Adjust them to your furry friend’s energy levels and abilities
You would do anything for your pet! You buy them the most nutritious food. You make sure they have a comfortable bed. You are registering for the best pet health insurance† And rumor has it that if you’re a millennial, dress them in sweaters and bandanas!
While the things we do for our pets may seem ridiculous or over the top, don’t forget that our homes are our pets’ entire worlds. So in addition to food, beds and healthcare, we need to enrich their lives with activities that engage their brains and keep them active. Try these activities with your pets, whether you have a cat or a dog.
Freeze treats on a licking mat (available at your pet store). For cats, canned food, tuna juice, and cat treats are great ingredients, while dogs may prefer canned dog food, peanut butter, and small bites of freeze-dried liver.
The frozen treat takes time to eat, and your pet will lick the mat for a while and enjoy the flavors.
Puzzle toys and games
Pet puzzles are a fun way to encourage your pet to think creatively. You can buy puzzle toys at your local pet store, or you can make your own. Puzzle toys include balls or containers that dispense treats; trays with secret compartments that require lifting lids or sliding a lever; or just a treat under an inverted cup.
These puzzle games are great for food-motivated furry friends, and because they make them think, they’ll help with fatigue – a necessity when raising a young puppy!
Your vaccinated dog (or cat!) loves to spend time with you, so why not take him for a walk in a special place? Pick a route you wouldn’t normally go so they can enjoy new smells and sights. Just make sure your pet is on a leash and do not approach other pets without their owners permission, even if your dog is friendly.
Tricks for treats
Your cat, dog or even rodent friend can learn to perform tricks on command. All it takes is some patience, positive reinforcement, and treats to reward them for doing the right thing.
Once your pet has mastered the “sit” and “lie” commands, you can teach him to shake or high-five. More complicated tricks like twisting, crawling, or center — where your dog walks between your legs — are great for the advanced.
Pets learn best from positive and rewarding training methods; ask a certified trainer near you for tips, or check YouTube for helpful videos. If your pet is doing really well, you can apply to earn a Trick Dog title through Do More With Your Dog or the American Kennel Club, even if your pup is not purebred.
Put your pet’s nose to work while eating with a sniffing mat! A sniffing mat is a fabric mat with long strands of fabric – usually felt – or layers and bags in which chunks are hidden. The dog then sniffs it and gets a reward.
Some people feed their pets with a sniffing mat to help them eat more slowly – great for dogs that seem to inhale their dinner. While it is a helpful tool for your pet’s health, it also reconnects them with how their wild ancestors may have eaten, searching for food on the forest floor.
For the most passive way to get your cat or dog active and thinking, hide plenty of treats in different places around your house. Once your pet understands that they can find snacks if they look around a bit, they will zoom around the house looking for every hiding place they come across.
Just remember where you hid them all so you don’t get any surprises later on. We recommend using crunchy, hearty treats for this activity.
Playtime with friends
Dogs are pack animals and enjoy interacting with other dogs. If your pup has some friends they hang out with — and behave — why not schedule a fun playdate?
Even a few hours with a buddy can bring joy to your pet — and get them to exercise more than they normally would. Win win!
Dock dog, barn hunt, agility, flyball, lure coursing and more are fun dog sports that your puppy can participate in. Find your local dog sports center to learn more about your options and which ones your dog can excel at.
For example, your Labrador may love dock diving, while your Jack Russell Terrier can’t contain his excitement for lure coursing. Or maybe your border collie is obsessed with flyball!
All of these activities are essentially athletic events, but for dogs, they will keep your pup in top shape while also building a strong bond with you.
Clear new activities with your vet
Every pet is different, so be sure to ask your pet’s vet about healthy activities that your pet can safely participate in. Your dog’s breed, size, age and joint condition, for example, may not be a good match for dog sports, for example, but exciting walks and treat hunting may be just right.
Your pet will thank you for licking and hugging you a lot!