Dogs are energetic, boisterous and social animals that enjoy being entertained, just like humans. Even though dogs can often find excitement in things the rest of us might not see as a 'tail-wagging' good time, they also need organised outings and play dates.
All dogs require both mental and physical activity. 15 to 20 minutes of mental stimulation is important for all dogs. Physical exercise over and above that will also be appreciated. Things like dog enrichment toys that involve problem solving and even dog sports are becoming increasingly popular, that gives pet owners lots of variety exercises.
The kind of entertainment and frequency needed for your dog will differ depending on their breed and age. Dogs that are naturally selected as 'working animals' certainly need more to entertain them such as a Border Collies and Kelpies. Those dogs that have been selected as a family pet or ornamentation for example Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a Maltese x Shitzsu require less but all require some. However some larger dogs like Great Danes and retired Greyhounds do not need as much exercise.
Greyhounds that no longer race or were not bred to race usually get one burst of energy throughout the day and enjoy relaxing the rest of the time. More intelligent dogs like Labradors, Australian and German Shepherds, Poodles and working dogs may need more stimulation by doing things like completing tasks.
While on most occasions your dog would prefer you to provide the entertainment, when you are away from home that is the time to use things like mind puzzles. Aside from the plethora of mind puzzles, agility equipment and enrichment toys out there, you can do something as simple as putting food in an indestructible dog toy like a Kong that requires them to get it out. You can also freeze these overnight to make them last longer and a great way for the dog to cool down during summer.
Other ideas include setting up items for them to retrieve or placing barriers or obstacles around for them to jump over. You can use rolled up blankets or towels placed on top of each other to create a safe and cheap agility course or you can invest in a more permanent one from the pet store.
Today there are devices which allow you track your dog and wherever it might be from your mobile phone at any time. These are particularly useful if your dog escapes. Dogs like playing games like tug of war, frisbee, anything that the dog can retrieve. Frozen ice blocks flavoured with stock (chicken or meat) or containing chunks of food will entertain your dog for hours and cost very little in summer.
Food and treats can be another great way to create a game for dogs. For example, get a hand full of cat food (because it is small and dogs like the taste better than their own food) and throw it in your yard and let the dog explore using their senses to find the food and then consume it. Remember, if you are using food as part of your dog’s daily entertainment you must remove this same portion from their regular meals. You don’t want to be adding to your dog’s waistline.
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Dogs also need social interaction. They need to find their place in and amongst the pack. Dogs teach dogs how to behave like dogs better than we can. They teach each other manners and the pack mentality. That is why It is good to give your dog time to mingle with other dogs. You may find that dogs, who are often excitable at home, won’t be the same when they interact with other dogs.
Many dog owners fear that their dog will get into a fight at dog parks but this is rare. Dogs may growl and assert themselves which is a normal way for them to ascertain hierarchy within a pack. Generally speaking aggressive dogs are banned from dog parks. In some states dog friendly beaches offer the double barrel award of sand and water. Most dogs don’t like rough surf.
Dog parks are also really good for smaller dogs as it helps them to learn 'dog speak' and where they 'fit' in the pack. Many spend too much time being carried around giving them a false sense of importance.
There are many ways to entertain your dog. The key to a happy and healthy dog is to foster both physical and mental stimulation and ensure social interaction takes place. It’s good for you the owner to mix with other like-minded owners. You can enrol your dog in sports like agility fly ball, dock diving or disc dogs. You will soon find out which your dog enjoys most.