Flickr User LollyKnit
Here are some ways to stimulate your smart dog and make her more aware:
1. Change Your Walk Routine
Walk your pooch in different areas at least twice a week. Visit a different neighborhood, a new park, a waterfront area, or a playground. In these areas, says Stordhal, he’ll see new things and people, hear new sounds and have different things to smell. It’s important to stimulate all of these senses, as they all contribute to making a smart and well-rounded dog.
2. Take a Class with Your Dog
Sign your dog up for a class—anything from flyball to obstacle courses or obedience training. Any of these classes will contribute to making a smart dog.
3. Keep the Right Toys
Interactive toys contribute to building brain power in a smart dog. Stordhal suggests that you keep puzzles that Fido has to manipulate to free a treat, squeaky toys that are also puzzles, or plush toys designed to make the dog think, such as those from Alpha Dog.
4. Play Games with Your Dog
Play games with your dog. Put a blanket over his head and see how long it takes him to get from under it. (If he freezes or lies down he is scared or overwhelmed so remove the blanket). Some dogs will free themselves in seconds; others take longer because they’ve not been conditioned to think for themselves.
You can also set up a weaving course in your house or yard, Stordhal suggests, or an obstacle course that involves crawling, jumping, and climbing. If you’ve trained your dog not to do these things, let him know it’s OK to do it with your permission.
5. Use Treats Wisely
Hide treats around the house, but consider your pet’s personality before you do this. Some dogs might go crazy tearing the house up to find the treats. An alternative is to put the treats under paper cups so your pooch has to figure out how to knock them over. Place them at different levels—under a rug, or on a bin or a chair.
6. Take Your Dog on Vacation
Take your dog on vacation, recommends Stordhal, but if she’s never been far from home, maybe build up to this with half-day and day trips. Camping and backpacking are ideal.
7. Socialize Your Dog
Let your dog meet other dogs, as well as people doing different things—a person in a wheelchair, a roller-blader, or a cyclist, for example. Take your pup to church, to a nursing home, to a school, or to your friend’s or relative’s house. Occasionally leave him with someone else so he can experience a different person’s habits. Socializing your dog is key to building a smart dog and a happier pup.
8. Take Your Dog Shopping
Pet stores and some other shops are dog-friendly. Stordhal warns that if your dog is overwhelmed, do it gradually.
9. Get Out in Public
Go to different events—a local festival, a party, a picnic, outdoor music shows.
10. Train Your Dog in Different Places
Train your dog and do commands in different scenarios. Teach her to lie down and she’ll do it at home like a pro, but then try it in the park and see if she still links the words with the actions. Once she’s mastered the basic commands, add some new ones like “back up” or “turn around.” Commands help to build a healthy, smart and happy dog.
Follow some of these tips, and your already smart dog will soon be the happiest pup on the block. And a side benefit is you’ll be happier, too!