Mental Stimulation for Dogs

Updated: February 27, 2024

What is mental stimulation? Mental stimulation for dogs is as important as physical stimulation. It is a very helpful way to help burn your dog’s excess energy. Dogs who are under-stimulated are more often the ones that show undesirable and bad behaviors like excessive chewing, aggressiveness, excessive barking since they will need to do something to burn off excess energy.

With more pet parents currently working at home during these times, mental stimulation for dogs becomes more important to be added in day-to-day activities. In this article, we have come up with a few tips and tricks on mental stimulation activities for dogs and ways to mentally stimulate your dog. Learn how you can keep your dog mentally stimulated – which will result in them being happier and healthier.

dog stimulation, mental stimulation for dogs

What is Mental Stimulation for Dogs?

Mental stimulation for dogs is defined as any activity that stimulates and enriches your furbaby’s mind and mental capacities. Mental stimulation can either be implemented from your dog’s thinking (thought) or from external factors (environment).

Important contributors to your dog’s mental stimulation include socialization, playtimes, leisure activities, and even as simple as during meal times!

Ways to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog

Here are simple ways you can incorporate mental stimulation for your dog in your day-to-day activities:

Make your dog work for their food

Have your furbaby work for their food. We’re sure that your dog is as pampered as possible and pretty much has everything handed to them, especially their food! Well, that is completely normal and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what you’re doing. But as dogs’ historic habits are concerned, they actually have the desire to scavenge for their food.

To be able to incorporate mental stimulation for dogs during meal times, change your dog’s feeding style. This time, instead of just setting down your dog’s food bowl and letting them indulge in the tasty meal, ask them to sit down first, command them to stay, and not touch the food yet. If your dog follows all the commands, then allow them to eat. If they don’t, it’s okay! Practice makes perfect. You can also hand feed your dog as you practice these tricks.

Use a snuffle mat for mental stimulation

You can also opt to use a snuffle mat as a slow feeder dog bowl. Slow feeder dog bowls are designed to slow down a dog's meal time, however, snuffle mats go one step further in providing mental stimulation. Unlike slow feeder bowls, the Forager® Mat creates a different pattern every time, so that your dog always has to use their brain to get their delicious rewards. Not only does a snuffle mat prevent them from eating too fast, but it turns the meal into a game. Snuffle mats allow dogs to use their natural foraging instincts to gain their food as a reward, acting as an easy way to get in extra mental stimulation.

"Mental stimulation for dogs is defined as any activity that stimulates and enriches your furbaby’s mind and mental capacities."

The Forager® Mat is made with a SnoftSnout® material that is non-abrasive to pet noses, unlike felt and other traditional materials.

If you are frequently on the go for meal times, the Forager® Bowl is a great option with the same great features as well as an easy cinch design that makes it perfect for travel.

Both the Forager® Mat and Forager® Bowl are machine washable, so that you do not have to worry about any slobber or messes your dog makes while snuffling. 

Allow your dog to sniff and explore

Walking is something that both you and your dog look forward to. It can also be considered by your dog as one of their day’s most exciting parts as they will be able to explore their surroundings. As Found Animals said, “[a dog’s] nose is like a second pair of eyes for them. Exploring the world with their nose is a terrific mental workout.”

To incorporate mental stimulation while walking, allow your dog to stop and sniff the things around them. This will allow your dog to take in all the different and interesting smells. To make things more exciting, take various routes every day so your dog can check out and explore new sights and smells. If you are not okay with letting your dog sniff things they come across during walks, designate areas where your dog can freely sniff.

Teach new tricks

Does your furbaby already know how to sit, stay, and come? Good! But did you know that you can teach your dog a lot more new tricks than just the basic ones?

Teaching your furbaby new tricks and commands is one way you can include mental stimulation for dogs in your daily life. You can teach your dog to roll over, to fetch, and to pee only on the designated area(s) at home. Not only do these tricks, commands, and training help stimulate your dog mentally but will also help develop their confidence, overcome their shyness, increase their focus, control their impulses, and strengthen the bond & communication between the two of you.

Engage in interactive plays

Interactive playing with your dog is probably considered one of the easiest ways to mentally stimulate them. Interactive plays are when you and your dog actively play and engage with each other. A game of fetch is an interactive play. A game of playing balls is an interactive play. And there are a lot more that’s left for you to explore. These games and activities offer your dog more mental stimulation.

Engage in brain games

According to the Animal Humane Society, brain games are puzzles, toys, and activities that encourage your dog to experiment and problem solve. They’re great for dogs who have the energy to burn and are especially helpful for dogs with anxiety or high energy.

Brain Games help develop your dog’s mental ability and learning capacity. Brain games include games for your dog that require thinking and problem-solving, like hide and seek, treasure hunting, and a lot more. Read more about the many other brain games for dogs here.

Offer a great chewing experience

Yes, chewing mentally stimulates your furbaby. The act of chewing keeps your dog’s mind busy and their taste buds satisfied. We know that you are probably worried about your furbaby having to chew the legs of your furniture, or your slippers and shoes at home and the dangers chewing might cause to your dog. But you can always dog-proof your house and provide only premium chews, like Gnawtlers®.

Gnawtlers® are deer & elk antler chews for dogs that offer your furbaby the best and safest gnawing experience. These chews are all-natural as they are naturally-shed and do not contain any artificial dyes and flavoring. These also vary from split to half antlers, so you’ll have a lot of chews to choose from depending on your furbaby’s chewing personality. What’s even better? Gnawtlers® are full of nutrients, so your dog does not only get mentally stimulated but healthy as well!

"Gnawtlers® are full of nutrients, so your dog does not only get mentally stimulated but healthy as well!"

Mental stimulation for dogs is also as important as the physical ones. It helps boost your dog’s confidence, increase their focus and concentration, control their impulses, curb undesirable behaviors, and even helps in strengthening your relationship together. Learn to balance both physical and mental needs and you’ll see how happier and healthier your furbaby will become!