Monday, July 22, 2013
When it comes to learning, dogs and cats process information in two different ways: “fluid intelligence” (smarts they are born with) and “crystallized intelligence” (how they process what they've learned). This is according to Stanley Coren, PhD, a psychology professor and author of How Dogs Think. We can't do much about our pet's fluid intelligence, but we can help them expand learned intelligence and boost their brainpower by introducing them to new things that keep their mind sharp.
Increase Their Vocabulary
Most of us talk to our pet daily, but what we don't do is teach them what a word means. Training is the art of teaching a dog or cat to associate a command (word or phrase) with an action. Even when we aren't consciously trying to teach, our pets pay attention to what we say and can learn word association on their own. If you tell your dog “go do your business” and then praise him for doing it, he learns what that phrase means. Our furry friends are comforted by our voice and pay more attention than you may realize. Never underestimate a dog or cat's intelligence. They can learn if you take the time to teach.
Work on Training
Teaching your dog basic commands helps the bonding process because of the time, attention and positive reinforcement you give them. Learning is a healthy workout for the mind, and daily reinforcement of commands will help boost your pet's memory. Some dogs may be stubborn, but that doesn't mean you can't teach them. Cats may seem incapable of learning, but they just need a little more incentive and motivation. With patience, dedication and commitment, you can teach a dog or cat anything that is within their ability.
When boredom sets in, your pet has two choices: sleep, or find their own entertainment, which usually means something is going to get chewed up, broken or taken down. Enrich your pet's environment with toys, puzzle games or homemade mystery boxes. Stimulating your pet’s mind boosts brainpower and increases his ability to learn and remember.
Give Your Pet Quality Time
Dogs are social and see their human family as part of the pack. Cats may appear aloof and independent, but they are also social with the one(s) they love. Our pets want and need positive attention and quality time from us. A walk around the block, a game of catch in the backyard or a massage while you talk to your pet strengthens your bond.
Pets love to play games and if they get to do it with their human, that makes it even better. Memory games are a great way to boost their brainpower. When your pet is hungry and watching you, hide some CANIDAE treats around the room. Have your pet leave the room for about 30 seconds, and then see how many treats he can find. As your pet gets faster at finding the treats, kick it up a notch and expand to two rooms or outside in a secured area. Another good memory game is to get three small cups, then hide a treat under one of them as your pet watches. You know this game, right? Mix up the cups and see how fast your dog or cat can find the one with the treat under it. If your pet is “slow” to catch on to either game (hey, we can’t all be brainiacs!), don't hesitate to help him find the treats.
Teach Your Pet Agility
You don't need expensive equipment to set up an agility course, nor do you have to teach your pet how to do every part of a course. Find what he enjoys doing and teach him how to do that one skill. Once he learns it, move on to another one. I ran across a couple videos that show how you can make a course with what you have at home. Note to cat owners: both videos are cats running a homemade course. Click here and here to watch these amazing felines having fun while giving their memory a boost. If you take the time, cats can learn.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to fight obesity in pets, and it's a good way to stimulate their mind and increase learning. You might discover that your dog is smarter than you thought, and that cats can be trained.
Top photo by meknits
Bottom photo by Peter J. Bellis
Read more articles by Linda Cole