dog. The Knotty Dog strives to empower dog owners to pursue the best in themselves and in their dogs. We believe that when it comes to our dogs, it starts with us and our relationship with them. As a society we have trended towards calling our dogs our fur babies. However, our responsibility as parents with children is to teach them good decision making in order for them to grow, our responsibility to our dogs is the very same. We believe that teaching clear communication and fostering a relationship with respect and relevance are a cornerstone of a healthy relationship.