Have you ever thought about brain games for dogs? Have you considered spending time exercising your pup’s mind along with his body?
Think about it this way – how much time does your dog spend actively using his brain? By this we mean doing something more engaging than snuggling in beside you on the couch or laying in that sunny patch on the floor? There are several very important reasons why it’s a good idea to work your dog’s body with some mental stimulation.
The Importance of Mental Stimulation for Dogs
As a dog owner, you know that exercise is critical for good health. Whether you’re hiking in the woods every day, walking around the neighborhood, or running around playing fetch in the field, that activity is important for overall health.
But what about mental stimulation? Can your dog get exercise when he’s not running around the yard or climbing over fallen trees in the forest? You’d better believe it.
And that exercise is just as important!
There are plenty of reasons to give brain games for dogs a try:
- Reduces stress
- Helps relieve boredom
- Improves mental stamina
- Reduces problem behaviors
- Keeps depression at bay
- Deepens your bond
One of our pups has dementia, and one of the ways we help her exercise her mind is with a few of these brain games for dogs! She may not be as physically active as she used to be (her long walks are much shorter these days), but that doesn’t mean she isn’t getting exercise! And that’s really important!
Actively engaging your pup’s mind is essential for both short term and long term health! So, it’s time to play!!
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Brain Games for Dogs
There are tons of different brain games for dogs that you can play to provide that mental stimulation he craves. Some require a few props (don’t worry, you probably already have them), while some just require your time and effort.
1. Tricks for Treats
One of the simplest ways to exercise your dog’s brain is by teaching him a new trick or two. Each week, pick a trick – maybe it’s shake a paw, maybe it’s open the fridge, maybe it’s clean the bathroom (whoa, good job!). It doesn’t really matter what the trick is, it’s the mental workout your dog gets learning the trick. If your dog works well with just positive encouragement, amazing, but if treats are needed that’s cool too. Take some time out every day and work on the new trick until he’s mastered it, then move on to a new one. Go back to old tricks and make combinations.
2. Hide and Seek
If your dog is pretty good at sit and stay, this one can be fun and takes literally nothing more than a spot to hide. Get your dog to sit and stay, then head somewhere in the house and stay there, calling your pup to find you where you’re ready. Some dogs will head right to their owner’s hiding spot. Others will use their nose to get there. Some may stray and get distracted, but work on it – this can be a great game to play to tire a pup out who may be craving that attention.
3. Find and Fetch
This is another play on hide and seek, only you’re hiding a toy and getting them to find it. Make sure your pup knows the toy, and really likes it. Then, have him sit and stay while you go hide the toy. Then, when you’re ready, tell them to “find it” – saying the name of the toy you’ve hidden. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you like – but just make sure it’s hidden within your pup’s ability to find or they’ll give up. As an alternative, use treats as the “find it” for that added incentive (just remember where you’ve hidden them!).
4. At Home Agility
Sure, you may choose to head to a professional agility course for this one (and that’s awesome!), or you can find objects at home that work and build your own course in the backyard or basement. Pick items your pet can go over, under, through, or on. Set it up so that he follows the cues and works his way through the different obstacles. This can take a lot (or a little, depending on the dog) of practice, and you might find it tires him out quicker than anything else.
Or, head to the park! A picnic table can be a great agility tool! You can simply get him to get up on the bench, sit, then back down again. Some parks have tunnels, and there’s your “through.” Go “under” the slide or swings, and around the monkey bars! It’s a ready-made course that fits the bill perfectly.
5. Walking Workout
Another easy way to give your dog a mental and physical workout is to turn that regular daily walk into something more mentally stimulating. Just because a walk is physically stimulating, doesn’t mean it can’t be mentally stimulating as well! Just turn up the engagement level. At certain intervals, have your dog sit and wait. Every so often, find a stick and ask your dog to pick it up, or drop it. Mid-walk, do some of those tricks you taught him earlier in the week. Whatever you do to encourage active participation in more than just walking and sniffing is a good way to work the brain.
6. Twisted Towel
You’ve probably seen the puzzle matts you can buy that dogs need to sniff in to find treats, but you don’t have to search Amazon to get one. Take a towel and lay it flat. Sprinkle a few treats at one end, then gradually roll the towel up, adding more treats as you go. Once you’ve rolled it up fully, tie it into a know and give it to your pup to unravel. The scent of the treats if often all the encouragement a dog will need to work through the puzzle of getting the towel unwrapped!
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When it come to brain games for dogs, there are so many different ways that you can engage your pet’s brain along with his body. Whether you buy food bowls meats to test their thinking, puzzles that trigger their mental agility, or you opt for one of the games above, anything goes. Have fun, and give your dog something to tell his friends about the next time you’re at the dog park!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!