Keeping Your Pup Mentally Stimulated During Quarantine: Part 1

Fight off boredom and keep your dog active, happy and entertained as they sniff, taste, chase, forage, retrieve and chew their way through the
remainder of this lockdown!
This past weekend, dogs province-wide gave a collective howl of disappointment as the Ontario government announced that its parks and recreation areas will continue to be closed for at least another month. But, believe it or not, this doesn't have to be bad news for our furry friends. While our dogs are no doubt missing their off-leash romps with puppy pals and long hikes along their favourite trails, there are plenty of ways to ensure your dog remains physically and mentally stimulated while at home.

In our next two posts, we'll be talking about some of our favourite indoor activities to help ensure the ongoing physical, psychological and emotional health of our pets during this pandemic.
Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys are an awesome indoor activity that provides mental stimulation for your dog by challenging them to use their problem-solving skills in order to access some hidden treasure (food, treat, toy, etc.). These toys are tons of fun for both you and your pet – they'll love the mental exercise of solving the puzzle and you'll have a blast watching them figure it out! Just make sure you start with something easy in order to build your dog's confidence; if the puzzle is too difficult from the get-go, your pup will quickly become discouraged and frustrated, and will likely lose interest. As your dog becomes more proficient at solving the puzzle, gradually increase the level of difficulty to keep them continuously challenged, engaged and mentally stimulated!
DIY @ Home Puzzle - The Muffin Tin Game
For a great "do-it-yourself" (DIY) puzzle toy, all you need is a muffin tin, some tennis balls and some treats – place treats inside each cup with a tennis ball on top, and watch your dog's problem solving skills in action as they work out how to remove each ball to get at the yummy treat hiding below! As your dog becomes more skilled at solving this puzzle, you can ramp up the difficulty level by placing treats in only some of the muffin cups.

For an even simpler DIY option, try hiding some delicious treats inside a folded or rolled up towel or underneath some overturned empty cardboard boxes.
Traditional Games of Fetch or Tug-of-War
A good old-fashioned game of fetch or tug-of-war is a great way to help your dog blow off steam indoors. With a few small adjustments (moving aside furniture to clear an empty space, putting away anything breakable, using a softer ball designed for indoor use, rolling the ball instead of throwing it), these classic games can safely be played inside. Your dog will have a grand old time chasing, retrieving and tugging away while getting in some much needed physical exercise!

If you'd like to add in some mental stimulation for your pup and you don't mind splurging, the iFetch Automatic Ball Launcher for Dogs is an amazing little gadget. As its name implies, this high-tech device automatically spits out balls for your furry friend to chase after and bring back for relaunching. It has multiple distance settings (10, 20 and 30 feet) and provides both physical and mental exercise for your canine companion since they must work out how and where to insert the ball to initiate relaunch.
If fetch isn't your dog's cup of tea, tug-of-war is a fun way to burn off some of your dog's excess energy while cooped up inside. This game sometimes gets a bad rap due to the common misconception that it encourages or increases aggression in dogs or that it will result in some sort of a power struggle between you and your pup as you compete against one another to win the game. But research has found no link between playing tug-of-war and any behavioural problems, including aggression, and in fact this game is really more about cooperation than it is about competition. Think of the tug toy as the "prey" and you and your dog as members of the same pack working together to bring down your target – it's you and your dog versus the tug toy, not you versus your dog! Not only is this game a terrific workout for your dog, it's also a great way to satisfy your dog's predatory instincts while strengthening your bond through teamwork! That said, we do recommend following these basic rules when playing tug-of-war with your pet, and be sure to use a tug toy that's big enough to give you a good grip and soft enough to ensure there's no risk of damaging your dog's teeth.

Treat Dispensing Toys
Treat dispensing toys are an amazing way to keep your dog happy and occupied for an extended period of time. There are plenty of options when it comes to these types of toys but if your pup is new to the treat-dispensing toy game, the KONG Classic is always a safe bet – it's durable, reasonably priced, comes in a variety of sizes and can be stuffed with all kinds of deliciousness (canned dog food, xylitol-free peanut butter, plain yogurt and pumpkin puree are just a few options). A hollow KONG that's been filled with healthy goodness and frozen overnight will have your dog licking and chewing away contentedly for hours! If you're looking for a DIY alternative to the stuffed KONG, an ice cube tray will do the trick – we suggest using the silicone variety as they're much gentler on your dog's teeth, tongue and gums.
Much like humans, our canine companions need to be stimulated in a variety of ways – environmentally, cognitively, socially – to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Keep your dog healthy and happy by mixing up their day-to- day routine with the addition of some inside enrichment! And if you enjoyed this week's run down of indoor activities for your pet, be sure to check back in next week for part two of this "stimulating" series!
APRIL, 29 / 2020
Text author: Sarah Kmiec
Photography: Unsplash, Cheerful Hound, KONG Company