immagine Giochi di intelligenza o di attivazione mentale per cani: come usarli

Intelligence games and mental activation for dogs: how to use them

They call them in many different ways; intelligence games, interactive games, mental activation, but the concept behind these exercises is always the same: they stimulate the dog to concentrate and develop his intellectual skills. What are mental activation games and how are they used?

What are they for

Mental activation games, as the name suggests, are intended to satisfy the dog's natural intelligence. In fact, all dogs are equipped with a particularly intuitive brain, a factor that allows them to learn the commands given by the owner, becoming to all intents and purposes the man's best friend.

However, this skill must be cultivated in the right way, otherwise it might become an unused weapon. In simpler words, if we don't go to the gym, our biceps are unlikely to become toned and sculpted. The same stands for our brain and the dog's brain, which needs constant training to work at its maximum capacity.

cane ride felice giochi autostima

For this purpose, on the one hand, education takes over, which can be compared to the school education of children or intelligence games, which develop the mental skills of the dog, while still allowing him to have fun, exactly like the numerous toys for children found in stores.

Specifically, the goals of mental activation games are to:

  • Help the dog to independently find the solution to problems (problem solving), in order to receive a reward, a compliment from the owner or a snack hidden in the game;
  • Help the dog to easily accept the solitary moments in the house alone, preventing problems such as separation anxiety;
  • Find a challenging game for hyperactive or compulsive disorder dogs;
  • Increase his self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • Keep stress, boredom and depression under control;
  • Strengthen autonomous reasoning skills.

In addition, we should always keep in mind that exercise activates the dog's body and mind, triggering a state of excitement that must necessarily be brought back to a calm state once the game is over or when the animal becomes too euphoric. In other words, when we play pull-and-spring with the dog, the fact of simulating a hunting trip will immediately make him excited. To avoid over-loading, straining the mind and body, we should alternate the more physical game with the more mental one, stopping to ask him for a command (such as "paw" or "sit") or hiding the game to make him search for it, but also by introducing a mental activation game.

The main intelligence games

Mental activation games can be purchased in pet stores or online, but we can also decide to make them yourself. Here are some ideas:

cane giochi intelligenza attivazione mentale puzzle

  • Chewable games: we are talking about a middle ground between a simple game and an intelligence game. In fact, these toys can be filled with food, so the dog will have to understand how to unscrew the cap or move the object to release the contents. The exercise will not be of great ingenuity, but it can be excellent especially for puppies or dogs who tend to bark or destroy the house when they are left alone. In addition, this type of game also has two other advantages. The first is that it promotes healthy teeth because the dog can chew them safely. The second is linked to another common problem, dogs eating too quickly, because with these games they will have to work for a long time to be able to swallow all the food contained within them;
  • Interactive tables: these are small tablets that have different pitfalls, under which food can be hidden. For example, we can find small lifting cones or buttons to be pressed, connected to the drawers below, in which the food is inserted;
  • Puzzles: yes, puzzles for dogs exist. We are talking about wooden or plastic tablets that have a series of adjustable blocks, which the dog can slide horizontally or vertically with his paw and muzzle, discovering small snacks hidden under some blocks;
  • Do-it-yourself games: there are so many ideas, like a simple transparent plastic cup under which we will put some food. The dog will need to figure out how to turn the glass upside down to free the snacks. Take a look at the numerous online tutorials for other even more complex ideas.

How do we use them?

The first, very important aspect to understand about mental activation games is that it is something that the dog has to solve on his own. It is called "problem solving" precisely because the animal must be able to face the problem in complete autonomy, finding a solution to obtain its reward. This is why it is essential that the owner stays away during the process, encouraging the dog, but never showing him the solution. Do you think a child who has been guided by his parent to do his homework or has simply had it done by his mother is more confident of his abilities?

cane annoiato dorme scacchi giochi intelligenza

Another important factor is that we must offer the animal a suitable game for its tastes and its abilities. If our friend gets bored with the chewy games stuffed with food, we could alternatively offer him a puzzle. The same goes for the dog's intellectual abilities too. If we give a complex interactive table to an unexperienced dog , he will never understand how to reach the food, and instead of feeling more confident, he will feel even more frustrated.

Furthermore, considering that these are autonomous games, we should limit our interactions with him unless the game involves our presence as well. Therefore, we don't have to announce the start of the game with a nice "go!", But only show him that that will be his new game for the next few minutes.

Moreover, if the dog fails to solve it, and asks us for help, try to encourage him with a positive attitude, showing him that we are next to him, but that we cannot reveal the solution to him. Rather, we remain silent to avoid distractions.

If more than 15-20 minutes pass by and the dog does not seem to find any solution, we can stop, because he may feel frustrated. We can offer him a simpler game, which he may already know.

Finally, we must always remember that, once the game has been solved, the dog will have already obtained his reward, which is the food inside it. We must remain neutral, without filling him with compliments, caressing him or giving him more food.

immagine Come catturare un gatto randagio

How to catch a stray cat

Stray cats, tend to be very suspicious. It may happen, however, that they need to be taken to the vet urgently or simply be taken to be able to move them to a new home. But how can we catch a stray cat that does not allow itself to be approached easily?

The situations in which it may be necessary to catch a cat can be many. For example, let's think of the stray sterilization plan promoted by all Italian municipalities. In most cases, these animals are so active and agressive that the only way to take them to the vet is to sedate them. Likewise, stray dogs often fall victim to cars, serial poisoners or the normal dangers of street life, so they may need a visit or intervention from the vet. 

Another situation may be that the cat has found a family of his own, but does let anyone get close to him at all.

In all these cases, some techniques can be put into practice, which we will analyse in detail, from the simplest and obvious ones to the most complex.

First, we need to make sure we have plenty of time. So that we can proceed with some indispensable preliminary operations, which in some cases even take several days, to increase the probability of success at the time of capture:

  • simon s cat gatto trasportinoWe observe the cat in its environment: to understand the nature of the animal, we will have to see how it behaves, observing him without giving the impression that we are there for him. Further on we might even go a bit closer. Let's not get too close, because it could run away. For example, we can sit nearby, watching it slightly but not too intensely. Did he already become suspicious? He stares at us and seems ready to run away on our first move? He is probably very shy. If, on the other hand, he looks at us from a distance, and he seems calm enough, we could be able to approach him easily;

  • Be friends with him: we must make sure that the cat understands that we do not want to harm him, by calling and trying to address him in a calm and sweet tone of voice. We avoid standing while we do it, it is best to sit or bend on our knees, to seem less imposing. Let's not stare at it for a long time, but close our eyes repeatedly which is a sign of calmness for all cats;

  • "We buy" his trust with food: in the days before the capture - clearly if we have the time - we try to feed him, to make him understand that our intentions are good. Some cats do not approach food if they feel they are in danger, so for the first few times it may be advisable to keep our distance, gradually approaching them when they let us.

All of this may be impossible to put into practice if it is an emergency, for example an injured cat, which in most cases will be too debilitated to escape. In these circumstances, we may therefore have to automatically switch to the capture system.

The ways available to try - and maybe even to succeed - are many, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that cats are not always sweet and cuddly. The more frightened and distrustful he is, the more likely he is to attack us.

So let's get ready with gardener gloves, long-sleeved sweatshirts, blankets and all the less bulky protections that come to mind. We must also prepare the pet carrier that will serve to welcome the cat.

Let's see the various methods available to us to capture the animal:

  • Capture with bare hands: highly discouraged in most cases, unless the stray cat already knows us and is perfectly used to being manipulated by humans. In any case, it is always advisable to wear gardener gloves. Alternatively, we can try to grab the cat by standing behind him while he is eating, without picking him up as we would normally do. Rather, let's take it from the "scruff", the accumulation of skin between the shoulder blades, which blocks the animal without causing pain. Of course, we must already have the pet carrier available, to avoid wasting time;
  • Capture with a blanket or net: alternatively, we can try another method which is still not recommended. Let's get a heavy blanket or net, which we will throw at the cat while it is eating. At this point we must have the agility to prevent it from running away whilst we lift it to put it in the carrier;

  • Capture with the pet carrier: this can be a safer and a mostly effective solution. We put a bowl of warm food on the bottom of the container, wait for the cat to enter completely with the whole body and prepare to close it quickly. Some cats, however, may be more agile than us, leaping out at our first attempt;

  • Capture with the cage-trap: it is probably the most suitable method in most cases. Those who need to catch stray animals by profession also adopt it. There are two types of cage-trap, the one with the bait impaled on a small hook and the one with a table on which the food should be placed. In both cases, as soon as the cat touches the food, it will trigger a mechanism that will close the door behind it with a guillotine. It is absolutely not risky and it can even work in our absence, so the cat will feel calmer. However, once the door closes, the cat might react with great fear, trying to free itself in all possible ways.

Given the sad episodes that unfortunately have become increasingly widespread in the last period, we recall that the mistreatment of stray animals is a severely punishable offense. Therefore, the indications given in this article are intended exclusively for all those who have a real need to catch a cat with the sole purpose of treating it or improving the quality of its life, for example by transporting it to a new home.

immagine Come scegliere il cane più adatto ad un bambino

How to choose the most suitable animal for a child

 How many times have we heard of dogs attacking children? Unfortunately, there can be many causes behind these unpleasant situations, not always due to the personality of the dog, but also, for example, to the poor supervision of parents and their inability to teach children how to behave with dogs and cats. But all this must not make us give up the idea of adopting a puppy, even if we have a very young child at home. The important thing is to follow some tips to consider before and after adoption.

Which dog should I adopt?

There are several false myths about the relationship between children and animals. However, it is not absolutely false that we must give up the idea of adopting a dog if we have a child at home. There are many researches that demonstrate the countless benefits of living with a pet from an early age, to prevent allergies, stimulate the health of the body and even to become sensitive and responsible adults.

In any case, it may be an excellent idea to learn a bit more before adopting a dog, if we have a newborn baby or child at home. In fact, not all dogs are suitable for living with small humans. If a dog is used to a peaceful and silent lifestyle, from one day to the next he would find himself struggling with screams, desperate crying, toy cars at full speed on the floor and too clumsy caresses. A real nightmare!

That's why, before proceeding with the adoption, we should first of all evaluate the set of multiple factors, such as the breed or the starting crosses of the dog, the age, its previous relationship with people, any trauma, but above all the personality, which can derive both from the genetic predisposition and depending on how it lived.

Suitable breeds and not recommended ones

It is certainly always better to adopt a puppy or an adult dog who really needs a home, by contacting a kennel or a specialized association. However, when children are involved, it is often preferred to choose a purebred animal, since it is easier to predict the future size and inclination of the character.

cane terranova con bambina

Some dog breeds, in fact, are more suitable for "bearing" the awkward attentions of children. We speak above all of Labrador, Golden Retriever and Border Collie, very affectionate, intelligent and particularly predisposed to listen to the owner, as well as the San Bernardo, which however is more suitable for open spaces. Likewise, the most docile, affectionate and playful breeds, such as the Pug, the Beagle or the Boxer.

On the contrary, overprotective and more attached to the owner breeds, such as the Chihuahua, but also dogs with a greater aggression potential, such as Rottweiler, Pitbull and American Bulldog are not recommended.

Clearly, each of these breeds has a different size, so we will also have to choose based on our available space, but also our free time. A long haired dog will require more care than a shaved haired one. These are all factors to be taken into consideration together with compatibility with children, to avoid being unable to manage the dog after several months of cohabitation.

How important is personality?

In any case, whether it is purebred or half-breed dogs, it is also very important to look after some character aspects. In particular, it must be verified that the animal has fundamental characteristics, such as:

  • Wanting to play
  • Patience
  • Is affectionate
  • Low tendency to dominance
  • Low territoriality
  • Little jealousy towards the property
  • Absence of episodes of aggression

All these aspects can be related to both the breed and the experience of the animal, especially if it is a larger puppy or an adult dog. In any case, many incompatible character aspects can be softened by a good educator, in favor of other more suitable traits. That's why we can ask for advice from the veterinarian or an expert educator to help guide us in choosing.

What now?

At this point, you just have to lay the bases for a peaceful and lasting relationship, acting on the education of the child and the dog.

cane con bambino balia

We will have to teach our son that the newcomer is not a toy, but another living being who needs constant respect and care. So you have to explain what to do and what not to do in everyday life, to avoid irritating the dog. Always remember one fundamental thing. If the dog is not aggressive or irritated when the child "tortures" him by playing, it does not mean that he is not bothering him. This situation represents a potential stress factor for the dog, with its consequences.

Therefore, while the animal is sleeping, you will not have to go and disturb him, as well as while eating. By a certain age, it is good that only mom and dad offer the dog the meal, to avoid unpleasant attacks.

As for the dog, however, it may not be a problem if we have adopted a puppy, who will be able to grow together with the child, learning to explore the world day after day. On the contrary, an adult dog may require more attention. If we were to notice some potentially dangerous signs, such as a hint of a snarl or a particularly grim look at the child, we could consult an educator, to prevent possible problems in the future.

The last piece of advice is to constantly supervise the two when they are together, without being too apprehensive. We could pass on our fears to the child, preventing him from living life with his four-legged friend in the right way.


immagine Come mantenere giovane la mente del cane e del gatto anziano

How to keep a young mind in old cats and dogs

Compared to many years ago, the life expectancy of our four-legged friends has increased considerably, so much so that it is no longer so unusual to hear about hundred-year-old dogs and cats (of course based on the ratio of human years / animal years). To ensure a long life for our animals, however, it is not enough to just take care of their body, but we must also pay close attention to their mind. A young and well-stimulated brain is an essential feature for optimal old age. But how can we do it?

Why is it so important to "train" the brain?

Most of the cells in our body are able to grow, multiply and in some cases even repair any damage. Not all this, happens to the brain, which from the moment we are born, is growing and changing rapidly to be able to learn all the new experiences we live.

uomo anziano con cane

Every new face encountered, every new word learned, every poem memorized at school, involves a certain expenditure of energy and great mental abilities, which only the reactive brain of the youngest is able to bear. Then we grow, reaching the peak of our abilities, until progressively adulthood begins to get closer and closer to old age, with its consequences.

If our grandparents begin to hear poorly what we say and maybe find it hard to keep up with more complex conversations, it is precisely because we slowly encounter a slowdown in the activity of the individual cells that make up our brain, neurons, which unfortunately cannot repair or multiply.

This is how in the long run more and more cells die, whilst the remaining ones must make up for this deficiency, but they do not have the full capacity

Not all this is necessarily a negative fact, if we consider that it is part of the long and inevitable aging process that we will all face sooner or later. On the contrary, it becomes a problem when the brain ages in a "strange" way, giving rise to pathologies such as senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

signora anziana con gatto

The key to keeping the brain constantly young is represented above all by a good training from an early age, activating memory, logic, reasoning and everything that can be used to "increase" mental functions more and more. However, just like when we train in the gym, it is not necessary to have reached steel abs, however, we must continue to sculpt them day after day.

The same thing applies to our brain, for which a very curious speech counts, defined in technical terms "use it or lose it", or if you don't use it, you lose it. This means that perhaps as children many of us were very skilled at reciting entire poems by heart, but without developing this ability in adulthood, they would probably now have difficulty even remembering the plot of a film. Basically, we lose all the skills that we don't cultivate. Just like steel abs.

The brains of our pet work exactly the same way, but we have to consider some differences related mostly to lifestyle. If we can go to school to learn how to use our brain, our pet need the owner's guide who teaches them some basic notions such as speaking and the basic commands such as "sit" and "stay".

True, we have books, computers, crossword puzzles and every other thing to activate the mind, but our dogs and cats have their toys, hide and seek with the owner, hunting and many other ways that stimulate them to get away from home.

Even the ability to relate to others is not given to us from birth. With parents, relatives, classmates and friends we slowly learn  how we behave and how we interact with people different from us. In the same way, the animal needs to socialize, knowing the rest of the world, starting with humans and other dogs, but also extending its relationships to other species.

 What can we do to keep their mind young?

  • cane giochi intelligenza attivazione mentale puzzleIntelligence games: you never say no to a snack, so let's hide them in various parts of the house, letting them find a way to reach them or buy some intelligence games to present them in the right way, as indicated in the guide. The game of intelligence should be used from an early age, because it represents a powerful tool for the mental activation of the animal

  • Walks: the elderly animal will hardly have enough energy to face long walks, considering also that joint problems often advance, but let's not forget to keep his interaction with the outside world active;

  • Interaction with the owner or with other animals: we must always keep in mind that older dogs and cats are often less tolerant of those who want to disturb them and that they may also feel pain, so if we notice that they do not accept the turbulent attentions of puppies and children, we should try to satisfy their need for tranquillity;

  •  Supplements and suitable feed: on the market there are many products that take into account the specific nutritional needs of the elderly animal. Precious substances, such as Omega fatty acids -3 and antioxidant substances help to protect nerve cells. Ginkgo biloba also improves the microcirculation of the brain.

immagine Cappottino per il cane

Coats for dogs? approved or dismissed?

With autumn approaching, the most fashionable owners indulge themselves in search of the coolest coat for their dog, eager to dress him up in the most unthinkable ways, which  often make animal rights lovers shiver. Regardless of any ethical argument, let's try to understand what are the pros and cons of sweaters, coats and raincoats for dogs (and cats).

Is it useful?

We start from a fundamental point. Today's dogs and cats do not have the same physical, characteristic and behavioural attitudes as those of many years ago. The "function" of the dog in ancient times was to follow the owner on hunting trips, with the great privilege of being able to feed on leftovers inside the house. The cat probably lived in worse conditions, not receiving any meal from the owner; therefore, they must try to hunt small weed prey for the harvest.

Today many of us are horrified at the thought of a cat forced to live like this, in the cold and frost even during winter. In fact, nature, which is really looking out for animals, has provided dogs and cats with many tools to protect themselves from the cold, starting from that beautiful soft coat, which becomes even thicker during the winter.

cane nudo crested dog gatto sphynx

Over the years, however, as cats have become permanent residents of the armchair by the fireplace and dogs have settled on the owner's bed, nature has decided to reorganize itself, reducing the thickness of the hair, which at that point would no longer be useful in the warmth of the houses.

This premise makes it clear how in reality "modern" dogs and cats are equipped to tolerate cold seasons, thanks to the undercoat that still works perfectly.

In fact, as you may have noticed, dogs and cats that live in the house permanently have a less dense coat than stray ones or those found in gardens and courtyards. In other words, what is not needed in nature is removed. 

At the same time, however, dogs need to go out several times during the day, regardless of the weather conditions. In addition, the sudden change in temperature from the living room to the garden where you walk your dog might cause cold and bronchitis.

That's why the coat can come in handy, especially in some cases:

  • Sick, convalescent or delicate animals
  • Dogs with short and short hair
  • Dogs that live indoors
  • Puppies
  • Elderly animals
  • Very skinny dogs
  • Small dogs

With regard to the last aspect, the size of the dog can also greatly affect the temperature. It may seem counterintuitive, but the smaller the animal, the larger its body surface will be compared to a very large dog. Therefore, when it gets colder, the amount of heat that is carried away across the surface of the body will also be greater. It is a rather complicated concept to explain and understand, but it still needs to be taken into consideration.

Which garment should I choose?

The coat is not always useless, although most of the trappings that are applied to it are. The important thing, however, is to choose the most useful and most suitable one for our dog in the right way. Here are some tips:

  • Let's choose the right size for our dog. A tight coat will make him feel awkward whilst moving and loose one may not protect him adequately from the cold;
  • Make sure that the belly, chest and throat are covered, because they are the most sensitive parts to the cold, so high-necked sweaters are approved, which reach the base of the tail, naturally leaving the “intimate” parts uncovered;
  • The material is an important. The interior must be warm, but not irritating, so we choose cloth, fleece and other materials that do not sting, such as wool;
  • The raincoat is highly recommended for all dogs, with short and even long hair, because they help keep the coat dry even on the wettest days (and not just when it rains).

cane bassotto cappotto

The ideal coat, therefore, is certainly the one that is waterproof on the outside and warm on the inside, always paying attention to cover the most sensitive and exposed parts.

Finally, as regards to a small ethical parenthesis, there is nothing wrong with making our animals wear cute and fun clothes, but let's just remember that they are not children or dolls, so let's rely on our common sense.

immagine Collari per gatti: come usarli in modo sicuro

Collars for cats: how to use them safely

The collar is an extremely important accessory for our dogs, because they could run away during the daily walk or simply because we need them to hook the leash. It is common, however, to find some cats with a collar, perhaps with a nice bell to complete the picture. Nevertheless, is it really necessary? Which model could be more suitable for them?

Collars? Yes

gatto con medaglietta collare

The collar is an excellent tool to recognize a stray animal at first sight from an owned one. This discussion is even more important if we consider that, whilst dogs have a mandatory microchip, this option is still optional for cats. If we see a cat with a collar, he will already have an owner who allows him to wander nearby the house, but he may also have been lost or abandoned.

It is unlikely that a cat will get close to strangers, but if he is used to living at home, we may have a few more chances of being able to observe him closely. In this way, it will be easier to take some photos or to identify some particular distinctive signs, in order to spread a lost announcement.

Some owners also apply identification tags to the collar, indicating the cat's name and owners telephone number. This strategy will be a valuable aid in case of loss.

Collar? No

An important issue that must absolutely be taken into consideration when talking about collars is safety. Unlike dog friends, cats are very agile and tend to climb and jump all over the place. In addition, their small size helps them slip into even very small hiding places. This factor is not very influential if we are talking about a cat who lives in the house. The issue is significantly complicated for cats who live in the garden or who have the opportunity to go out.

Let's think, for example, of an outdoors cat which is near a beautiful tree. The first thing he will do, most likely, is to climb at high speed until he reaches the highest point, in order to dominate the whole landscape, safe from dogs and other animals. Unfortunately, we often hear of cases where the collar gets caught in the thinner branches, blocking the cat's movement or, worse still, leaving it hanging by the neck. Extreme case, but that could very well be avoided by choosing a collar with the most suitable characteristics.

A gigantic "no" for the bells, rattles and other noisy accessories applicable to the collar. The incessant rattling stuns and irritates the cat - remember that animals hear sounds with a much higher pitch than us - and makes them more exposed to attack by dogs and other animals. Thanks to their agility, cats know how to hide from predators. However, if we make every movement perceptible to the hearing, we will halve its chances of not being tracked down.

The best option

On the market there are collars of different models, materials, patterns and colours. Regardless of any aesthetic purpose - we let ourselves be guided by our personal tastes – we should always look for a stretch or semi-stretch model, which can adapt to the cat's movements and, in unfortunate cases, can help the animal to free itself from the grip.

The double buckle models exercise the same function. One is the classic one, which is used simply to tie or untie the collar. In addition, they also have a small accessory buckle that opens when strong traction occurs, for example if the collar gets caught on a branch or a net.

collare gatto fibbia gancio sicurezza

These two tricks can really make a difference in case of danger, saving the cat's life.

The best material, on the other hand, must be soft and comfortable, without creating irritation on the cat's skin. Nylon remains the most suitable choice, although we will probably need to replace it more often, because it is more sensitive to his "claws".

As for the medal, we can choose between different types, from the classic one, hanging on the collar buckle, to the metal plate attached along the edge. A very interesting alternative is the "bottle", a very small cylinder that is attached to the collar buckle which you can insert a ticket with your data inside. For the more technological owners, we also find the innovative medals with QR code; just bring your smartphone close to the collar, open one of the apps that can read these codes and an internet page will open with all the data relating to our cat.

In this regard, if our four-legged friend suffers from particular health problems, such as diabetes, drug allergies and dangerous infections (such as IVF and FeLV) it is essential to apply a medal that can provide comprehensive information to the veterinarian or to whoever finds the cat. So we agree that "bottles" and QR code are the best option.

In essence,  the cat collar becomes useful if we are talking about an animal used to going out in the garden and on the streets, especially if it tends to go away even for a long time or for long distances. On the contrary, a cat who lives in the apartment, without any possibility of going outside, will have no real need to wear a collar, if pure aesthetic use is excluded