Mind Games to Curb Even the Most Energetic Dogs
“I bet he has a lot of energy!”
“Wow he is crazy!”
“Is he always this excited?”
“Does he ever stop going?”
“Where is his off switch?”
As the owner of a herding dog, I am sure we can all relate to this sentiment from other people. Let’s face it: we have high energy dogs and most of us probably like it that way.
My puppy, Loki, was born from two working farm dogs. He has to constantly be on the move. At 9 months old he is beginning to build stamina. He can run faster, swim longer, and wear us out before he breaks a sweat. What does that mean for us?
It means that in addition to physical stimulation, we have to keep him mentally stimulated. I’m not a marathon runner, and physical exercise can only take us so far in a day. Plus I lead a busy life. I want to enjoy time with my dog, but I also want to have some time to myself.
Mind games & trick training help keep Loki occupied and content in the house and give me more freedom to do the things I want to do as well.
The mind of a herding dog is like a sponge. They can retain a lot of information in a short time. Most people know that herding dogs make great trick dogs. They excel in the sporting world for their ability to adapt to whatever is thrown their way. Trick training is a way to push their thinking muscles to the limits.
Shaping in particular is incredibly powerful. Shaping for those new to the concept, involves breaking down a trick into very small components and rewarding the dog as he makes each small step; eventually putting the trick all together. In my opinion, it really stretches a dog’s mind, because you aren’t giving direct cues or leading the dog to the correct behavior. The dog has to base its interpretation of the trick off of the timing & placement of your treats.
Anything can be shaped and when you give your dog the reins of how to earn reinforcement from you, you create a pet that offers behaviors to earn approval.
For Loki, shaping tricks is always an easy go to on a rainy day. Currently we are working on Sit-Pretty, Backing Up, Handstand, Roll-Over, and Nose Targeting. The ideas are endless; it all depends on what you want to do with your dog, or what party tricks you want to show off to your friends.
For the owner that wants their dog to be more of an independent problem solver & wears themselves out, you will find that puzzle toys are becoming more popular among those in the dog world. I will admit, on the days that I just want to kick back and watch T.V. I find myself migrating to puzzle toys.
Most people are familiar with the classic KONG that you stuff treats, or kibble, or peanut butter in to keep your dog busy. At least for my herding dog, tearing through a KONG is barely a 5 minute process, even when it’s frozen. There are a lot of great sources out there for other interactive toys depending on what your dog enjoys.
One of Loki’s favorite toys was one I came up with based on his desire to shred cardboard & paper. As a puppy I would hide toys or treats in cardboard boxes and let him go to town, but after picking up countless bits of leftover box from the carpet, I decided to come up with something different. In my own blog, I wrote a post about his Hollee Roller Toy that is stuffed with small pieces of treats & cuts of an old T-shirt. It’s one of his favorites, and it doesn’t get old quick. When he is all done he will return the ball to me & I will stuff it and start again. Half the time I don’t even put anything in it.
Owning a herding dog, we know that physically wearing them out can be a challenge. Combining physical and mental stimulation will allow us to help our dogs reach their full potential. Here's another great article on games to play with your herding breed.
What type of things do you do with your dog to keep them occupied? Share below!
Kristin M Brady