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  • Writer's pictureRachel Monteith

Exhaust your dog without walking them - mental enrichment

Are you like me? Very busy most of the time but not so busy I don't see the side eye I get from my dog when she's bored?

I feel your pain. When we feel love and we care for our dogs it opens a cavernous hole of guilt up when we don't feel we've given them the perfect day. And that's draining. Almost as draining as a one hour walk in the pouring rain and freezing cold, quite frankly.

So, we need to know that there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. And not a small chink either. In fact it's something I think you're going to be pleased to hear.

First thing first though - this blog post is NOT meant to give us an "out". And it's not meant to portray our dog walks as awful things, all of the time. Far from it. As I write this piece, the sun is beaming and the fresh air is calling me, and my dog, who has been patient most of the day following her early morning walk, to the local park.

So, frame this around the occasional moments when those walks feel like the last thing you can feasibly do. Maybe you're working, or maybe they are not well enough to walk? Maybe they are even struggling with walks - after all, I see many cases whereby dogs are in acute anxiety at being out and about with the unpredictable environment that can a public space can present to a dog. So there's lots of reasons. And these are the ones we are focusing on today.

From hereon in, you can add "enrichment" to your box of canine entertainment tricks. Mental enrichment to give it the proper title. To help you really understand this term, I want you to link your thoughts on it to the senses (in particular the nose) and your dog's distant relatives - wild dogs and wolves, and their day to day activities.

The nose is THE most sensitive of the dog's senses. And it's the one that stimulates them akin to us humans tasting something we have craved for a very very very long time. This might be the equivalent of a Parisian Macaron, or the best chicken kebab your town has to offer - horses for courses, take your pick. Just know that sniffing time float's a dog's boat with vigour, especially if something good happens at the end of it.

Now, whilst we would usually ensure our dogs get loads of sniffing opportunities on their walks, we're thinking about not being on a walk. And the options are abundant. But not before we talk about one other thing which is the second magic ingredient in this mental enrichment recipe (which only needs two ingredients by the way).

The second of these is clumped under the title of "using the thinking brain". So, let's think of some ideas:

  • Searching for something tasty

  • Trying to remember where something is

  • Working out how to get access to something

It sounds simple - because it is - no need for fancy puzzle games from fancy stores. Devise your own ways! For example:

  • Wrap a treat up in a towel

  • Scatter feed a meal or grated cheese in the grass of your garden

  • Hide a smelly treat in another room and encourage your dog to find it with you

  • Hide your partner, your kids (old enough of course!) or a friend in the house and call your dog once - wait while they search the rooms for you, call again to encourage them.

We need to remember the basis of this kind of thing. You're doing something to emulate what dogs or wolves would do in the wild and what evolution has instilled in them to this day - this includes, searching for food, and locating buried food they want to come back to. Don't knock it till you try it! I can promise you, they'll settle better after just ten minutes of this. It doesn't take much to provide them with what they need.


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