Dear Andy: “How do I know if my 7-year-old dog is bored? We play fetch and walk outside, and inside we play tug-of-war with a few favorite toys. She spends a lot of time sleeping during the day, and I suspect she is bored with the “same old” routine.” Guilty Dog Mom 

I have found that my dogs are much more content and better behaved when they are regularly given tasks that take some time and skill to figure out. Dogs need a balance of physical activity and mental stimulation. It seems like your dog gets physical activity with outdoor play and tug-of-war, but could use some additional mental stimulation. 

A training program is one of the best ways to challenge your dog mentally and improve their skills. There are many good trainers in the area. Our 4-year Addie has trained with Pet Karma (tricks class) and Sherrie Wilkes (agility). There are also some great products that make it easy to challenge your pets - puzzle toys, slow feeders, and chew toys. 

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Slow Feeders are designed to keep your pet from gobbling down their food.  The design of the feeder forces them to take their time, and think about how to get all the food.  These feeders also help with digestion.

Snuffle Mats are layered mats that are used to hide treats or food. Dogs stay occupied using their senses to find all the hidden treats inside the fluffy layers. 

Treat-Dispensing Toys have been around for a long time, and remain great boredom busters for your dog. Make sure to choose a durable brand that can be easily cleaned. You can even feed your dog with these toys.

Puzzle Toys require a dog to figure out a series of steps to “unlock” the treats.  It’s so much fun to watch your dog figure out puzzles! 

Chewing on sticks and chews comes naturally to most breeds, and it is good exercise for their jaws, teeth, and their brains.  There are lots of options including bully sticks, Himalayan cheese chews (made from yak and cow milk, salt and lime), easily digestible “no-hide” bones, and raw bones.   Make sure to choose a chew that is safe for your dog, and always avoid rawhide and cooked bones. Never leave your dog unattended with any type of chew. 

Andy Cohen is the owner of Barkley’s Marketplace in Flemington and Branchburg, NJ.  A lifelong animal lover, Andy is well-known for his expert advice and depth of knowledge on pets and pet food. Do you have a question to ASK ANDY?  Email info@barkleysgourmet.com.