Everybody knows that dogs need ample physical exercise to stay happy and healthy. However, fewer people realize that most dogs also need to exercise their minds. If you have a dog that is overly rambunctious, noncompliant, or destructive toward people or property, introducing mental games into their daily routine could help them to stay focused and calm down.
Letters and Words-
Linguistics need not be exclusive to humans. Your dog can learn English too! You can teach your dog letters of the alphabet by writing a big, bold letter on a note card. Repeat the name of the letter over and over, while showing the notecard to your dog. Start with just two letters, so the dog doesn’t get confused. Then set the notecards on the ground, spaced a good distance apart. Say the letter you want your dog to go to, and reward them with a treat if they get it correct! Teaching dogs’ letters is no easy task, but just about any dog can learn it with enough practice. When your dog begins to have a decent grasp of letters, you can begin teaching them to spell short two or three letter words.
You can also teach your dog English by teaching them the name of each toy. This is quite a bit easier than teaching them to spell. Start by playing fetch with a particular toy, firmly saying the name of the toy each time you throw it. For instance, if you want to teach your dog to learn the word ‘Frisbee,’ say Frisbee every time you throw it. Eventually, the dog will form the association between the word and the toy. Then you can have your dog fetch different toys on command by simply referring to the toy you want them to get.
Counting and Math-
To teach your dog to count, you will use the same method as you did to teach them to spell. Begin by writing a number in large, bold font, on a notecard. Repeat the number over and over, while showing the card to your dog, to help them form the association. Do this with numbers 1 and 2 to start. Then set numbers 1 and 2 on the ground, a few feet apart. Say “One!” and see if your dog can find the card with the 1 on it. Be sure to always reward them when they answer correctly.
Another method of teaching your dog numbers is through treats. Hold one treat in one hand and two in the other. Show your dog the treat and repeat the number of treats in each hand, until your dog forms the association. Then close your hands into a fist and say “One!” and see if your dog can find the fist with only one treat. When they get it correct, reward them with the treat.
Once they have mastered several numbers, you can begin teaching them to add numbers together. Write 1+2 on a notecard. Show the card to your dog, while repeating the word ‘three.’ Once they begin to form the association, you can test their knowledge. Have the number 3, as well as a couple other numbers setting out on the ground. Hold up the card that says 1+2 and see if they can find the 3 card. Teaching a dog math requires a lot of patience for both you as well as your dog. Be sure to reward your dog frequently with treats and love, so they don’t get bored.
Dog Puzzles and Treat Balls- They sell a variety of dog puzzles, ranging in difficulty. Dog puzzles are a great way to occupy your dog, particularly when the dog it left alone. Treat balls can also be used to entertain your dog, forcing the dog to work in order to get to the food. You can also make a simple dog puzzle at home, using a muffin tin, treats, and tennis balls. Set a treat in each section of the muffin tin. Place a tennis ball on top of each treat and let your dog figure out how to remove the tennis balls to get to each treat.
Babble: 10 Brain Games to Challenge and Entertain Your Pet: Carleen Coulter: http://www.babble.com/pets/10-brain-games-to-challenge-and-entertain-your-pet/
Modern Dog Magazine: Mutts Doing Math: Not So Far-Fetched?: Stanley Coren: http://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/mutts-doing-math-not-so-far-fetched/179