I receive a lot of messages from owners asking how they can keep their vizsla mentally stimulated and entertained throughout the day.
As this is such a crucial part of any Vizslas day, it deserves to be covered in detail.
This article will run through 8 ways to keep your vizsla sufficiently stimulated leaving them calmer, more obedient, and happier. Let’s get into it.
Why Mental Stimulation Is Essential For Vizslas
So why is mental stimulation such a highly talked about topic in the vizsla community? Well, mental stimulation is pretty much just exercise but for the brain instead of the body.
Owners are already aware that vizslas need a lot of physical exercise, but mental exercise (stimulation) often gets forgotten about or not prioritized. And this is a huge mistake!
Vizslas are working dogs at heart and need to solve challenges, complete tasks, feel useful, and simply “work” for their owners. Without this, they will not feel fulfilled and will never be truly tired.
Owners often ask me why their vizsla is so energetic even after long intensive walks… Well, in most cases the answer is that it doesn’t matter how much physical exercise your vizsla has, if your vizsla’s mind isn’t tired, they will never be truly tired.
Being sufficiently stimulated also results in a calmer demeanor, improved obedience and behavior, reduced stress, and a happier vizsla in general.
So with that, let’s explain the very best ways you can start providing your vizsla with more mental stimulation today.
Psst. A word on Vizsla training! Brain Training For Dogs could be the best training approach we’ve seen for Vizslas. Results show improvement in obedience and behavior quicker than we thought possible! It’s seriously worth checking out.
The 8 Best Ways to Mentally Stimulate a Vizsla
The following advice will no doubt keep your vizsla’s mind ticking over and properly stimulated.
Some of the following tips or games will be easier to implement into your routine than others, but it’s best to try and test all of them.
From trial and error, you’ll likely find out what really satisfies your vizsla the most.
1. Increase socialization
If you could only do one thing on this list, make it to increase your vizsla’s level of socialization. From visiting dog parks, joining doggy meet-up groups, to inviting more friends and family over with their dogs, it’s all good!
Many experts agree that socialization is one of the most potent forms of mental stimulation for dogs. So whatever you need to do to get your vizsla sniffing more butts, chasing, play fighting, and engaging with other dogs, try to do it!
Plus, not only will your vizsla receive all the benefits that mental stimulation offers, but they will become even friendlier and more approachable towards strangers and new dogs than ever before. And who doesn’t want their dog to be friendly!?
2. Nose work games
Vizslas have an incredible sense of smell like most dogs, and we can easily create fun games that utilize not only their mind but also their most powerful sense by far.
Having your vizsla use their sense of smell will literally send their brains working overdrive in an instance, and it’s something they love.
What to do:
Start the game by getting your vizsla to sit and wait, then place a treat underneath a cushion while your vizsla watches you do it. Then give them the okay to go get it. They will go straight to the cushion and retrieve the treat.
Now get your vizsla to sit and wait out of sight (in another room), and do the same thing but choose a different cushion or hiding place and now call them in. You will likely need to provide some direction and help, but you can gauge this yourself…
After a few rounds of hiding treats in different places, your vizsla will completely understand the game, and now you can make it harder as your vizsla improves. It’s so simple, and with just 10 to 15 minutes of this, your vizsla will be thoroughly “worked” and they’ll be very happy with themselves. This is my favorite game to play with my pups when I’m at home.
3. Basic command training (continued)
Back commands such as sit, wait, down, here, drop, and paw are learned fairly quickly by most vizslas. The problem is that the majority of owners admittedly stop training these commands shortly after they are learned.
The truth is that basic command training should be continued long after they are learned, even for years! It may be easy and simple to you, but your vizsla will see this as part of their work and daily tasks which will leave them feeling accomplished and satisfied.
What to do:
You can easily make the basics more interesting. For example, with sit and stay, you could walk further back, walk to a different room, or increase the time you make your vizsla wait before giving them the go command… As long as they are engaged and awaiting your commands, the training is working and providing valuable mental stimulation. Always reward with a lot of praise and tasty treat to get the most out of training.
4. Interactive puzzle toys
Another awesome tool to have in your mental stimulation arsenal are puzzle toys. Puzzle toys are toys that require your vizsla to solve a simple (or difficult) challenge in order to retrieve a treat.
Some toys are more appropriate for when you are there to assist, and others are set-and-forget which are perfect for setting up just before you leave the house.
Personally, I’ve used the StarMark for many years and find it to keep my dog’s attention more than the standard kong toy (although I love the kong toy too). The StarMark is a ball that’s filled with dry small treats or kibble, and then your vizsla has to roll it around to make the treat fall out of the small opening. It’s durable, long-lasting, and will keep your vizsla entertained for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the difficulty.
Secondly, I think snuffle mats are awesome. Another toy that really focuses on getting your vizsla to use their sense of smell. Snuffle mats can last surprisingly long depending on how many treats and how well you hide them in the mat. If you hide a single treat in the mat, it can be quite difficult to find.
Lastly, for the times you are there to sit and assist, I love Nina Ottosson toys. These are a little more complex and require your vizsla to solve a couple of challenges at the same time to unlock the treat. These toys need resetting every round and have parts that come loose, so your involvement is necessary.
5. Hide and seek
It turns out that it’s not just kids that love hide and seek, dogs can play it too and boy does it get them going!
What I like so much about this game is that it can be so spontaneous and played randomly at any moment.
The best way to initiate this is to hide behind a door somewhere when your vizsla is out of the room doing their own thing. Call their name a couple of times and let them stew over where you are… This really gets them going. Of course, there is a fine line between causing them frustration and it being a fun game, so don’t make it too hard in the beginning. Always reward your vizsla with a treat and praise when they find you.
Over time, and many times of playing this game your vizsla will get better and learn your hiding spots. Stay creative, and this game can be excellent fun. Once you hit the pro level you can command your vizsla to sit and wait in another room while you go and hide! Yep, it’s time for us to have some fun too!
6. Give names to toys
Another fun training game to introduce to your vizsla is giving names to his toys. It sounds a little weird but stay with me. Fun fact, there is a border collie that successfully learned 1000 toys by name (pretty crazy, but definitely a good game).
You can start with two toys and add more as your vizsla improves. Not only the act of training for this game will be stimulating, but once learned, you can call out the different names and your vizsla will be focused on choosing the right one… With time, you can even hide some of the toys and call out the name…
How to teach it:
Start with two toys one in each hand, hold both hands behind your back. Bring one out and repeat a chosen name. Put it behind your back and bring the other toy out in front of you, repeat a different name. Do this for a few minutes while your vizsla watches and thinks you’ve gone insane. Now put both toys on the floor and call out one name, see if you vizsla gets.
If your vizsla doesn’t get it right, that’s okay, it will take a few tries. Praise heavily when your vizsla gets it right, and repeat this exercise every day. Eventually, your vizsla will master it, and once he does, you can create interesting games from this newfound skill.
7. Agility training
A fantastic way to combine physical exercise and mental stimulation is with an agility course. Before you skip, you can actually pick up these dog agility kits online from places like Amazon for reasonable prices.
If you have a yard it’s certainly worth considering! While you slowly walk your vizsla round the obstacle course he will slowly become more proficient at it. Over time you can increase the speed at which he does it until he is flat out sprinting around it.
This is excellent fun for dogs, especially agile and athletic breeds like vizslas.
Not only is this excellent physical exercise but his mind and concentration levels will be fully activated in order to dodge, duck, jump and weave successfully.
8. Increase general engagement and interaction with your vizsla
Perhaps the easiest thing to do you can right this moment is to simply begin engaging and interacting with your vizsla more.
Everything from playing more games, giving more belly rubs, and yes, even talking to your vizsla, all engagement is good engagement and will keep their minds ticking…
Dogs who are left to their own devices are the ones that suffer the most from boredom and frustration. And a sad reality is that many dogs are still ignored even when people are at home with them.
Simply choosing to interact and engage with your vizsla more will absolutely stimulate their mind. The best part is that this is so easy to do and doesn’t involve having to teach your vizsla anything.
How Much Mental Stimulation Do Vizslas Need?
The next question is understandably: how much mental stimulation does my vizsla need?
The truth is that it’s very hard to measure mental stimulation, as it comes in many different forms, sometimes without you even realizing it…
The best answer here is simple though, and that’s, the more the better.
The more mental stimulation you can provide your Vizsla, the better off they will be. It goes without saying that this is something you have to prioritize on a daily basis, just like their physical exercise.
Try to work on a few of the games given above, increase socialization (which can be done while you are walking your vizsla anyway), and keep up with command training. However you decide to provide more mental stimulation, be sure that it’s something you do with your vizsla every single day.
Make this a new goal, and you’ll see a positive effect in no time at all. From improved obedience, better behavior, a calmer demeanor, and more…
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