Keep your pet’s mind and body healthy and happy with these tips!
Bored dogs can quickly become naughty or unhappy dogs — that’s never fun! For dogs to lead their fullest and happiest lives, they need mental and physical exercise. We’ve got you covered with brain stimulation tips and tricks, ideas for activities and great products sure to keep your dog active and having fun!
1. Neighborhood Walks
Most dogs love to go on walks. If your dog goes on walks regularly, take them on a different route or on a different path. Be sure to keep them on a leash short enough to control them but let them sniff and explore as much as possible. Whenever it is hot, avoid walking on hot surfaces—if the back of your hand cannot comfortably touch the surface for a full 30 seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws. You can also train your dog to wear booties to protect those paws and so they can walk on hot surfaces without injury. If you need a set, come see us at Exceptional Pets – we’ll be happy to help your dog find a good fit.
There are other concerns when it is hot out. Dogs with short noses, out of shape dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with underlying heart/breathing issues can become overheated very easily. Stay in the shade as much as possible, take plenty of breaks, walk during the coolest parts of the day, and never force your dog to walk if they seem tired—when they’re done, it’s time to carry them home.
2. Neighborhood Drives
Some dogs love car rides, even if they don’t get out of the car. Keep these trips short to avoid car sickness and bring a human friend to help distract them while you drive if needed. If your dog does suffer from car sickness, try having them wear an e-collar; strangely, this can be more effective than medication. Stop by Exceptional Pets today and our retail team will help you size and place the best one!
Safety is always a top priority when it comes to our pets and it’s definitely something to consider when taking our pets for rides in the car. Securing your dog in a car safety approved seatbelt safety harnesses from trusted brands like Kurgo® as this is a great way to prevent injuries if an accident occurs. We’d love to help size your pet for the proper fit for the safest rides. Short trips to the mailbox, to fill up your gas tank, to visit a drive-thru, or just to take a relaxing trip around the neighborhood are all great ideas to break up your pet’s day.
If your dog is looking for something to do, spend 10 minutes going over basic training (sit, stay, lay down), or use the time to teach them new tricks. Give them plenty of verbal and treat encouragements and be patient with them – training takes plenty of practice! Visit Exceptional Pets today, as we are fully stocked with healthy, small sized training treats that make a great incentive and reward during training sessions.
4. Scent Enrichment
As humans, we often forget that dogs experience their world more through their nose than any of their other senses. A remarkably simple way to entertain them is to enrich their environment by adding some fun scents. You can buy pre-made pet colognes from trusted brands like Tropiclean®, or you can make your own by diluting essential oils like cinnamon, vanilla, lavender, or chamomile with water in a spray bottle. Other essential oils or scents may be toxic to pets; please consult your veterinarian before use. Spray scents on beds, furniture, carpet, and toys, but avoid spraying onto bowls or directly onto your pet. If you don’t mind a little smell, purchase a hunting dog training scent and spray it outside. Avoid spraying any scent on anything small enough to swallow. Mixing up the routine is key here – use different scent combinations sprayed onto different areas each time.
Some dogs love to chase bubbles, just like children. Bubbles that are safe for children may not be fully safe for pets, so we recommend buying bubbles specifically made for dogs. These come in fun dog-friendly flavors like peanut butter or bacon, and they don’t burst as easily when they touch a surface. They can be a bit messy to clean afterwards so we recommend outdoor use only. We also recommend wiping your dog’s face and fur off once you are finished, as the soap can be slightly irritating. Plan a picnic with your dog and blow bubbles in a meadow – talk about a perfect Instagram post!
6. Chew Toys and Treats
Chewing toys such as Nylabones and Benebones and treats such as Yeti Dog Chews and Earth Animal’s No-Hide Chews can be an excellent distraction for hours. While very fun, we recommend supervising your pets at all times while they’re chewing. Once the object is small enough to become a hazard, at choking or swallowing size, remove the object and throw it away. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, they may fracture their teeth and probably should not be given chew toys. We carry a variety of chewing activity products, and our retail associates would love to discuss which ones are best for your pup. Bring them by to meet us today – we love meeting our clients and helping them pick out their new favorite activity!
7. Treat/Food Foraging
Dogs are natural foragers. In the wild, they can spend hours or days searching for food. Encourage this natural behavior by hiding small treats in various places around the house (e.g. in dog bed crevices, on windowsills, slightly under rugs, etc.). Training treats like Zuke’s or Pet Botanics work well, as do cut raw carrots, broccoli, or no salt/fat cooked popcorn. Don’t let your dog see where you’re hiding the treats but do let them know when it’s time to play the game with a command word. We do recommend supervising them in case your pet picks up the wrong item or has any issues swallowing the treat. If your dog has difficulty finding the treats, create “scent trails” by dragging the treat along the floor to its hiding spot. When your dog finds the treat, be sure to give them plenty of praise to keep the game fun.
Fetching frisbees and balls are great ways to exercise your pet mentally and physically. Studies have shown dogs that don’t regularly play have higher rates of aggression and anxiety. If you tire out before your dog, iFetch makes a ball launcher so you can relax while your pet continues to play. Chuck-Its® are also a great way to get some good ball distance without injuring your arm. These can be purchased at Exceptional Pets. Be sure to give them plenty of breaks, play with them inside or under plenty of shade, and limit exercise outside when it’s warm.
9. The Magic of KONGS
KONGs are a great toy for dogs that are not heavy chewers (we don’t want them to break off a piece and swallow it), and they should always be given with supervision. Most dogs love a paste baste mixed with chunks of fruit/veggies/treats/kibble. For the base, you can fill the KONG with KONG fillers that can be purchased at Exceptional Pets, but if you’re giving these regularly you may wish to make a lower calorie option at home.
If you wish to make your own pureed filling or chunks, use fruits and high calorie vegetables in moderation, and try to use more leaf or stem-type vegetables. Fruit and higher calorie vegetable options include:
- apples (no stems or seeds)
- sweet potato
- canned, unflavored pumpkin
- cantaloupe (no skin or seeds)
Leaf and stem vegetable options include:
- brussels sprouts
- green beans
If your pet is already a pro at getting the treats, you can fill the KONG, place it upside-down and freeze it for an extra challenge. Always use moderation and start introducing new foods very slowly if your dog has a sensitive stomach. If your pet is given too much fiber from these fruits/veggies, they may develop soft stool; in that case, reduce the amount given or stop giving the Kong for a few days.
Finally, mix it up regularly – dogs generally love variety!
10. Kid Pools
The options are endless with a kiddie pool! If your dog loves water, fill a kid pool with enough water to allow splashing and play! Always be sure to keep only enough water for fun and not enough for danger. Some dogs love treats and waterproof toys in the water just like a kid during bath time. Add those into the mix and give your pet a cool play break!
If your dog is not a fan of water, you can fill the kid pool with non-toxic ball pit balls. Make sure they are a swallow-proof size and watch your pup have the best play ever!
If your dog loves to dig, another great use of a kid pool is to fill it with newly purchased sand. We recommend newly purchased sand over used sand or desert soil, as older soils may carry Valley Fever spores or debris that could be unhealthy for our pets. Clean and change out the sand at least every six months and cover the sand box to avoid neighborhood cats from making the sand box into a giant kitty bathroom box. Let your dog dig until their heart’s content for their favorite toy or just for the joy of the dig. Maybe it will lead to that pool you’ve been wanting. 🙂
11. Obstacle Courses
If you have space and time, making an obstacle course for your pup is a great mental and physical challenge (for you both!). You can purchase ready made dog obstacle courses, or you can make your own with household items. Start simple like having them jump over a throw pillow or broom stick, then work up to weaving between chairs or crawling under the bed. The possibilities are endless, but please remember to keep the game safe (no sharp objects, don’t use objects that may fall on them, etc.)
We look forward to serving you and your exceptional pet(s) at any of our pet-friendly locations. Our exceptional veterinarians and retail associates are ready and available to help answer questions and make recommendations for products and activities will keep your pet healthy – mentally, emotionally and physically!
By Dr. Danica Dahlquist, DVM.