5 Ways To Mentally Stimulate Your Dog

Dog Owners Of Bristol!!

Did you know that 10 minutes of mental stimulation can equal 30 minutes off-lead exercise!!

We all know the importance of physical exercise in a dogs daily routine. Letting your dog have off-lead time is extremely important to their mental health and general wellbeing. It burns of energy and releases tension but it also produces pleasure inducing brain chemicals like dopamine.

What most people don’t recognise is that being off-lead doesn’t always provide a lot of mental stimulation for your dog. It can provide a chance to play and socialise (dog depending), even the occasion bit of nose work (let’s scent that rabbit!) but not much  of a cognitive challenge.

I have listed 5 simple ways to help get those mental cogs turning. Most of these can be done in the comfort of your own home so you don’t even need to rely on Bristol’s unpredictable weather.

Most of them involve food but you can also use your dogs toys for some of them. The idea is to incorporate some or all of them into your Doggies routine. It will help to break up their day and keep them happy.

1.The Treat Hiding Game

This is a great one for all foodie hounds, you can use their own kibble or some nice treats.

Pop your dog in a safe space whilst you set it up. Place individual treats or biscuits in different places around the house or garden. Everywhere your dog has access, make things easy to begin with. Place them in the corner of room, around the back of the sofa and behind table legs.

Bring your dog back in and guide them around to each food piece, repeat an exciting command like “Find your treats”. This will help your furry friend to understand the task.

Once you have done this over a few days, it’s time up make things more difficult and to allow your dog to do the task on they own.

Place the items high and low, cover them with a tub or hide them in a old toilet roll tube.

Make it as interesting and challenging as you can! Always ensure that the areas your dog has access to are pet safe.

A simple variation of the treat hiding game can be using a toy. If your dog has a favourite toy you can get them to search for that instead.

2. Kong Wobbler

The Kong Wobbler is one of my all time favourites, this is mostly due to its simplicity in preparation. Fill it up with your dogs normal food or treats and watch the fun begin! The unique shape and weighted bottom make this treat dispensing toy a top challenge.

You need to make sure the treats can easily fall out of the specially designed hole, and some dogs will need a little demo to get going, but once they do its as much fun for the owner to watch as it is for the dog to play with. Look out for valuables as some dogs will pounce on the wobbler pushing it around the room or pick it up and toss it.

All in all a great way to use your dogs own food as a mental stimulation task.

The Kong Wobbler is around £13 on Amazon

The Kong Wobbler is around £13 on Amazon

3. LickiMat

They new kid on the block is the aptly named Lickimat. It’s a simple product but can be a great asset to the braining training toolbox. It’s basically a rubber mat with little grooves in the surface. It comes in three different designs so can bring a bit of variation as well.

Rub your dogs favourite sticky treat on the rigged surface and let the licking begin! I normally use dog safe Peanut butter, low fat soft cheese or pate.

If you want to make things even more challenging you could freeze the mat before giving it to your dog. Always ensure you supervise your dog, when they finish they may decide they want to chew it up and eat it!

The Lickimat is around £4 on Amazon

The Lickimat is around £4 on Amazon

4. Hide and Seek

This usually requires two people unless your dog has a strong stay command. One person distracts the dog and the other person goes and hides. The person hiding will say “Come find Me” and the dog is off on its merry quest to search you out. The helping human can give the dog hints if they need it but most dogs will have scented you out long before that's necessary.

If your pooch has a strong stay you can do this game on your own, this would increase its challenge. You can also bring in food rewards or your dogs favourite toy as a reward when they find you.

5. Training Task and Tricks

The absolute best way to mentally stimulate your dog is to teach them to do something new. I find that the biggest barrier to teaching new tasks is people's lack of knowledge about what dogs can be taught. We all know of the basics i.e sit, down and bed etc but that’s where it ends. The truth is you can train your dog to do so many fun and interesting tricks.

Perhaps you want to train your dog the simple tricks like twist and roll-over or challenge your dog to fetching items and closing doors. The success of the trick is secondary to the process of teaching it. Just trying to train tricks provide lots of mental stimulation and bonding between you and your dog.

There are no wrong answers when teaching tasks, its purely about fun and games and engaging in something together.

The best method for trick training is using a clicker, and if you need some inspiration you can check out own dog in the video below or look into 101 Dog Tricks book by Kyra Sundance.

This book is around £10 on Amazon.

This book is around £10 on Amazon.

Clicker training allows you to ‘mark’ small behaviours which is fundamental in advanced trick training.

Have a go, your dog will love you for it :))

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation in a dogs daily life. Some may say it’s even more important.

With the growing popularity of poodle crosses and other highly intelligent breeds we must adapt ourselves to there mental capacity for learning. If we use our creativity we can turn everyday things into mental enrichment which goes to the heart of a dogs happiness.

Have fun, challenge your dog and engage together to build a bond with the special pet in your life.

Newest Dog Sport - Treibball!

Treibball is a fun competitive canine sport that originated in Germany. The sport is designed to give high-energy, active dogs the mental and physical stimulation they need to be happy, well-adjusted animals. In addition to the many benefits the sport offers our canine friends, Treibball is also good for pet owners – it’s a fantastic way to form a deep and abiding bond with your dog!

Who does it suit?

The activity is good for dogs of all ages and sizes. It’s especially suited to active working dogs and those with a strong natural herding drive. It can also help build confidence and aid reactive dogs with their impulse control. In fact, any dog that loves to play chase games, herd, or to use their intelligence and problem-solving skills will enjoy Treibball.

What is Treibball?

The game consists of “herding” a number of large inflatable exercise balls into a football-like net. It’s great for herding breeds, but it’s also for many of the prey-oriented sporting dogs and terriers. It’s awesome fun for any energetic dogs who work well off-leash and need a job, dogs who like to chase stuff, or dogs who like to herd and don’t have sheep!

How to Play Treibball?

Eight balls are placed in a triangle.



The goal is a regular football goal or similar – 8 feet high by 24 feet wide. Dog and handler have 15 minutes to drive all the balls into the goal. Timing starts when the handler signals the outrun (sending the dog out and around behind the balls) and stops when all the balls are in the goal and the dog is lying down in front of the handler. The dog must do an outrun beyond the balls, stop and pause, and wait for the handler’s cue before beginning to drive the balls. The dog may not bite or break the ball. The fastest team with the fewest error points wins.

Score A Goal!!

Score A Goal!!

What equipment is required for Treibball?

This is another thing that makes Treibball so accessible; the equipment is easy to find and relatively affordable. You use the same balls that humans use for exercising and stretching, those standard inflatable exercise balls (also called Swiss balls or Pilates balls) available at sports stores and department stores.

For Treibball, you want to use a ball that is at least shoulder height to your dog. Since these balls come in heights from 45 cm to 75 cm, if you are teaching Treibball to a tiny breed dog, you can start with a standard playground ball.

Where kind of space does Treibball require?

At the beginning you don’t need a large space; you can train in a small garden. If you live in a home without a garden, it’s possible to train indoors. A hallway, a living room or even the small space between the couch and the coffee table will suffice. The best scenario, however, is a park with a flat field near your home. In the beginning, you don’t even need a ball.   

How many balls will I need?

As mentioned, you can start training without a ball. Some dogs are overly excited by a ball and have a hard time calming down and focusing on their owner/handler when a ball is involved. Those dogs can still learn the sport. First teach them the basics: how to orient to you, run away from you for a distance and push things. These simple skills can be taught without the use of a ball. As your dog progresses through the training stages, balls will be added into the exercises. When you reach the more advanced stages of the competition, your dog will push eight balls into a goal.

Have fun!!