Picture your dog riding joyfully in the passenger seat next to you. Their head is hanging out the window while their tongue and ears flap in the breeze. It seems like most dogs enjoy this novel excursion, but is it actually good for your dog? Many owners wonder whether this counts as a way of mentally stimulating their canine companion.
Car rides are mentally stimulating for your dog. It engages their senses with new sights and smells. The sensation of riding in the car with you is also similar to their natural instinct to hunt. The car is an extension of home they rarely get to explore. They may enjoy the anticipation of a treat.
If you are thinking about taking your dog on a car ride, here is what you need to know about this fun activity.
Benefits of Mentally Stimulating Your Dog
Most dog owners already know that physical exercise is important for their canine. They know that they have to take their dog on daily walks or play a few rounds of fetch with them.
What many people don’t realize is that they need to stimulate their dog’s brain just as much. There are some major benefits to mentally stimulating your dog.
First and foremost, mentally stimulating your dog curbs their boredom. Think about the life your dog lives. If you don’t actively give them things to engage them, they are likely to find their own version of fun. You may not like the end result.
A bored dog often engages in annoying or destructive behavior such as barking, chewing, or digging.
Giving them something to do keeps their minds occupied and prevents them from being tempted to engage in some of these behaviors. As a result, you will see that their behavior often improves when they are given something to do during the day.
Eliminating these destructive behaviors is just one way that their behavior can improve. Many owners find that their dog is calmer in all situations when they work with them regularly.
This is particularly true if you are training with your dog. However, any type of mental stimulation will do. Mental stimulation will wear your dog out. A tired dog is often a happy dog.
Just as your dog enjoys a long walk at the park, they will also love using their brains. Several of the best ways to engage your dog’s mind involve one-on-one time with you. They will love this attention as it strengthens the bond between the two of you.
There are a number of reasons why mentally stimulating your dog is significant. Taking a car ride with your dog is one quick and easy way to stimulate their minds, but there are other effective options as well.
Why Car Rides are Mentally Stimulating for Dogs
Are you curious how taking a quick drive in the car can activate your dog’s brain? Car rides can be extremely mentally stimulating for your canine companion. You may want to consider taking them with you when you run errands. If you have nowhere to go, consider loading them up just for a quick joy ride.
Here are five reasons your dog could benefit from a car ride.
1. Visual Processing
Think about all of the things that your dog is exposed to on a daily basis. Chances are they don’t venture farther than your home or your backyard.
They likely already know every nook and cranny of both areas. Taking them on a car ride expands their horizons. Your pup will have so many new and novel things to take in. Their brain will be working overtime to process all of the new sights.
If you really want to activate their brain, consider taking them somewhere special. A stop at the car wash will be particularly stimulating for your dog.
They have never seen anything like the rollers and spray that they will be exposed to in the car wash.
2. New Smells
It’s no secret that your dog has a more developed sense of smell than their human. Dogs explore their world through their nose.
In addition to the visual stimulation they will receive from a car ride, they are also exposed to an assortment of new smells. They will smell things they have never experienced before. All of this extra scent work is great for keeping their brains sharp and active.
Of course, there is more to it than just new smells. Your dog loves to be wherever you are. By being with you in a confined space like the car, they can smell you more intensely as well.
3. Hunting Behavior
At first glance, riding in the car with your dog shares almost nothing in common with hunting.
You aren’t in the woods, you have no weapons with you, and your canine companion is strapped into their seatbelt instead of running free. However, a car ride creates a similar feel to your dog.
First, your dog is happy to be with their pack – you and the family. This is an important component of a successful hunting expedition.
Second, the movement of the car in relation to the other cars on the road may resemble the forward motion of pursuing prey on the hunt.
Your dog is carefully watching everything around them. Their sensation of being involved in the car ride is thought to give them the same feeling as a dog on the hunt.
4. Extension of Their Home
Did you know that your dog views your car as an extension of the home? They get to spend some quality time with their favorite person in a confined space.
This signals to them that this is a natural extension of their territory. Your pup will love getting to spend some time in this area that they hardly ever get to explore.
5. Anticipation of Reward
If you take your dog for a car ride often enough, they are likely to know your habits and routines. Are they always rewarded for behaving with a snack from the fast-food drive through?
Maybe you slip them a few fries from your afternoon meal. Your dog catches on to patterns quickly. If you really want to stimulate your dog’s brain, teach him to anticipate a tasty reward whenever you take them out on the road.
5 Additional Ways You Can Mentally Stimulate Your Dog
Car rides aren’t the only way you can provide mental stimulation for your dog. Playing games and working with toys is a great way to give their brain a workout. Here are a few fun ideas you might want to try with your pup.
1. Hide Meals
Your dog is used to wolfing down their meal from their bowl. You can slow down their eating and stimulate their brain all at the same time. All you have to do is divide up their regular portion. Hide each smaller portion somewhere around your house or the backyard.
Ask them to lie down and let them watch you hide the food during the first few times you try this game. After you have played a few times, your dog will get the idea and can be kept in a separate room while you hide their meal.
Walk them to the first pile of food and give the command to “find it.” Guide them toward the next portion, giving them help if they need it.
2. Puzzle Toys
Do you want to mentally stimulate your dog but lack the time? The good news is that puzzle toys can keep your dog busy while you do other things.
Stuff their puzzle toy with their meal to make it more challenging for your dog. There are a variety of puzzle toys available on the market, so be sure to try a couple to see what your dog likes the best.
You can also stuff a Kong ball with peanut butter and stash it in the freezer for a few hours to make it harder for your dog to get their reward. Stuff a puzzle toy with spray cheese or cream cheese as an alternative to peanut butter.
This is a great way to give your dog mental stimulation if they have to be crated for a long period of time. It will take their mind off their confinement and allow them to have some fun so that they look forward to crate time in the future.
3. Practice Training
There is no better way to activate your dog’s brain than through training them to do new things. Training your dog forces their brain to be active as they try to figure out what you expect from them.
They desperately want their reward, whether that means a tasty snack or a quick game of tug. Every dog owner should train their dog in basic obedience for safety reasons, but it can quickly become a fun way to bond with your pup.
If you aren’t sure how to get started, consider enrolling in a group obedience class at your local pet store. This will equip you with the tools you need to learn how to work with your dog.
From here, you can teach them more advanced tricks or teach them a sport like agility.
4. The Cup Game
To play this game, you will need three cups and a smelly training treat for your pup. Chances are that you have already seen some version of this game played with people.
Let your dog watch you place a treat underneath one of the cups. As they watch, shuffle the cups around to confuse your pup. Go slowly the first few times you play this game so that they have a good understanding of how it works.
When you finish shuffling, encourage your dog to sniff at the cups. Allow them to knock over the cups to try to find the treat.
Does your dog think this game is too easy? You can challenge them further by increasing the number of cups or by using a treat with a lesser smell. Both of these will help to keep the game fresh and exciting for your canine.
5. Hide and Seek
Your dog loves to go out in the backyard and sniff around. Sometimes, they get so caught up in what they find that they lose sight of you.
When your dog is distracted, this is the best time to play a game of hide and seek with them. Quickly and quietly hide behind a bush, a tree, or in the playset in the backyard.
Give your dog a few minutes to get curious enough to come searching for you. If they don’t, fear not. You can whistle or call their name to get their attention. This should be enough to encourage them to start searching for you.
Some dogs never seem to get distracted when they are playing in the backyard. You can still play this game with them.
When this is the case, you can ask your dog to lie down and stay in one room of your house. Run to the next room and pick a hiding space. When you are ready, call your dog so that he can come find you.
Mentally Stimulating Your Dog
Mental stimulation is essential if you want a happy and tired dog who doesn’t find creative ways to get into trouble. Taking a car ride with them is one of the easiest and fastest ways to tire your dog out.
They will be overwhelmed by the new sights and sounds, making it easy for them to activate their brains. Consider taking your canine on a quick trip today!
Why do dogs like car windows?
Dogs enjoy car windows because they let in a variety of exciting scents and smells that they have never experienced before. They can smell the exhaust from cars, the smell of fries cooking at the local burger joint, and more. It is very mentally stimulating for them.
How do I know if my dog likes car rides?
If your dog likes car rides, they will practically jump at the chance to get in the car with you. They may excitedly dance around the door when you gather up your keys to leave. While in the car, your dog may wag its tail or express itself vocally.
Why does my dog not like car rides?
Your dog may not like car rides because they associate them with a negative experience such as a painful trip to the veterinarian or the groomer. They may also suffer from car sickness, just like a human. At first, they may be resistant because riding in the car can be an unfamiliar feeling.