Unlock your dog's brilliance: mental stimulation training with Bondi Behaviourist

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Man feeding treat to Dalmatian

Keeping your dog in tip-top health takes more than just nutritious food and regular exercise.

Pups need a strong foundation of canine enrichment for a happy and fulfilled life. This is made up of:

  • Health and veterinary care

  • Diet, nutrition and hygiene

  • Physical exercise

  • Mental and sensory stimulation

  • Social interaction and exploration

  • Feeling safe, calm and relaxed

Mental stimulation is a vital part of canine enrichment to keep your pupper’s mind sharp and prevent boredom-related destructive behaviours.

We’ve teamed up with Dog Behaviour and Training Expert, Ian Shivers, founder of Bondi Behaviourist, to take a deep dive into mental stimulation and demonstrate some activities you can try with your pup.

What is mental stimulation?

Mental stimulation engages your dog’s brain to give them an outlet for their natural instincts and emotions. Interactive training and games are a great way to improve their response to dangerous situations, like busy roads, and can give you greater control over their behaviour when you’re out and about.

Self-regulation of emotion through enrichment training also helps your pup to self-soothe when they feel anxious and reduce their heightened sensitivity to unpredictable situations and loud noises.

Mental stimulation for canine enrichment is a wonderful way to bond with your dog by engaging in new and exciting activities you can do together. There’s no age limit on training — you can teach your old dog or puppy new tricks!

How to teach hand targeting with Ralph

Tricks, like hand targeting, are a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind and bond with them. It’s also an effective way to recall their attention when they’re out and about, especially if you’re navigating a difficult or distracting situation.

Ian shows us how to teach hand targeting with little Ralph and how to use treats to mark and reward desired behaviour.

A quick hand-targeting overview:

  1. Hand-targeting stimulates your dog’s mind and supports their obedient recall.

  2. It’s a simple and effective way to bond with your pup.

  3. Use treats to encourage and incentivise their training.

How to mat-settle for rest and recovery with Rose

Chewing is a natural, soothing behaviour that dogs enjoy. By allowing your pup to gnaw on a dog-friendly treat or toy, you give them the chance to express their oral instinct safely rather than be tempted by your shoes and soft furnishings!

It’s also a great way to reinforce mat-settling positively, as Ian and Rose show us:

A quick mat-settling overview:

  1. Chewing releases serotonin and other endorphins.

  2. Chewing helps your pup to rest and recover after a stressful event.

  3. Enjoying a chew on a mat helps your dog to decompress in a comfortable location.

More mind-enriching exercises to try with treats

Canine enrichment through brain training is a fantastic way to stimulate and harness their instincts to chase, hunt, prey and play. You don’t even have to splash out on expensive toys — sometimes the best games only involve your imagination and a few tasty treats to reward the smartest pupper in town.

Sensory stimulation

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that they use to understand their surroundings as well as sniff out food and their friends at the park. Activities that stimulate their senses are one of the easiest ways to get those pupper wheels turning. The good news is, there are many activities you can do to get their nose twitching.

  1. Hide and seek. It’s not only children that love this game — pups do too! Rather than squeeze under the bed, try this game with treats instead. Without your dog seeing where you hide them, place small treats around the room or the house then encourage your pup to sniff them out. Most dogs love this game because they get an instant reward when their nose finds each hiding place!

  2. Snuffle mats. Designed to imitate long grass, snuffle mats activate your dog’s natural foraging instincts.Tuck treats under the long flaps of material to trigger their sense of smell and tempt their taste buds.

  3. Dog-led walks. Playtime at the dog park and walks with you are great, but you can also give your pup the chance to follow their nose and direct you for a change. Using a long or a short lead, allow your dog to explore their surroundings and trace the different scent trails. Mental stimulation and physical exercise are a great combination for your pup.

Brain teasers, games and toys

Interactive puzzles and toys are an excellent way to engage your pup’s problem-solving skills and sharpen their natural instincts.

  1. Puzzle feeders. From treat dispensing balls to games that require your dog to figure out how to lift lids or reveal hidden compartments to find the tasty morsel inside.

  2. Flirt pole. This toy has a stuffed animal or piece of faux fur attached to a long string and stick. Make the toy jump and move to spark your pup’s hunting instincts and bond with your best buddy in a fun and playful way.

  3. Hide and seek stuffed toys. If your pup likes to chase little critters, these toys might be worth considering. Whether your dog has to find the squirrels in the tree stump or the birds in the treehouse, they’re great to keep their brain active.

Training with tasty treats

Positive reinforcement uses treats, praise or rewards to mark your dog’s desired behaviour. It creates trust and a strong bond, which is exactly the kind of relationship pupper parents want to cultivate with their dogs.

Lyka’s single-protein treats are air-dried to maintain their natural drool-worthy flavours and nutritional value. High-value treats like these will reward your dog’s behaviour and support their health. Win-win!

Check out our newest treat additions!

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Give your pupper a tongue-tingling taste test of your choice of recipes before you commit to a customised, regular plan.

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