All dogs need some physical and mental stimulation, regardless of size or breed. And you, as a diligent dog owner, walk your pooch daily, play with him, and even take him to the dog park when possible. However, your exuberant pet may need to channel his energy in another way: that’s where canine brain games come in!
There are several options for brain games for dogs: puzzles, interactive toys, and activities that encourage your pup to exercise their intelligence to solve various problems. For this reason, they are ideal for hyperactive and anxious dogs. Here are nine stellar brain games for dogs to keep your pet alert and well-balanced.
The 9 Brain Games for Dogs to Keep Them Alert
1. Stuffed Kong
You’re probably already familiar with kong toys: they’re rubber snowman-shaped toys designed to withstand the toughest chewers. By filling it with treats, you turn it into an inviting puzzle that will entertain your dog and even make him forget you’re away from home!
There are a variety of inexpensive options available online and at pet stores.
2. Automatic Ball Launcher
An automatic dog ball launcher is a genius idea, especially for owners who have to deal with a high-energy dog! You can sit comfortably in your yard while your companion fetches as he pleases. This game is ideal to combine with kong toys because once your dog is stuffed with treats, he can go burn his energy with his very own ball launcher.
3. Food Puzzles
There are a variety of dog food puzzles that will keep your pup entertained. These range from beginner to expert level, which is perfect for continuing to challenge your dog.
Some games, like the Outward Hound Multipuzzle, are designed especially for highly intelligent and energetic dog breeds, like Border Collies. This type of puzzle requires the dog to take a series of steps in the correct order to keep finding hidden treats.
4. Cup Game
If the food puzzles, Kongs, and an automatic ball shooter leave you and your dog pretty indifferent, you should give the cup game a try. You’ve probably already seen a video of this very simple but oh so fun game: just take three cups and place dry kibble under one of them, without your dog seeing you.
Then tell your dog a simple phrase to get the game started, like “which cup” or “find the kibble.” As soon as your dog puts his nose, paw, or looks at the correct cup, lift it up and give him the treat, rewarding him warmly.
You can make the game more complex by moving the cups quickly under your dog’s nose, which will exercise his patience, concentration, and control.
5. Hide and Seek
Remember the game that kept you entertained for hours when you were a kid? Now you can relive your childhood playing hide and seek with your furry best friend! It’s a simple game you can play anywhere, but it’s best to start in a safe place where your dog can’t escape.
Tell your dog to stay and sit or ask a family member to keep him close. Then hide and call your pooch by name. Not only does this work the animal physically and mentally, but it also helps him practice recall. Remember to reward and praise him when he finds you!
You can also do a variation of the game by hiding toys or treats that your dog will have to find on his own. It’s a bit like asking your pet to solve a giant food puzzle!
6. Teach Your Dog New Tricks
What’s more fun than teaching your dog new tricks? It’s a great way to get them exercising their brain muscles while strengthening your bond.
Besides, there are many more tricks a dog can learn other than sitting, giving you his paw, playing dead, or rolling over! For example, you can teach him to bark on command, to open a drawer or a door by pulling on a rope, to do an 8 between your legs, or even to back up in a straight line!
If you are running out of ideas or don’t know how to teach your dog a particular trick, refer to the countless videos available for free online. Many are made by professional dog trainers, like this YouTube video.
7. Obedience Exercises
You can also perfect your dog’s obedience. There are a variety of obedience exercises. For example, you can have your dog practice military-style heeling or solidify the basics of obedience with various distractions.
For example, train your dog to sit quietly and stay close to you despite surrounding distractions, such as passing children, a running squirrel, etc. Make sure the command is mastered and understood by your dog before increasing the difficulty level. Otherwise, it will quickly become frustrating for both the dog and the owner! You can also find several obedience tutorials on YouTube.
8. Dog Parkour
Dog parkour is a great activity that allows owners to improve the relationship they have with their dogs while keeping fit. Indeed, these courses bring together elements of human parkour and canine agility, such as jumping, climbing, dodging obstacles, and more. In addition, you do not have to go to a specific place to practice this discipline: dog parkour can be done anywhere, as long as you respect certain safety rules.
9. Impulse Control Games
Does your dog cry or whine often? Can’t stay still for more than a few seconds? Teach him self-control: your dog can learn to better manage his emotions and increase his resistance to frustration. You will then observe a big difference in the behavior of your pooch during games and training.
Indeed, being able to exercise self-control and tolerate frustration are two very important skills for all dogs to master. An impulsive or easily frustrated dog often exhibits difficult or even dangerous behaviors. For example, snatching a toy or food from your hands, or being aggressive because you just said no to something your dog wanted to do.
The key characteristic of self-control is that the appropriate behavior is under the control of the dog, which chooses self-control rather than being controlled by its owner telling it what to do all the time. Although obedience is also very important, learning self-control is crucial!
Certain games can be used to help your dog learn these skills. The tug of war game, for example, is very useful. Dropping a toy that he is actively tugging takes a lot of self-control! Additionally, teaching your dog to avoid your hands during play as well as to perceive the difference between a toy and your hands will teach him bite inhibition, which means biting with less force and in a more controlled manner.
In addition to the activities and games described in this article, there are plenty of other opportunities to exercise your pooch’s brain. It’s up to you to choose them according to your dog’s preferences, as they should be motivating and suited to his mental and physical abilities. Combine one or more ideas that you’ll find in your list, let your imagination run wild, and above all, don’t forget to have fun with your best friend!
Featured Image Credit: Lenti Hill, Shutterstock