Just like we need to take our dogs on walks to exercise their bodies, most dogs also require mental stimulation to exercise their brains. John Woods, founder of "All Things Dogs" and recognised author by the Dog Writers Association of America, shares four fun brain games for dogs and their parents.
Brain games help to defeat boredom, strengthen the bond between owner and dog, and increase your dog’s confidence. And there are plenty of ways to make this fun for your pup!
Fun brain games for dogs
There are loads of different games you can play to help stimulate your dog and prevent them from becoming bored. This is true for all dogs, not only intelligent dog breeds such as the beautiful Silver Labrador.
Some are very simple and can be done without much thought while others require a little more considerations and set-up time. But whichever you choose, your dog will thank you for the extra stimulation.
Brain games can be used every day and work especially well during wet winter days when the weather isn’t great and you can’t get outdoors.
Remember: these games should be used in addition to physical exercise though, rather than to replace it.
For those with cats, you can try these seven helpful ways to entertain and stimulate your feline friend!
Dogs have fantastic senses and one of their strongest senses is their smell. You can help them to hone in on this skill by creating a treasure hunt for them.
You can use a range of things such as food-based treats like biscuits or pieces of fruit or even new or old toys.
Get your dog to sit and wait while you go and hide the ‘treasure’. Start off by hiding the treasure somewhere quite easy and possibly even in view of your dog so he/she can understand the game.
Give your dog the release cue and let them find the treasure!
Once they understand the aim of the game, you can increase the difficulty by hiding the treasure in a different room, hiding it inside a container or a box, or even by trying to mask the treasure using other scents.
Hide and Go Seek
Similar to the treasure hunt game, this game increases the excitement even more for your pup, because the purpose of the game is to find you.
Have your pup sit or lay down first. You might need a second person to help for the first few times to show your dog what to do.
Go and hide, preferably somewhere simple for the first few times, and either shout the release command or have the second person give the release command.
Let your dog try and sniff you out.
You can play this game either indoors or outdoors!
The Cup Game
You’ll need a minimum of three cups and a treat.
Line the cups up in front of your dog and place a treat inside one of them. Let them see you place the treat so they know the aim of the game.
Have them sit while you mix the cups up. When you’ve finished mixing them up, ask them which cup the treat is hiding in.
They might begin by using their nose to point at the right cup. If they get it right, give them the treat.
You can eventually train your pup to use their paw to point at the right cup.
You can also try playing this game using a muffin tin. Dig out a muffin tin and put some treats in just a couple of the holes. Then cover all of the holes with balls. Your pooch will then have to figure out how to get the toys out to get to the treats!
There are lots of treat dispensing toys available and one of the most popular is a Kong.
Place treats inside the Kong and your dog has to work out how to get the treats out. This is a great activity to keep their minds engaged even when you’re not at home.
If you want to make this even more stimulating, you can freeze the treats inside the Kong to give them an extra challenge.
All of these dog brain games will help to increase the bond between you and your dog whilst keeping training light-hearted and fun. Make sure you keep it short, fun and engaging and your dog will love a daily game!
Has your dog tried out any of these brain games with you?
- John Woods
Founder of All Things Dogs, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in animal welfare and behaviour and a recognised author by the Dog Writers Association of America.