If you have Australian Shepard, you know how this beautiful dog can be hyper. Burning all that energy only with cardio training like running or playing fetch is not enough. Aussies are super smart dogs, they need to keep their brain occupied not only the muscles.
Keeping Australian Shepard mentally stimulated is equally as important as providing regular physical exercise.
To mentally stimulate your Aussie start with a change of boring regular walks to Sniffari walks. Use a snuffle mat instead of a classic food bowl, your dog will be thrilled to look for food. Another option is to make a DIY Food Tube Dog Puzzle and let your dog work a little bit to get his food. Play hide&seek games. Hide some treats or toys and let your dog find them. Teach your Aussie some new tricks. Get your dog a puzzle toy. Make an obstacle course- a great way to stimulate both brain and muscles at the same time.
Why Nose work Games Are Important Mental Stimulation For My Australian Shepherd?
Sniffing is something that makes Aussies very happy. We often ignore this fact because we don’t understand it. Nose work games help your dog to use his natural talents, boost his confidence and keep his mind busy.
Nose work games tire your dog out and prevent unwanted behavior (destructive behavior).
The good thing about nose work games is that you can play them both inside and outside, most of them are super simple and your Aussie will love them.
How To Start With Nose work Games?
First, make sure your Aussie knows to follow some basic commands. It’s important to know ”Stay”, ”Sit” commands. A reliable recall is also essential.
It’s recommended to start with nose work games inside as there is a lot less distraction.
A command ”Find it” is also needed. In case your dog knows it, no problem but if he doesn’t then you should teach him this command first and then start playing the game.
Take a piece of treat, show it to your dog and then hide it somewhere in the room while your Aussie is watching.
Tell your dog ”Find it”. After few times, your clever dog will understand what do you expect him to do when you say ”Find it”. Once he learns it, you can hide treats elsewhere in the house and don’t let your Aussie watching you hide them.
Nose work Games a Mental Stimulation For My Australian Shepherd
”Which hand” Game
This a very simple but yet stimulating game for your Aussie. Grab a treat and hide it in one hand. Show both hands to your dog asking him to point out in which hand is the hidden treat.
If he shows the right hand, praise him generously but if he doesn’t, you shouldn’t give him a treat. Open your fist to show him where is the treat, then close them and try again. Once he points out the right hand praise him.
”Hide and Seek” Game
Similar game, you are hiding something again. But in this case, you can hide a treat, a toy, or you can hide somewhere in the house. As mentioned before, start first with showing your dog an object you are about to hide and then let him watch you hiding it.
Once he learns the command ”Find it” and he is able to understand what do you expect from him, move the game to another level by not letting him see what are you hiding nor where.
Simple walks are pretty boring for most dogs, especially for highly energetic and clever canines such as Australian Shepard. Walk means going out, getting freedom.
Dogs have the necessity to explore the outside world by sniffing and not allowing them to do so, it frustrates them very much. People usually drag their dogs around, not letting them stop and sniff something as people tend to get moving.
By letting the dog sniffs around and explore outdoor by his nose, stimulates his brain very much, leaving the dog content and tired.
So you should afford your dog Sniffari walk instead of a boring simple walk. A dog should be on the leash of course, but you are here only to control the leash and make sure your dog doesn’t get into trouble.
Apart from that, you should let your dog take a lead and follow his nose wherever it wants to go.
Using his nose, your Aussie’s brain is processing so much information so this activity is a perfect way for burning excess energy.
Get Your Aussie a Snuffle Mat
A snuffle mat is a funny way to serve regular food to your Aussie. Dogs like to work to get food. Why don’t you let them? Hide some tasty kibble inside the snuffle mat and let your dog sniff and search for his meal.
A snuffle mat keeps your dog’s mind occupied, using the sense of smell. Another benefit of the snuffle mat is that slows down Aussie’s eating allowing him to realize that he is full and prevent overeating.
The shell game is a well-known game, similar to the Which hand game. Take 3 plastic cups, hide the treats under one of them and ask your dog to show you where are the treats.
If he points out the right cup, let him take the treats, if he doesn’t, lift all three cups, showing him where the treats have been hidden but don’t let him take the treats. Repeat the game.
Dog Sports Like Barn Hunt or Scent Work
If your dog really enjoys nose work games you start to introduce him to fining other scents than food. There is an option to compete in the dog sport of AKC Scent Work
Barn Hunt is another sport that your energetic Aussie might love. There is a Barn Hunt Association where you can find much useful information.
”Barn Hunt is committed to creating a safe and fun sport for dogs, that also holds rat care at the highest level of consideration. The rats used in Barn Hunt are beloved family pets. They jump eagerly into their safe, comfortable aerated tubes and truly enjoy interacting with the dogs” say experts from Barn Hunt Association
Other Games To Keep Australian Shepherd’s Mind Stimulated
Going through an obstacle course is a perfect mental workout for your Aussie. If you don’t have agility equipment, you can make an obstacle course by yourself
If your dog is new in this, let him take baby steps, one obstacle at a time. When he learns them all you can put them together and make a real obstacle course which will really tire out your pet both physically and mentally.
Teach Your Aussie The Names of His Toys
This is quite interesting. Believe it or not, your Aussie can learn the names of all his toys. You just need patience and consistency. It’s a fun game plus it makes your dog think.
Start with his favorite toy. If it’s some kind of ball, play with it for a short time( but don’t throw it far away, it’s not the point to chase the ball, in this occasion that would be a distraction only, you should play with the ball close to your dog) and while you are playing repeat several times the name of the toy very clearly.
Don’t introduce a new toy at the same time. The next lesson could be to hide that toy and ask your dog ‘‘Where is the ball?” Once he finds it, say again clearly ”A ball” and praise him of course generously.
Get Puzzle Toys
There is a great variety of puzzle toys you can buy in pet shops or online. There is also a number of ideas on how to make puzzle toys by yourself.
For example, you can take several tubes, left from toilet paper or paper towel ( in that case you should cut one tube into two pieces ) and put them together in one box (like a shoebox). Grab a dog dry food and put it in some holes.
Your Aussie needs to find the food first and then to figure out how to get it. Once he notices he will take a tube out and eat the treat. It’s a great thing to keep his brain and nose busy and also slows down his eating.
If you want to purchase some puzzle toys, the choice is immense, take a look at the following link Puzzle Game Dogs
It’s very clear that every dog needs daily physical exercise, especially if you have a hardworking and energetic dog such as an Australian Shepherd.
But the muscles are not the only thing that needs to be kept in shape. Brain and mental stimulation are super important.
Sniffing and nose work are great activities for mental stimulation. They tire out the mind but also the body, after which your dog is tired but happy.
Even if you provide enough physical activity to your Aussie but he doesn’t have any mental workout, the lack of it may lead to unwanted behavior.