Top 10 Ways to Provide Your Furry Friend with Mental Enrichment

Top 10 ways to provide your furry friend with mental nourishment

The mind is the most powerful tool. Be it humans or pets a strong mind is essential to overcome any obstacles life may pose. Many of us are under the preconceived notion that our pets need only physical exercise for a happy life but the reality is that the need for mental enrichment is far superior. For your fur babies, 15 minutes of mental stimulation is equivalent to 1 hour of physical activity.

Importance of mental stimulation for your pets

Here are some pointers to understand the significance of mental stimulation:

    • Boosts your pet’s mental health

    • Improves cognitive function

    • Boosts confidence

    • It is a stress buster

    • Keeps your pet happy

    • Strengthens our master-pet bond

    • Helps tire out your dog

    • Helps improve attention span

    • Eliminated destructive behaviour

Signs to identify boredom in pets:

    • Fights and conflicts with other household pets

    • Behaving restless

    • Pawing at face

    • Excessive licking of paws

    • Trying to escape from home

    • Duration and requirement of mental stimulation for your pets

    • Loud and incessant barking

    • Tail chasing

    • Eating out of garbage bins


Go on a scent walk 

    Usually the 2 main motives of a walk are excretion and exercise. The idea of letting your pet explore new routes to register certain odours is quite novel. Our mundane routine does not allow our pets to enjoy or connect to their ancestral origin of wolves. Dogs belong to packs and the process in which they comprehend the scents and odours is way beyond what our brain can understand. They have millions of scent receptors in comparison to us and can note the context of origin of that particular scent such as certain animals, humans, and changes in weather. Scent walks can help improve mindfulness and any sort of bad behaviour in pets.  

    Here is how to take your pet on a scent walk: 

      • Take your pet on a different walking route.

      • If your pet is trained to walk off leash let them do so.

      • Let your pet stop and smell at places wherever they please.

      • Be patient and let your furry friend take their time.


    Make your dog work for their meal 

      Most of us pet parents do not think of the possibility of making our dog work for their food. This choice is completely up to the pet parent. However, basic commands such as sit, wait and shake are some ways to practice some training before they enjoy their meal. There are several toys and serving dishes which helps slow down the pace of eating such as:

      Slow feeder 

      It is designed to reduce the speed of eating and It is available in many attractive colours, patterns and designs which can help the pet eat slowly. It helps reduce bloating and any other GI discomforts your pet may possibly have and thereby reduce risk of choking due to food.

      Lickimats

      These can be used to serve dry food, raw food and wet food. They are mats made of silicone or rubber and can be washed easily with soap and water. They can be used to distract your pet by applying peanut butter on the mat as you give them a warm bath.        


      Teach your pet new tricks

      In contradiction to popular belief, you can always teach an old dog new tricks. The attention span of your dog and the ability to grasp new commands can vary from pet to pet. They may need twice the amount of time to learn the trick too sometimes. Puppies learn faster than senior dogs. Practice and reward can help your pet. Practice makes perfect and rewarding them with treats is a good motive for learning as your pet may feel motivated to work harder for his/her favourite treat.


      Invest in some toys 

      This is the best time to be a pet! The market for pets is filled with loads of stuff to pamper your pooch. Here are some examples of toys to use and help your pet with – 

        • Kong toys – You can fill your pet’s favourite peanut butter, some yoghurt or some biscuits too. Your pet will enjoy spending time as they lick up the kong toy clean.

          • Snuffle toys – These toys have several pieces of cloth which are stitched in different shapes and designs in such a way that small treats can be hidden in the gaps. They are a fun way to keep your pet busy.

            • Puzzle toys – These toys are available in various skill levels and your pet can have a nice time to use their snout and sniff out their favourite treats and food.

              • Rope toys can be used to play tug of war with your furry friend too!

              Playing fetch with toys over a staircase with your pet.


              Play some creative games to stimulate nose work 

                There are fun indoor games which you and your pet can play to improve your bond. The shell game is a popular one among many. 

                This is how you can play with your pet:

                  • Take 3 similar cups and your pet’s favourite food or treat

                  • Place a treat under 1 cup

                  • Shuffle the cup and let your pet watch

                  • Your pet can guess which cup has the treat

                If your pet is correct, they get rewarded with the treat.


                Teach your pet the names of toys 

                  You can teach your pet the names of their toys. Every pet has a favourite toy that they are attached to due to multivariate reasons.  It could probably be because of emotional attachment which began from their first day at home. You can play the “find it” game with your pet. Hide their toy in a spot and ask them to go find it. Like if your pet’s toy is called “monkey” you can ask them to “find monkey”. My pup is very attached to his monkey toy and we usually play the game  where he behaves like the super hero trying to save the monkey from a monster holding it captive and he really enjoys it too!


                  Give them frozen treats 

                  If it is the summer season, you must make yummy frozen treats or pupsicles for your pets out of carrot, beetroot, and bone broth. You can provide them with nutrition and mental enrichment simultaneously. Frozen treats entertain your pet but at the same time help them savour the taste and eat slowly. 

                  Here are some recipe ideas – frozen watermelon popsicles, berry popsicles, peanut butter banana pupsicles etc.. 


                  Train your furry friend to complete an obstacle course 

                  You can use cones and rods or invest in an agility training set to entertain your pet. However, you could still reap the benefits by using basic household items such as blankets, broomsticks and toys. It may not feel professional but all you need is some fun time spent together.

                  Here are some tricks you can teach them: 

                    • Jump over the broom

                    • Sit on your blanket

                  But you may need to make sure the commands are quickly paced to make it fun. 

                     

                    Play hide and seek 

                     If your pet is trained to do the basic commands such as sit,  stay and come, this is the game for you. You can play this game at home. Just ask your pet to sit and then once you have hidden in a spot, your pet can come on command. Praise your little fur baby and reward them with hugs and kisses. However, it is best played at home or in the backyard to avoid your pet from getting lost in the woods which is a dangerous and scary place to be alone for your pet.  

                    Take them for obedience classes 

                    Several pet stores near you can help you out with arranging an obedience class for your pet. If you do not feel confident to train your pet, you can always take the help of a trainer to provide the necessary mental enrichment and training but it must always be under your supervision.

                    These are just some ways you can help your pet’s mental well being. You can also be creative and think of other ways too! But remember to be slow and patient with your pet and never get frustrated at your poor little furry baby as it is the learning face and training takes time. But there cannot be a better way for you to empathise and be compassionate to your furry baby. 


                    Mayuri,
                    Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight

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                    The London Obesity & Endocrine Clinic specialises in Weight Loss and Endocrine disorders at the Specialist Weight Loss Centre in Chennai, India. We offer face to face and virtual consultations with our specialist clinical lead, Dr Rajeswaran, who has 25+ years experience in this field. We support people with Obesity related medical conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver, Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Endocrine disorders like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, PCOS, Hirsutism, Adrenal Dysfunction, Menopause, Pituitary problems and Sexual Dysfunction. Our services predominantly cover major cities in India including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and PuneWe also offer aesthetic treatments, metabolic master health checkups, bespoke weight management plans and an unique online weight loss plan for wellness and weight management. Get in touch to transform your life!

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