Week 4 - Mental Stimulation

Hey there, and welcome to Week 4 of the Bark Better Live Better Challenge!

This week's topic is a real game-changer, and it's closely tied to what we covered last time.

Mental stimulation is a key component of keeping your dog active and fulfilled. It's just as vital as physical exercise, like walks and backyard playtime.

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What Is Mental Stimulation?

Think of it like giving your dog's brain a workout. Just like how we humans love a good brain-teaser to keep sharp, dogs need mental exercises too. It's all about getting those gears turning upstairs and giving them something to ponder.

And this is the thing… If you do not provide enough mental stimulation for them, it is likely they will find their own games which may or may not be getting up to some mischief such stealing your socks and shoes, digging up the garden, chewing on furniture or raiding the bins!

How Does Mental Stimulation Work?

By engaging your dog’s brain in activities which require them to think and learn, it stimulates different parts of the brain, including areas responsible for problem-solving, memory, and decision-making.

As your dog engages in these activities, they release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which contribute to feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

But not only will it make them happy…

You see, the more a dog takes part in these type of activities, the more their brain gets developed which leads to an enhancement in your dog’s intelligence, memory and overall mental well-being.

In other words, you are making your dog even more clever than he is already. And that is pretty cool right?

What Counts as Mental Stimulation? 

Happi Doggi Bark Better Live Better Mental Stimulation Cheat Sheet



Anything and everything, as long as it keeps your dog engaged!

Below you can find some examples of activities that can challenge and engage their brain:

Foraging Toys

Foraging toys are specifically designed to mimic a dog’s natural instinct to search for food. They often involve hiding food or treats in various ways often within textured surfaces.

You could for instance scatter some food on grass or hide it in a snuffle mat (we use one like this and both our dogs Louie & Monti love it).

Their main purpose is to satisfy a dog’s natural instinct to search and work for their food. Additionally, this is also great to slow down the eating pace of greedy dogs.

Puzzle Toys

Much like foraging toys, puzzle toys often involves hiding food or treats. With these however, the food is hidden and your dog will need to use their problem solving skills and intelligence to figure out how to access it.

Puzzle toys are typically available in various levels, ranging from Easy to Intermediate to more Advanced. The concept is to begin with the easier ones and gradually progress to more challenging levels. (This one is quite a good one to start out with.)


However, not all mental stimulation requires food.

Simply by taking your dog on walks to different locations such as parks, trails or even new neighbourhoods, you will be able to stimulate their brains.

Let them explore the sights, smells and sounds of these unfamiliar environments at their own pace. Encourage them to investigate interesting objects, sniff around, and interact with other dogs or people they encounter along the way.

dog walkingWalk Your Dog In Different Locations

Tricks & Training

Teaching your dog new tricks or practicing obedience commands provides mental stimulation and strengthens your bond.

And once you have mastered the basics (Sit, Stay, Come, etc) there is always more to be learned. Think of Bows, to Play Dead, to Leg Weaves or Hoop Jumps… There is always something to master!

Maybe consider activities such as agility or obedience training as these also are fantastic ways of engaging their minds.

Scent Work

Nose work activities, such as scent detection or tracking, tap into your dog's natural sense of smell. Hide treats or toys around your home or yard and encourage your dog to use their nose to find them.

Naming Toys

Teach your dog the names of their toys and encourage them to retrieve specific toys by name. This activity engages your dog's memory and reinforces their understanding of our language.

You can start by selecting a few toys and consistently using their names when interacting with your dog.

For example, say "ball" when playing fetch with the ball, or "rope" when engaging in tug-of-war with the rope toy. Use clear, consistent cues and praise your dog when they show interest in or interact with the named toy.

Over time, your dog will learn to recognize and respond to the names of their toys, making playtime even more enjoyable.

Interactive Play

Do not forget to just play! This can be with you or with other dogs. Not only will it provide your dog with mental stimulation but also with physical exercise. Think of tug-of-war, hide-and-seek or fetch.

Play With Your DogDon't Forget To Just Play!

Mental Stimulation at Home

In addition to specific activities, there are several ways to incorporate mental stimulation into your dog's daily routine at home.

  • Try rotating your dog's toys regularly to keep them interesting, providing opportunities for exploration and play.

  • Incorporate food-dispensing toys into mealtime to make feeding more engaging and mentally stimulating. (A Classic Kong is good for wet foods/raw and this Squirrel and Wobbler are great for kibble)

  • Additionally, consider creating DIY enrichment activities using household items, such as cardboard boxes or empty water bottles.


Mental stimulation is a vital component of your dog's overall health and well-being.

By incorporating a variety of mentally stimulating activities into your dog's routine, you can keep their mind sharp, prevent boredom, and strengthen your bond with them.

From foraging toys and puzzle toys to exploration and interactive play, there are endless opportunities to challenge your dog's brain and unleash their full potential.

So, download your cheat sheet, get creative, have fun, and watch your furry friend thrive!

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