As standard, the Kennel Club recommends five minutes of exercise per month of age; this can be carried out twice a day.
e.g. eight weeks of age > 10 minutes twice a day
four months of age > 20 minutes twice a day
- Boredom prevention – if the brain isn’t exercised, puppies and dogs will find other sources of mental stimulation such as chewing, digging or barking
- Improves owner to dog bond – mental stimulation games and play can increase owner to dog relationships making happier dogs and owners
- Improves overall behaviour – increasing mental stimulation helps reduce stress or frustration in dogs and helps promote good behaviour choices
- Helps dogs tackle frustration – dogs can often get frustrated (the toy that rolls under the sofa or the kibble that isn’t in reach). Using appropriate mental stimulation games can help dogs become less frustrated and to build their levels of concentration.
- Find the food – this can be as simple as hiding puppy food or treats around the house and asking your puppy to find them or scattering puppy biscuits in the grass outside
- Food dispensing toys – such as slow feeders or puzzle feeders. These can slow a puppy or adult dog from eating too quickly; this increases mental stimulation as they must work for their food
- Learning new tasks – learning new ‘party tricks’ can be fun to demonstrate to other people, but how about teaching puppies behaviours you would prefer to see? We recommend teaching ‘settle’ or simply rewarding for when your puppy isn’t doing anything at all; this will enable your puppy over time to understand that ‘calmness’ is a behaviour worth doing as they will be rewarded for this. Teaching recall is another task that can provide mental stimulation through learning.
Dogs love to sniff, and we often don’t give dogs enough time to carry out this important task. Letting a dog off their lead helps them feel satisfied from sniffing everything from grass to other dogs! Puppies are often unsure in new spaces, so having them off their lead early ensures they learn to stay close from a young age. Training your dog as early as possible to be off their lead is recommended. It should be done in a safe, enclosed area, preferably not at home, as the puppy will know their own surroundings and act differently in an unfamiliar area.
Click here to read further information on dog training and puppy care with DogsTrust. Or contact Cinque Ports Vets, vets in Rye, to find out more about dog training and puppy care.
With cats and kittens, there is no set amount of exercise that should be carried out, but at least two play sessions per day for 15-20 minutes should help reduce boredom and keep them active.
The preferred methods of play for cats are:
- Pouncing – toys that can be pounced on are a good choice
- Climbing – cats naturally prefer to be high up; having safe areas for cats to climb on, such as scratching posts, is another good option
- Chasing – similar to dogs, cats like to chase. Long feather type toys are a good choice
- Batting – cats also like to push things around the floor; rolling toys such as balls are good for this
- Exploring – new areas or objects such as cardboard boxes or cat activity stands.
Search, stalk, chase, pounce, catch and manipulate. So, we must mimic the ‘catch’ part of this when playing with our kittens.
- Cardboard boxes - use different sizes and move these around in different locations every day
- Cat activity stands or scratching posts - the taller the scratching post, the better – ceiling height is preferred, but generally twice the size of a cat, when stood on their back legs, is a good size
- Puzzle feeders
- Various toys - use different toys every day and then re-use previous toys the following week
- Shelves – placing shelves around the house will make for one very happy cat as they prefer to explore from above; a cat outdoors spends most of their time above the ground.