Dogs are highly intelligent creatures and enjoy learning new things throughout their lives, naturally they are even more inquisitive as puppies. Getting into the habit of providing your puppy with mental exercise as well as physical will benefit you both.
Often, owners teach their dog a few basic commands as a puppy but then stop. You should continue to try to teach your puppy even when they reach adulthood. Consider buying or making some puzzle toys for your puppy. You’ll see lots of toys in pet shops, but you don’t necessarily need to buy expensive toys. A muffin tin filled with tennis or rubber balls with one or two treats hidden underneath can be great fun. Watch your puppy sniff and lift out the balls to get to the treats below!
Start with some simple mental exercises for your puppy, then slowly build up to more complex ones. Don’t expect too much too soon and keep it fun. If treats normally form the rewards for your games, keep an eye on the amount of treats your puppy is getting. Using praise as a reward can be as effective as treats. If you are playing hide and seek with your puppy, asking them to ‘seek’ their favourite toy should be rewarding enough to engage them.
Also be careful not to over excite or over arouse your pup. Play or train for a few minutes and then give a 'finish' command when you remove the toy. Puppies are learning about the world every day so their brains are being stimulated by all the new experiences they are having. Socialising and making sure your pup is encountering different environments and situations is a great way to do this, as they learn vital skills as well as occupying their minds.
As your puppy grows to be an adult you should continue to keep their brains stimulated, right into their old age. There are many benefits of exercising your puppy’s brain, one you may be especially appreciative of is a good night sleep! If your puppy is under stimulated during the day they may be less likely to sleep soundly at night.