Whether your dog is an old timer looking to stay sharp, or a pup with excess energy – brain games like the muffin tin game can be a great way to keep them mentally stimulated.
It is a well known fact that dogs need physical exercise. If you are a current dog owner you know that a lack of walks can lead to poor behaviour like chewing, biting, and barking. It does not take an animal behaviourist to work out that your dog may be frustrated and under stimulated.
Whilst dog’s undoubtedly need their walks. It is not simply the exercise component that makes walks critical to their mental wellbeing. On every dog walk, your pooch is welcomed by a world of new sights and smells. A rubbish bin, an old sock, another dog’s pee, each smell more exciting than the last. This is their world, and it is mentally stimulating.
Believe it or not, thinking is extremely important for dogs. A study in 2017 found that dogs taught to play a simple touch screen game, delayed the degenerative effects of ageing. The decline in cognitive abilities in ageing dogs can lead to issues such as disorientation, changes in sleep cycles, decreased performance in following commands, higher anxiety and a reluctance to go outside so it is essential we find simple ways to engage their brains indoors.
Mentally stimulating your dog is also a great way to tire them out if you are unable to take them for a long walk. Think about if you’ve ever had a really challenging day at work mentally. Often you have not even left your desk to walk around, and yet you are utterly exhausted and can fall straight to sleep. Well, it’s the same for dogs. The brain is the most expensive organ in the body in terms of energy – if we stimulate it, you can exhaust your dog from the comfort of your living room.
In the Muffin Tin game, all you need is a muffin or for us Brits, a cupcake tin, some tennis balls, and some tasty treats. If you don’t have any tennis balls then anything that can cover the holes works, so long as your dog can get underneath whatever you use.
Show your dog the treats and then place them in the base of the tin. Once you’ve done this cover the treats with your tennis balls. Leave the tray on the ground for your dog and watch as they sniff around. It can take them a long time, but eventually they will get the gist of it! Once they’ve got one or two they start to get a lot better at it.
Make sure you are using really tasty treats to keep them motivated. If you need to give your dog a clue you can quickly allow them to see under a tennis ball before returning it.
Have fun, and happy hunting!