Adapt Them to Suit Your Furry Pal’s Energy Levels and Abilities
You’d do anything for your pet! You buy them the most nourishing food. You make sure they have a comfy bed. You sign up for the best pet health insurance. And rumor has it, if you’re a millennial, you dress them up in sweaters and bandanas!
Although the things we do for our pets can seem ridiculous or over the top, we have to remember that our homes are our pets’ whole worlds. So, besides the food, the beds, and the health care, we have 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 licky mat (available for purchase at your pet supply store). For cats, canned food, tuna juice, and kitty treats are great ingredients, while dogs may prefer canned dog food, peanut butter, and tiny bites of the freeze-dried liver.
The frozen treat takes time to eat, and your pet will spend a while licking the mat and enjoying the flavors.
Puzzle Toys and Games
Pet puzzles are a fun way to encourage your pet to think creatively. You can purchase puzzle toys at your local pet supply store, or you can make some yourself. Puzzle toys include balls or containers that dispense treats; trays with secret compartments that require lifting lids or sliding a lever; or simply a treat underneath an upside-down cup.
These puzzle games are wonderful for food-motivated furry friends, and because they make them think, they’ll help tire them out – a necessity if you’re raising a young puppy!
Your vaccinated dog (or cat!) enjoys spending time with you, so why not take them for a walk somewhere special? Choose a route you wouldn’t normally go so they can enjoy new smells and sights. Just be sure that your pet is well-behaved on the leash, and don’t 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 it right.
Once your pet has mastered the commands of “sit” and “down,” you can teach them to shake or high-five. More complicated tricks like spin, crawl, or middle – in which your dog walks between your legs – are great for advanced learners.
Pets learn best from positive and rewarding training methods; ask a certified trainer in your area for tips, or check out YouTube for helpful videos. If your pet gets really great at performing, you can apply to earn a Trick Dog title through Do More With Your Dog or the American Kennel Club, even if your pup isn’t purebred.
Put your pet’s nose to work at dinner time with a snuffle mat! A snuffle mat is a fabric mat with long strands of cloth – usually felt – or layers and pockets in which kibble is hidden. The dog then sniffs it out and gets a reward.
Some people feed their pets with a snuffle mat to help them slow down their eating – great for dogs that seem to inhale their dinners. Although it’s a helpful tool for your pet’s health, it also reconnects them with how their wild ancestors may have eaten, foraging for food on the forest floor.
For the most passive way to get your cat or dog active and thinking, hide numerous treats in various places around your house. Once your pet understands that they can find snacks if they look around a little, they’ll be zooming all over the house looking in every hiding place they encounter.
Just remember where you hid them all, so you don’t come across surprises later. We recommend using crunchy, solid treats for this activity.
Playtime with Pals
Dogs are pack animals and enjoy interacting with other dogs. If your pup has some buddies they associate with – and behave around – why not schedule a fun playdate?
Even just a couple of hours with a buddy can bring joy to your pet – and get them exercising more than they normally would. Win-win!
Dock dog, barn hunt, agility, flyball, lure coursing and more are fun dog sports that your pup can participate in. Find your local canine sports center to learn more about your options and which your dog may excel.
For example, your labrador may adore 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 these activities are essentially athletic events, but for dogs, they’ll keep your pup in great shape while building a strong bond with you.
Clear New Activities with Your Veterinarian
Every pet is different, so be sure you ask your pet’s veterinarian about healthy activities your pet can safely participate in. Your dog’s breed, size, age, and joint condition, for example, may not be good matches for canine sports, for example, but exciting walks and treat hunting could be just right.
Your pet will thank you for it by giving you lots of licks and cuddles!