Brain food is intimately connected to movement food. One key piece of brain food is letting dogs solve puzzles and problems themselves. If you watch a pup, or a child, encounter the world, everything is an adventure. Moving over a toy, or around an obstacles, up, down or all new phenomenon, food for the brain. We want to keep our children and dogs safe, but don't solve all the world's puzzles for them. When the dogs go off leash here at the ranch, whether at the stage where they are still dragging a long line, or later on when all lines have been unclipped, I don't solve the world for them.
There's a great little area in the wash, where we have created a "doggy playground" with soft sand to jump down into, roots to jump over, others to duck under. While I might toss a treat down in, or show some of the smaller dogs an easier point of entrance, after that, they get to interact with the playground on their own. Their look of pride when they figure out how to go down and up, how to jump over something, how to find me again, is just fabulous.
All of that confidence transfers to a greatly enhanced level of responsiveness when I go to take the dogs into town for complex leash work under high distractions. There's a reason the training order here proceeds as it does with movement, distance work, handling, confidence building, and then precision work. I'm building the brain and the body as I go so that this new stronger inside becomes my training partner to build and enhance the behavior of the dog as I layer on the commands.
As I build that brain capacity, then I start to challenge it. So I might have the dog "place" on a raised dog bed here at the ranch, then maybe a stool, then a cart at the hardware store, then the scale at the vet's office, building towards practical everyday uses of the commands. Then I'm likely to add the "stay" command to have them stay in place wherever they've been put. Slowly, I increase what we call the Triple D's: distance, duration, and distraction. Again, brain challenges. The command "stay" is the same, but the farther away from the dog I get, the longer I ask them to hold the position, and the more distractions are going on around the dog, the harder the task becomes. Step by step we increase complexity. The more the dogs master, the more confident they become.
Tricks are a great source of brain food. So are dog sports, or just participating in the family's activities – hiking, going to the lake, down to the barn, out with the horses, to the park for a picnic, or to the soccer field to watch a game. Anything and everything can be brain food. The more commands and confidence the dog has, the more brain food we can throw in the equation. That's never ending. What we do here at the ranch is a start that gives you the foundation you need to provide brain food for your dog for the rest of their life.
It has become an overused phrase that all dogs need a job. Well yes, sort of. What they need is brain food, and brain food can just be the complexity of your daily life, but with your well behaved dog, now included intimately in the details of that life. Dogs who have mental complexity in their life, don't search out the drip system to dismantle. Some dogs require more than others -- I joke that some dogs require you to stay up nights and go back to grad school, but that is what the owner training here,included at no additional charge at the end of every board and train program, is all about is teaching you how to work with your particular dog using their commands and concepts of brain food to keep your "Duke" balanced and relaxed.