Why Mentally Stimulated Dogs are Happier and Better Adjusted
There is a common misconception that happy dogs should just be “dogs”, and live life with little to no training or rules.
The truth is, these dogs are actually miserable.
Ironically, they often also become aggressive as a result!
Imagine a child who is treated the same.
Children who are given everything, with little to no rules, often become bullies and expect the world to be given to them.
This is very unrealistic, and as the child ages, LIFE steps in and teaches difficult lessons.
Mentally Stimulated Dogs are Happier and Better Adjusted
In my line of work, I see all kinds of dogs.
I see dogs that are spoiled and given everything.
I see dogs with aggression issues.
And, I see and work with many working dogs.
Honestly, I believe that working dogs (dogs that literally work for a living, i.e. police dogs, service dogs, guide dogs) are the happiest dogs on earth.
Working dogs feel as if they are needed.
They literally HAVE A JOB.
They are almost constantly mentally stimulated and asked to provide a service that they have been taught to accomplish!
I think it is heart-wrenching when they must be retired, because these dogs would work till the end of their lives if it was up to them!
They live to go to work and do the job that they have been taught to complete.
Clearly, working dogs have gone through extensive dog obedience training and advanced training that takes them to the level where they work.
Also, it is clear that they have rules that they must follow in order to provide the service of their job.
This negates the idea that dogs should be spoiled and not given any structure.
Imagine for a moment, that I come to your house and take you back home with me.
You are going to be my pet!
I am going to give you a bed and lock you in a room with 4 white walls and no way to get out on your own.
I will shut you in this room for the night (or I might let you sleep on the end of my bed).
But, I will also shut you in here each day when I travel off to work for 8-10 hours or more.
When I get home from work, I will shower you with love and affection, food and toys.
Would this drive you crazy?
I went through a period of time in my life when my significant other didn’t want me working.
Thank goodness, as a human, I was capable of getting on my computer and watching TV.
But, right now, I LIVE for going to work and interacting with my friends, coworkers, and clients.
I can’t imagine the sadness and depression I would feel if I did not have this kind of mental stimulation and interaction.
Your dog can’t read books, he can’t watch TV, and he can’t interact with his friends on social media.
He can’t even figure out how to get out and see his friends!
How on earth could this be a fulfilling life?
He doesn’t want to sit around and have his brain rot.
He doesn’t want to be “spoiled”.
He wants rules and knowledge.
He wants a JOB!
I have trained Service Dogs for much of my career.
I have seen first-hand how happy these dogs are to work and how much more fulfilled they seem.
I use this knowledge to ensure that my dogs feel the same!
Although I don’t “need” a Service Dog, I teach my dogs to retrieve so they can help me pick things up and assist me with the laundry.
NEVER, ever, ever has my dog acted like a child when it comes to chores.
In fact, my dog is sincerely upset if I don’t ask for her help when I switch out laundry, or drop an item.
My dogs want to feel as if they have a purpose!
Just like I want to feel like I have a purpose.
You don’t have to be extravagant! You just need to teach your dog a few simple basic obedience commands and then work with him several times a day.
You can also teach him tricks and ask him to perform for you and your family.
He doesn’t care what you ask him to do, he just wants to have his mind and body stimulated!
A Recent Client of Mine
I was at a new client’s house this past Saturday.
Her puppy, 7 months old, is out of control and starting to show some demanding behavior and aggression.
And, although the puppy had been to puppy class, not much has been done with him since.
His mind is rotting.
So I went to their home, sat and listened to the problems, and evaluated the dog’s behaviors.
The dog was “off the chain” when it came to excitement and lack of impulse control.
He climbed me, scratched me, bit me, barked at me and otherwise showed a gamut of bad behaviors.
I simply sat in a chair and quietly waited.
Eventually he gave up mauling me for treats and laid down on the kitchen floor.
It was at that point I tossed him a treat.
Within 5 minutes this crazed, sometimes aggressive dog that lacked all impulse control was laying down and putting his head down because he realized it would get him what he wanted.
It was actually quite amazing to see! Even the owner was flabbergasted!
I laid it out on the line.
Ignoring the dog’s needs and giving him everything he wanted was ensuring bad behavior.
This dog needed mental stimulation, training, and a job!
He was too intelligent to lie idly by with no stimulation.
It doesn’t take much, just a few jobs, proper training, and a few precious moments spent with your dog each day will help to turn around his behavior!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.