Classic games like ‘fetch’ are lots of fun for you and your dog, but exercise isn’t just about running around. Mental exercise is important too, as it can help fight boredom and teach your dog great new skills.
Dog brain games can help keep your pet on their toes when it’s too rainy to play outside. They’re also great for dogs of any age – brain games for puppies challenge their developing brains and keep them learning new skills. They can also help keep adult dogs stimulated and may even help senior dogs stay alert and active.
We’ve put together five of our favourite brain games for dogs.
1. Treasure hunt
This is a great brain game to test your dog’s thinking skills! Hide pieces of your dog’s favourite treat around the house (or if it’s nice outside, the garden) and let them hunt for a tasty reward. Your dog will have to use their nose to scent out the prize.
Every time you play this dog brain game, hide the treats in increasingly difficult places to keep things interesting. If your dog loves to follow scents (for example, if you have a scent hound) try leaving a ‘trail’ around the house or garden for them to follow. Just take a delicious-smelling treat, touch it on surfaces around the house in a continuous trail, and hide it at the end.
2. Brain training toys
A really simple brain game for dogs involves hiding treats inside a special toy. There are many toys you can buy for this purpose – just put some of your dog’s favourite treat inside, and watch them try to release it.
This may involve rolling their toy a certain way, squeezing it, or using sheer determination. Whichever toy you choose, it will help spread their treats or food out over a longer period of time, as well as keeping them occupied.
3. Learn a trick or two
Teaching your dog a trick or two is a great way to spend quality time with them and get their brain working. Teach them to recognise objects, fetch your slippers or roll over on command.
As well as impressing people, these dog brain games will stretch your dog’s memory and attention! Discover five advanced dog training techniques you can teach your pet here.
4. Three cups
This game is great for encouraging your dog to pay attention to you. All you need is three cups and a treat, such as a piece of treat.
Before starting the dog brain game, make sure each of the cups smells like treat; a good way to do this is to simply wipe the treat around the inside rim of each cup. Then, with your dog watching you, place the treat under one of the upturned cups, and place the other upturned cups next to it.
With your dog still watching, shuffle the cups around then let them use their paw or nose to try and turn over the right cup. If they choose the wrong one, show them the treat, but don’t let them have it – shuffle again, and let them keep trying until they can keep track of the correct cup!
5. Advanced brain game for dogs - independent thinking
This advanced dog brain game encourages independent thinking as your dog is rewarded for trying new ‘tricks’ that they have come up with themselves. This is a great way to encourage their inventiveness.
Give your dog something fairly unfamiliar to interact with (such as a chair), and say “trick” to them. When your dog interacts with it – for example, they might sniff it – give them a treat.
Give the “trick” command again. Whenever your dog does something new, such as pushing the chair, give them another treat.
Keep giving them the command, and reward them every time they come up with something new. If they replicate the same behaviour, such as pushing the chair a second time, simply ignore them and don’t offer them the reward.
After a while your dog will realise that trying new behaviours when you say “trick” will result in a treat. Soon they’ll come up with all sorts of inventive ways to earn their treat, such as jumping onto the chair or squeezing underneath it.
When you’ve mastered all these dog brain games, use your creativity to create new challenges for your dog. If you’ve come up with a great game, let us know all about it!
Next, check out our list of seven healthy dog treats, ideal for training and teaching them new tricks.