January 19, 2023
Melissa usually lets Zena out on the patio during the mornings to burn off energy running and playing around the pool. Zena will move constantly between the patio and the kitchen as she finds ways to keep herself occupied. The problem arises when it is too cold (for the succulents) to keep the door open or when it is windy like today. The wind wreaks havoc with the screen door and has already ripped one of the hinges off the jam. In these conditions we need to keep the door closed. That means we also need to find ways to keep Zena occupied indoors while we are both trying to work. I played with Zena early and then took her outside to “zoom” in the yard while I got the paper. Still, it was not enough. When we came inside Zena was anxious to go back outside. That was when Melissa broke out the dog puzzle purchased during Christmas but never used.
When I looked online, I found a dog puzzle is also referred to as an enrichment toy. The puzzle can be of various types and employ diverse mechanics, have different goals, teach unique lessons, and feature difficulty levels that run the gamut of cognitive ability (for you as well as your dog). Most dog puzzles act as a brain teaser that holds a reward for your pet once they solve it. The two biggest puzzle uses are distraction and mental stimulation. Instead of giving your dog a simple chew toy to keep them busy, you can present them with a dog puzzle to keep them occupied much longer without having to divert their attention. Aside from keeping your dog busy while you try to work, a dog puzzle offers other benefits, including more mental stimulation than other toys as they require your dog to solve a problem to get what they want. The dog finds success by doing things dogs love to do by instinct, sniffing, licking, burrowing, and chewing. Not only do they get rewarded for their work, but they also get a serotonin boost as they fulfill their natural tendencies.
Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a monoamine neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin carries messages between nerve cells in your brain (central nervous system) and throughout your body (peripheral nervous system). These chemical messages tell your body how to work. Serotonin plays several roles in your body, influencing learning, memory, and happiness as well as regulating body temperature, sleep, sexual behavior, and hunger. The lack of serotonin is thought to play a role in depression, anxiety, mania, and other health conditions. The serotonin in your brain regulates your mood and makes you happier and calmer. Stimulating serotonin to make Zena calm and happier was exactly what was needed.
THOUGHTS: The Outward Hound Brick game that we bought is a classic-style dog puzzle that acts as an advanced-level brain teaser. You hide the treats in the board’s hidden compartments and let your dog find a way to open them. These puzzles are better for dogs who lick a lot (Zena), as most of the moving parts require the dog to use their tongue to get the prize. I did find there was a learning curve. You cannot put the puzzles down and expect the dog to search on their own. You need to interact with the dog. Zena’s dog puzzle is like the many of the diversion’s humans find. They can allow us to spend hours trying to fit the pieces together to achieve our goal. They are generally not intuitive and require guidance, at least initially. When we work together to achieve shared goals we can raise our serotonin levels, making us calm and happy. I guess life is not such a puzzle after all. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.