Engage the Brain

D. Williams

It is spring and time to get out and hike, bike, swim, and take long, leisurely sniff walks in the beautiful weather. Just as we pay attention to our own well-being, we need to do the same for our “Kids.” Rover’s Rest Stop Kids will tell you that we engage in every puzzle, toy, game, walk, and shopping event we can, and we love parties! Their health and well-being does not stop with a meal, walk, bath, and TV time. They need brain stimulation, too. As with us, keeping their minds sharp improves cognitive dysfunction (dementia) and relieves stress.

We are preparing for the heat of summer and planning activities for inside. Our morning walks can be very early while it is still cool, but then the long day inside is boring. Surprisingly, brain games are not physically tiring, but the mental focus and interaction with you for short, two- to five-minute periods works wonders. Adored Beast Apothecary recently shared an article for dogs and one for cats on brain stimulation, and Julie Anne Lee is one of our favorites. A bored dog will create their own fun, which might not make you smile. Mental stimulation decreases hyperactivity and/or destructive behaviors. Dr. Karen Becker has several YouTube videos explaining and showing mental and physical stimulation and four at-home boredom busters, among others.

Besides YouTube videos, there are books. One we love is 101 Dog Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog. Start at the beginning and build on that trick with the next trick. By the last page, they pick up their toys and put them away!

One game you all know is the cup game, better known as the shell game. The old Hide N Seek is a good one. This could be combined with hiding treats along a walk or in a rolled-up towel and letting them sniff them out as part of Find It. Be sure to use extra-special treats to entice them. Try the Name Game for each of their toys and build from 1 to 10 or more. Again, there are puzzles, rolling toys, or KONG toys to hide treats in for them to figure out. They can even be frozen for more fun.

You can engage them with media, such as playing canine music, which helps to reduce anxiety. Television has DogTV or similar soothing programs. YouTube has Music for Dogs: 20 hours of Gentle, Calming Songs and Relaxation Tones to Calm Anxiety—no ads to interrupt! I am betting you will both benefit from the laughs, and your bond will grow stronger.

Update: Our Emergency Program sign-up is still going strong! We recently received our first emergency call and are safely caring for the owner’s little one while they heal. Stop by our Meet & Greet events for more information or call 480-600-2828. The Kids love to see you! Our next Meet & Greet is on May 11 from 9 a.m. to noon. See you there!