Mental Stimulation for Your Dachshund
Enrichment is the BEST and dachshunds are...well...hounds so nosework & hunting is generally a great outlet for their energy. It helps keep your dog interested and mentally stimulated while you take a much needed break and is especially useful for those weird rainy days where you can’t go for a long walk or a play in the park. On top of that, while walks, hikes & runs are amazing for your dog’s physical health, they probably won’t help stimulate them mentally … so if you physically work your dog a lot, you’ll end up with a dog who has the stamina to chew up all of your baseboards when they’re bored.
Mentally stimulating activities will not only mentally exhaust your dog, but a lot of mental games will physically work your dog too. Any time I give my dog something mental to do, he always ends up taking a nap after and for that reason, I love to give him enrichment activities in the evening after dinner to wind him down for the night. Here are some of my favourites:
*note: please do not leave your dog unattended with a kong
Starting with a classic, Kongs are some of the most simple enrichment toys. Start easy with your dog so they get used to it. As humans, we expect them to just know what to do with them when really they have no idea. If you make it too challenging at the beginning, they’ll get discouraged and not get so excited for their kong. Start with something like a small amount of peanut butter, cream cheese or pumpkin puree spread inside the kong and give it to your dog and let them lick it out. For the first few times, this will be more than enough to get their brains going. The goal here is to build excitement around the Kong and what yummy things are inside - they don’t inherently know that the Kong means good things so the slow introduction to it by filling it with somewhat easy yummy things will help. As they progress you can start getting fancy with different Kong Stuffings and freezing them to make them harder to get to, thus making it more and more enriching!
2. Snuffle mat
Snuffle mats are a super easy and effective toy for mental stimulation. You can make them yourself with tutorials online or you can buy them pre-made (I got mine at our puppy school!). If your dog eats kibble, you can scatter their meals through the mat which will make their mealtimes a fun hunt! Otherwise you can take a handful of small treats and hide them in the mat as well. This is not a toy you should just leave out all the time otherwise your dog might destroy the mat, but it’s a really good exercise in nosework especially for hound dogs like dachshunds.
Doggy puzzles!! There are 2 varieties here, either premade puzzles or DIY puzzles. There is a huge selection of the premade types online on places like Amazon or Chewy.com and my favourites are the ones made by Outward Hound. Hide a bunch of treats in the puzzle and let your dog get to work.
DIY puzzles are awesome for quick but super effective games for your pup. We use a beach towel or tea towel, lay it out and sprinkle some treats on top. Fold / roll the towel up in whatever formation suits you and give it to your dog to unroll! This is so easy but really makes your dog think hard and work hard to get their reward!
4. Hide and seek
One of my dog’s favourite games is hide and seek and we play it with all kinds of different rewards so tailor this one to your dogs interests. If your dog knows the “find it” command, hide a bunch of treats around the house and then tell them to “find it” - this takes a ton of work because your dog has to sniff out the treats to get their reward. Another way you can play this game is with toys! Make sure your dog knows the “wait” or “stay” command. I’ll tell my dog to wait and then I’ll go hide with a toy. I tell him “okay” which is our release word and he gets on the way to come find me. I use the squeaker as motivation and to give him clues as to where to find me. As soon as he finds me, we play tug as a reward (tug is one of his favourite games so it makes for a great reward).
A simple training session will get your dog’s brain working! Take 15 minutes and try to help your puppy to learn a new trick, or master some existing skills will not only help with some mental exercise, it will also strengthen the bond between you and your dog as you learn to communicate with each other.