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Gone are the days when we could keep dogs happy and tired with a couple of walks a day. Over time, dogs have raised the bar on us by being better versions of themselves and demanding the same from us.
Mental stimulation toys and brain games have helped us match up to Siberian Husky energy levels with excellent outlets that are enriching, desirable, cost-effective, and fun.
Furthermore, they are all-season friendly and can be done in a wide variety of environments. Let’s chat about some ways you can up the ante in terms of mental stimulation for Huskies.
Mental Stimulation And Its Power To Save A Dog
Did you know, more than 50% of pet dogs in the world are not getting the exercise they need on a daily basis? Huskies need a certain amount of exercise, depending on their age, health, and current fitness level.
As a well-meaning pet parent, you may be religiously taking your Husky for 2 long walks a day. But that is seldom enough because a Husky can do so much more than that. This is where mental stimulation comes to the rescue.
The right kind of mental stimulation activities helps in activating a dog’s sensory organs. thereby improving:
- Cognitive functioning
- Alleviating boredom
- Increasing engagement
- Reducing stress
- Increasing relaxation
- Reducing barking
- Providing desirable outlets
These activities are crucial for better mental health as they greatly improve the confidence of not only young pups but also anxious and fearful dogs. This is especially important if your husky lives in an apartment.
Mental stimulation activities work like magic when it comes to calming down dogs and helping them make better decisions. They teach dogs the art of self-engagement and make them more independent. Such dogs are not only a delight to live with but are also more likely to be accepted in a wide variety of social settings.
Several dogs end up being abandoned at the shelter because their pet parents describe them to be “unmanageable.” In simple words, a physically and mentally enriched dog is more ‘manageable.’
Have you wondered, ‘can huskies get depressed?‘ Yes, huskies can get depressed. And one of the best ways to help them is through physical and mental stimulation.
What Is Brain Training?
Brain training for dogs is an extension of mental stimulation. The primary goal of brain training is to help dogs think their way through a particular puzzle or problem, make better decisions, learn something, and have fun in the process. Brain training games and exercises are designed to improve the dog’s neural connections in the brain and process information better.
Brain training generally requires human involvement and is an excellent way to strengthen the human-canine bond. The objective of brain training activities is to design simple to complex dog-friendly tasks with a reward for success. These activities are meant to keep the dog engaged, enhance communication and help the dog make use of their cognitive skills to complete the task at hand.
The idea of brain training is based on the ‘neuroplasticity’ of the brain. In other words, brains are like soft plastic — always capable of molding, changing, and opening up to learn new habits, tricks, and behaviors.
How To Pick The Right Enrichment Activities For Your Husky
Siberian Huskies were originally bred as sled dogs. They were prized for their stamina, ability to run at a consistent speed for long distances in harsh weather, and their aptitude to collaborate with humans.
While Huskies evolved over the years to perform other tasks and be great family dogs, almost all of them, even today, are runners and sledders at heart. Activities that allow them to channel their natural instincts to their heart’s content are the ones you should be choosing to thoroughly enrich your Husky.
Huskies enjoy running in open fields and chasing wilderness. They are also talented vocalists.
Here are some enriching activities you can do with your Husky:
- Train them to pull and push carts, sleds, and sled-like things in open fields
- Teach a Husky to talk and sing on cue
- Agility games
- Biking, skating, and cross-country skiing driven (pulled) by the Husky
- Therapy dog training, if the Husky has a temperament for it
- Service dog training, if the Husky has a temperament for it
- Scent games
It’s important to note that many of the above activities might be difficult with untrained huskies. So make sure you know the basics of how to train a Husky first. Basic training is actually quite enriching in itself. So start with the basics before trying the aforementioned enriching activities for your Husky.
If you just invest time in closely observing your Husky, you would get an idea of the kind of activities they naturally like engaging in. Based on your observation and your Husky’s likes and dislikes, it will be a lot easier for you to pick mental stimulation exercises for your Siberian pal.
How Much Mental Stimulation Does A Husky Really Need?
Every Siberian Husky has different needs, preferences, and lifestyles. Some Huskies who lead a fairly active lifestyle may end up getting their mental stimulation needs fulfilled in day-to-day activities. On the other hand, if your Husky leads more of a sedentary lifestyle, they may be more demanding in terms of enrichment needs.
Huskies are high-maintenance dogs and need plenty of stimulation, both physical and mental. Anywhere between an hour to two hours of mental stimulation per day would be quite beneficial for their mental health and well-being.
Make sure to split this duration into smaller parts for a healthier balance of enrichment activities throughout the day. Engaging in activities for an hour or two at a stretch without downtimes will end up overwhelming your Husky.
5 Enriching Brain Training Games You Can Try At Home With Your Husky
1. Learning to read
Dogs can theoretically be trained to recognize images and shapes of words if written in the appropriate size and font. Choose the largest, darkest font and avoid any squiggles, serifs, or other fancy elaborations.
Step 1: You will need medium-sized flashcards with only one word written on each. Let this word be the command that you need them to perform.
Step 2: Before you start teaching your dog this trick, make sure that they know to perform those commands reliably.
Step 3: For the first few days, stick to just one Flashcard and master it, let’s say “Sit.”
Step 4: Show the flash card and say the command the first few times. Reward every successful attempt
Step 5: Just show the flashcard without saying the command. Reward every successful attempt.
Step 6: After mastering a cue, repeat the same process with another command and flashcard.
Step 7: Once your dog masters both of those cues on the flashcard, alternate between the two and see if your dog recognizes each command.
2. Learning to count
Learning to count essentially involves teaching your Siberian Husky to Start and Stop barking on cue.
Step 1: Find out what makes your Husky bark (make sure it doesn’t stress him out). Make sure your Husky barks every time he sees (or hears) it.
Step 2: Add a visual and a verbal cue to it. This cue is an indicator for your Husky to start barking.
Step 3: When your Husky stops barking for a few seconds, let that be the “Stop” cue. Add a visual and verbal cue to this too. Now your Husky can start and stop barking on cue.
Step 4: Try saying a calculation question like “1+1” and visually cue your Husky to start barking. As soon as he barks 2 times, show the visual cue to stop barking. This makes it appear as if your Husky replied to your question with ‘2’ with the help of his barks.
3. Recognizing colors
Dogs have dichromatic vision because of which they can discern only blue, yellow, and some shades of grey.
Step 1: Teach your Husky to give a paw or touch its nose on cue. This will help them point to the color that they are required to recognize
Step 2: Have grey, blue, and yellow flashcards. Start with these colors as they would be easy to recognize.
Step 3: Start with only one color at a time, say Yellow.
Step 4: Say the word “yellow” and encourage your dog to interact with the flashcard in some way (touch or paw). Reward if successful. Repeat several times.
Step 5: Keep the flashcard between multiple objects and ask your dog to recognize “yellow.” If your dog does it, it’s time to move on to the next color.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 3 through 5 with this color, e.g. “Blue,” until your Husky can effortlessly recognize it.
Step 7: Alternate between two cards and put the training to test. If your dog is successful, show both colors simultaneously and ask your dog to recognize Blue and Yellow individually.
4. Trick training
Trick training is the most popular form of Brain game for dogs. Some dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are incredibly good at learning and even improvising on tricks. Siberian Huskies are also excellent at collaborating with humans as they have a history of doing so.
They are naturally good at some tricks like vocalizing on cue and agility-related tricks as these behaviors are instinctual to them. Make sure to find out the activities your dog loves engaging in before making a list of the tricks you’d like them to learn.
Trick training is not only an amazing outlet for excess energy but also a great way to improve your relationship with your Husky.
5. Hot Cold game
The Hot Cold game is a tweaked version of the “Find the treat” game. It has a greater human involvement as the game requires the pet parent to guide the dog into finding the treat.
Step 1: Make sure your dog knows to play the “find it” game. If he doesn’t know it, scatter some treats in front of him and encourage him to “find them.” Gradually increase the difficulty by hiding the treats out of sight and playing with them in a bigger area
Step 2: After you have asked your dog to Find the treat, in a calm tone, say the cue “Cold” if your dog is wandering away from the treat.
Step 3: If your dog is moving closer to the treat while sniffing, in an excited tone of voice, say “Hot.” This will encourage your dog to keep moving in the direction of the treat.
The tone of voice is the most important aspect of teaching your dog to differentiate between Hot and Cold.
Further reading: Best treats for huskies
8 Ways To Provide Mental Stimulation For Your Husky at Home
1. Interactive toys and puzzles
Interactive toys and puzzles for dogs have gained immense popularity in a very short span due to their ability to keep a dog engaged, mentally stimulated, and busy. They are excellent companions when crate training a Husky pup, which can help Huskies settle down in no time.
There are several types of interactive toys like food dispensing toys, toys that can hold a meal and can be frozen, puzzle toys, etc.
Consider feeding your Husky one or more of their meals through such toys. Dogs are highly food motivated, which eventually will become the biggest driving factor in getting your dog to love engaging themselves in such activities.
Must read: Best toys for huskies
2. Interactive games
Interactive games are the ones that generally require human involvement. These games make sure your dog is having fun while engaging their sensory organs in the best way possible.
Some examples of interactive games include:
Scatter feeding: As the name suggests, scatter feeding implies feeding your Husky by scattering its meals all over the floor. To make it more stimulating, scatter their food on grass and encourage them to sniff out their meals.
Find it: The ‘Find it’ game is a simple but powerful way to keep your dog stimulated and engaged anytime, anywhere. All you need is their favorite treats. Start by asking them to find something that is right in front of them. As they get good at it, tweak the game by hiding treats out of sight, under multiple cups, in one of the hands, etc., and encourage them to find it.
Scent work: Dogs are gifted with an extraordinary sense of smell. Scent work is an amazing way to optimize this gift. You can start scent work with day-to-day household items like essential oil, tweezers, cotton swabs, clean air-tight plastic bags, treats, and disposable gloves.
3. Frozen feeders
Toys like Classic Kongs and West Paw Toppl not only make durable chew toys, but they also have the ability to hold a substantial amount of your Husky’s meals.
Make sure to layer up these toys with not only kibbles but also other ingredients like broth, fruits, veggies, meat, and treats to make it highly enticing for your dog. Freeze them for an hour or two for a long-lasting game of enrichment.
Must read: 👉 Best Dog Bowls for Huskies
4. Edible chews
Edible chews like Bully Sticks, Himalayan Yak Chews, Pizzles, Collagen Sticks, etc do an excellent job at keeping dogs busy for several minutes while tiring their jaw out, cleaning their teeth, and providing them mental enrichment.
Make sure to read the ingredients of the edible chews you buy for your dog. Single-ingredient ones are highly recommended. Stay away from bleached rawhide bones as they can be hazardous for your Husky’s health.
5. Ball launchers and remote-controlled toys
Once your dog figures out how it works, a ball launcher can provide endless entertainment and enrichment to your Husky. Just drop a ball in, off it goes, and then your Husky can bring it back. As they play it more regularly, they can plop it into the launcher themselves and wait for it to be tossed again.
Remote-controlled toys are designed to fulfill a pet’s natural instincts such as chasing, sniffing, hunting, etc. They increase engagement at home and keep your dog busy. However, if your Husky is a heavy chewer or a shredder, make sure to monitor them closely while they are interacting with battery-operated and remote-controlled toys.
Or you can just stick to playing good ol regular fetch.
Further reading: Do huskies like to play fetch?
6. Obstacle course and DIY agility
Mental stimulation activities are not only enriching for dogs but also for pet parents because it needs us to come up with novel ways to keep our dogs out of boredom.
On a day that you have some extra time on your hands, design an obstacle course at home or in your backyard with some regular household items like chairs, tables, suitcases, pillows, brooms, rods, etc. Make sure to hide several treats to make the course fun for your Husky.
If your Husky is highly agile, you can also do simple agility games like training your dog to jump over a simple rope or weave through lined-up chairs.
7. Hide and seek
The classic Hide and seek never gets old. More so if you have a bigger house and more spaces to hide. It’s a great game that can be enjoyed by people and dogs of all ages.
Quick question… How is it that dogs can sniff out a piece of tiny crap from 4 feet underground but cannot manage to spot their humans hiding behind the door?
8. Get Them A Companion
Do huskies need a companion? Yes, huskies are much better with a friend they can play and interact with every day, especially when you aren’t home.
If your husky has a companion, you won’t need to provide them with as much mental stimulation.
3 Ways To Make Your Husky’s Walks More Enriching And Stimulating
Why should mental stimulation be limited to indoors? Walks are a great way to ensure a healthy balance between physical and mental stimulation. Here are some ideas to make your Husky’s walks more enriching.
1. Encourage sniffing
Dogs primarily love the outdoors because they get to play, explore, socialize, and most importantly, sniff! Regardless of the breed, age, size, or genetics, every dog thrives when they get ample opportunities to sniff to its heart’s content.
Sniffing is enriching, and stimulating and it helps dogs calm down faster and give communicate calming signals to one another. Make sure to let your dog sniff in a variety of environments. Taking your dog outside and not letting them sniff is like taking a kid to Disneyland blindfolded!
2. Play the “find it” game outdoors
Scatter some treats on the grass and ask your dog to “find it.” Even a couple of rounds of this game is enough to calm your dog down in a jiffy. This game is particularly helpful when your dog is experiencing bouts of hyperactivity or is overwhelmed with something.
3. Practice basic obedience cues
Basic obedience cues are an excellent way to help your Husky be more responsive and well-mannered in a variety of situations.
Pro tip: Practice simple cues in distracting environments. When the environment is already difficult enough for your dog to focus, performing a simple and familiar cue will be a lot more doable for your dog.
Mental stimulation and brain games not only act as excellent outlets to keep your dog engaged, but they also make incredible trainer assists. These activities help your dog calm down faster in any situation, make them more responsive, help them make better decisions, and improve their cognitive functioning.
So, which one are you most excited to try?
Let us know in the comments below!
FAQ About Mental Stimulation for Huskies
How to mentally stimulate a husky?
Providing interactive toys, puzzle games, obedience training, and scent-based activities can engage a husky’s mind and prevent boredom.
What do huskies like to play with?
Huskies often enjoy playing with toys that challenge them mentally, such as puzzle feeders, interactive balls, and tug-of-war ropes.
How big is a husky’s brain?
Huskies have brains proportionate to their body size, and their intelligence allows for complex thinking and problem-solving.
How to mentally stimulate your dog?
To mentally stimulate a dog, incorporate activities like hide-and-seek games, obedience training, teaching new tricks, and engaging in interactive playtime.
What do huskies like to do for fun?
Huskies have a natural love for activities like running, exploring, playing fetch, and participating in agility or nose work exercises.
How to tire out a husky?
Tire out a husky by combining physical exercises like brisk walks or runs with mentally challenging activities like obedience drills, puzzle toys, and fetch games.
How to keep huskies entertained?
Keep huskies entertained by offering a variety of toys, rotating playtime activities, arranging playdates with other dogs, and exploring new environments together.
How to make a husky happy?
To make a husky happy, provide regular exercise, mental stimulation, social interactions, a balanced diet, and plenty of affectionate bonding time.