Why Your Dog Needs Physical AND Mental Stimulation


I have a confession to make. My ‘middle dog’ as I have always referred to her as, was an pup obtained on impulse. 

I ‘rescued’ her from a neighborhood kid that I tutored when I was volunteering for AmeriCorp while attending EMU. We reunited many years later when he, now a teenager, was walking her off leash early afternoon on a sweltering summer day in my neighborhood. I remember my neighbor and I were looking at all the flowers and greenery growing in my butterfly garden at the time.

Miss Vicki and her teenage caregiver sauntered around the corner, crossed the street and she immediately invaded the lavender, cone flowers, snapdragons and black eyed susans, first sniffing the flowers and lavender, then wiggling gleefully on her back in the dirt I had just tilled and weeded. I tickled her belly and she grunted and nipped at me in pure puppy joy.

“You’re the first person she hasn’t tried to attack. She doesn’t let people touch her either without biting them,” her young companion mumbled with his eyes fixed on the sidewalk. 

“Awww, she’s just a fiesty lil’ girl puppy…she doesn’t mean any harm.” I was smitten with her. She was so fun! My current dog, Pookie, had just been diagnosed with mast cell cancer at 1o years of age. She wasn’t showing any outward symptoms of the cancer affecting her, but we had recently discovered a couple of hard tumors that alerted us to something being wrong. Still, it was a strong reminder of the limited time we have with our canine angels. 

When I tickled Miss Vicki’s belly and she growled, nipped, wiggled and snorted in happiness, I felt a lightness of spirit that I hadn’t felt since Pookie was a pup. 

“If she doesn’t like anyone but me, you should just let me have her!” It was logical, a no brainer.

He finally made eye contact with me, in disbelief. “You can have her!” he blurted out, suddenly moving quicker and with more purpose. Miss Vicki’s big badly cropped puppy ears perked up and she instantly darted at his pants leg and began shaking on the cuff.  She was adorable and I was ecstatic!

“Hold on, I’ll be right back,” I said quickly as I darted inside the house. I had a jar full of dollars and change that I saved for laundry and household stuff. I counted out fifty one dollar bills and rushed back outside. 

“Here take this…I really appreciate you telling me I can keep her!” I gushed, already feeling a heart full of love and possibility for the great times me and this little eight week old firecracker would experience together. 

Reality Sets In

Physical exercise is part of a well balanced canine lifestyle!

Physical exercise is part of a well balanced canine lifestyle!

From the time Miss Vicki claimed me, she kept me on my toes. She had endless energy and could not be contained in any crate, dog proof room or kennel. When my sister and I would come home from work, the house looked like the Tasmanian devil whirled through daily! I went through three crates in about a month! I walked her for miles and played with her for hours every day but she still had a seemingly unlimited amount of energy.

Being a teacher, I immediately sensed that this little pup was going to need a lot of not only physical, but mental stimulation. I began to research and ask for recommendations for a puppy training class to preserve what little sanity and energy I had left.

Our Introduction to Puppy Obedience

 I found a facility that offered a wide variety of dog training classes for puppies and adult dogs of all temperaments and breeds. I was impressed with their website and wide variety of class choices and instructors. Within two weeks of searching, Miss Vicki and I began our first puppy household manners and obedience class. 

We had such fun! Miss Vicki and I greatly enjoyed our class time together and she was attentive, ready to work and highly motivated by food and toy rewards (especially food)! We progressed through our class exercises quickly and diligently practiced the ‘homework’ exercises given by our instructor at home. 

At the end of our six week class, we had to do a ‘test’ where we took our puppies through a series of exercises without food to demonstrate understanding of the concepts of the activities we practiced during the course. Miss Vicki and I had a great time together, communicating and working together using the strategies our instructor carefully guided us through and gave feedback over the six weeks that we worked together. 

 We an amazing time working together to complete the tasks. She was so enthusiastic and attentive to me. We had a great working relationship and our instructor noticed. 

“Miss Vicki has great focus and enjoys working with you. She is so athletic and attentive! I believe you would both do really well in agility.” This was our instructors final feedback at the end of our class.

Miss Vicki and I did indeed go on to train and eventually compete in agility, but those adventures are for another (or several other) blogs. 

Lessons I Learned From Our Training

Training days were a real treat for us both. Miss Vicki learned when training days were (Wednesdays) and from the moment we woke up she was even more excited than usual until it was time to pack up and go to class. This would have driven me crazy except for a couple things I knew; when we arrived at the facility, she automatically went into ‘work’ mode, focused and ready for whatever tasks we were practicing at the time. Class was always fun and time flew by quickly.

A tired dog is a good dog!

A tired dog is a good dog!

The best part however, was after class was over. After I loaded all our crates and other gear in the car and got Miss Vicki inside, I wouldn’t hear a peep out of her until the next morning. Training exhausted her! The mental stimulation exerted in our training sessions were equivalent to hours of physical exercise. After getting home and having dinner, Miss Vicki would crash in her favorite spot and be seemingly comatose until breakfast the next morning.

I was on to something here! In order to really satisfy Miss V’s endless supply of energy, there needed to be a balance. Physical exercise is an absolute must for our pets’ health and wellness but mental stimulation is just as important. Of course there will be different needs based on the animals age, breed, temperament and activity level, but all dogs benefit from a mixture of both regular physical AND mental stimulation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a class setting all the time and the best training sessions are short, sweet and can be easily integrated into your normal daily routine. Check out these tips easy ways to stimulate your pup mentally! I implemented many brain games into our daily routines and Miss Vicki’s excess energy leveled. 

The Pitfalls of Not Providing Physical AND Mental Stimulation For Your Pooch

We are beginning a new year and many folks have received a dog or puppy for the holidays whether it was planned or unplanned. After the initial ‘newness’ of having a puppy wears off, many new pet owners feel overwhelmed or stressed when they realize that this living creature needs regular attention…some more than others. The months of February through April are terrible for animal shelters…intakes increase drastically with now unwanted ‘gift puppies’. 

I wonder if these numbers would decrease if new pet owners knew the life-long commitment to the physical and mental well-being of their puppies ahead of time? Dogs that receive regular physical AND mental exercise (household obedience and brain games count) are more pleasant, happy, well adjusted members of the household. They can be enjoyed like they are supposed to when all of their needs are met. Providing food and shelter in many cases just isn’t enough. 

I am thankful and fortunate to have had that knowledge when I impulsively obtained my whirlwind of a pit bull puppy many years ago. She is fortunate as well that she ended up with me instead of someone who might have banished her to a crate or yard unattended to for much of the time because of being a ‘bad’ dog. Or worse, turned into the animal shelter where many, many misunderstood dogs are relinquished when their care becomes too much for their owners. 

The Bottom Line

Are you or do you know someone who has a puppy or young dog and has good intentions, but just doesn’t have the time to commit to regular training and exercise? 

Never fear, there is hope! A great way to provide your dog with the mental and physical stimulation they need is to hire a professional pet sitter. Most professional pet sitters have a great knowledge base in integrating household obedience, manners and functional training into their services. Your pet will be in the hands of a pet care professional with extensive experience in helping make sure pets receive quality care that involves physical and mental stimulation. In addition, a professional pet sitter is a valuable resource; s/he can give you information on training, nutrition and community resources that will benefit your relationship between you and your pet. 

Having a pet should greatly enrich and improve your quality of life. There’s no need to give up when your new puppy or dog seems to be too much to handle. Help is available!

So, are you ready to take the next step? Contact us  to discuss the best service to meet the needs of your puppy or dog. You deserve the very best and so do they!

If you enjoyed this blog,  I’d be super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks a bunch!




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