A bored dog can be a destructive dog, and this is especially true of puppies that are curious, eager to learn, and may not understand what they are allowed to do. Physical exercise is important, but so is mental stimulation if your puppy is to be healthy, confident, and socialized. Think of a toddler who delights in running up and down the hall and is equally engaged playing with blocks or a puzzle. Your puppy is developing his cognitive skills, and mental stimulation and play will help him develop and will curtail destructive behaviors. Here are a few ways to keep him engaged and stimulated:
Play with your puppy. One of the best ways to stimulate your puppy is to play with him. Toys that challenge him to retrieve a treat, hide-and-seek, even a good game of fetch are simple activities you can do every day. Choose mentally stimulating games that you can play with your puppy.
Training sessions. Everything from simple commands and practical skills, to tricks or dog sports, stimulate and challenge your puppy. Keep training sessions short and fun. Avoid too much repetition; even the most eager dog will become bored. Make sure to give your pup lots of positive reinforcement, with his favorite treats. Break the treats up into small pieces that are easy for your puppy to digest. If you’re interested in canine sports, take our quiz to find out which one you should do with your dog.
Know the breed. You can capitalize on your puppy’s innate breed traits to provide activities and games that most suit him.
Most breeds thrive on having a job to do. Working, sporting, or herding dogs and highly active breeds may love activities like agility, lure coursing, herding, or rally. Even smaller dogs have inborn traits you can build on. Terriers, for instance, love chasing and digging activities.
Take him to new places and introduce him to new people. A walk through the neighborhood or a trip to the dog park gives him a lot of opportunities to see and smell new things, meet new people, and socialize with other dogs.
Most dogs have an innate need to be busy, and bored puppies will look for ways to entertain themselves. Lack of stimulation can lead to anxiety, frustration, and destructive behavior such as chewing. By devoting time each day to playing, walks, and training, you’re helping your puppy develop the cognitive skills and confidence that will make him a happy and social family member.