Dog Brain Games: 8x Fun Mental Games For Dogs

Published on 22 August 2021 at 12:13

What Are Fun Mental Brain Games For Dogs?

What are good mental brain games for dogs? Mental stimulation for dogs is important. The brain training is a fun way to build a strong bond with your dog. The brain games will entertain your dog. When doing brain games you are engaging your dog's brain in creative ways. 


Mental brain games are beneficial for every dog, but they are particularly important if you have a dog who can’t do as much physical exercise, for example if your dog is a little older or is recovering from an operation. Brain games also help build self confidence in puppies as they encourage them to learn to play by themselves. If you’re looking for some easy ways to challenge your dog’s mind (and keep them out of trouble) here’s 8 fun brain games for dogs.


This blog will educate you about: Brain Games For Dogs


How To Keep Your Dog Mentally Stimulated?

Looking for some fun ways to entertain your dog and keep them mentally stimulated? If so you should start adding brain games to their routine. Mentally stimulating activities such as brain games enrich our dogs lives by giving them something meaningful to do. And because these activities alleviate boredom they can decrease the likelihood of our dogs developing behavioral issues such as excessive barking or aggressive behavior or depressed dogs.


In the same way it’s important to keep your dog physically stimulated with walks and play time, it’s also essential to exercise their brain. Most dogs are extremely motivated by food, so this can be done relatively easily with food-based games as part of their daily routine.


Brain games are beneficial for every dog, but they are particularly important if you have a dog who can’t do as much physical exercise, for example if your dog is a little older or is recovering from an operation. Brain games also help build self confidence in puppies as they encourage them to learn to play by themselves.


#8: Fun Brain Games For Dogs

Brain games are puzzles, toys, and activities that encourage your dog to experiment and problem solve. They’re great for dogs who have energy to burn and are especially helpful for dogs with anxiety or a high energy. Brain games should be used under direct supervision to prevent ingestion of any materials used to make the toys. Here are 8 fun brain games to do with your dog.


#1 Brain Games: Simple Treat Puzzle

One easy way to challenge your dog’s mind is to play a simple nose work game called find the treats. Find the treats is easy to play, and it’s a fun way for dogs to use some of their natural sniffing and scavenging abilities.


Keep in mind that although dog’s have an excellent sense of smell that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically use it right away when playing this game. If they’re not used to sniffing things out it’ll take a little practice. That’s why gradually increasing the difficulty of where you hide the treats is important.

How to play find the treats with your dog?

  1. Grab some treats and have your dog sit in a stay position;
  2. While your dog is in the stay position put a few treats on the ground around them;
  3. Give your dog a release command and tell them to “find the treats”;
  4. Encourage them as they start picking up the treats;
  5. Practice a few times until your dog understands what “find the treats” means;
  6. Start placing the treats further away and repeat steps 3 & 4;
  7. Start placing the treats in more challenging places that are out of sight such as under a rug or on a chair and repeat steps 3 & 4.


Why? You’re teaching them to start utilizing their scent to find the treats rather than just relying on sight. Finding the treats themselves is rewarding for your dog, and the addition of your encouragement during the game can keep it exciting.

Tips: After your dog has a good concept of what “find the treats” means you can keep upping the game to make it more of a challenge for them. Since Laika’s been playing this game for years she’s gotten pretty good at it. She’ll hunt out those treats wherever I hide them — under rugs, on furniture, or on the window sill behind a curtain. All of those various hiding spots keep it exciting for her, and it’s a really simple way to keep her entertained.

#2 Brain Games: Old Tennis Ball Treat Game

Bring life and interest back to an old tennis ball after your dog’s lost interest – this even works with balls that have been chewed, torn, or punctured!


You’ll need: A tennis ball and small treats. There are several different ways to turn a tennis ball into a treat dispenser. Pick the method that works best for your dog and challenges her, without being too difficult.

  • Method 1: Using a serrated knife or box cutter, carefully cut a line about 3” long across the ball, cutting all the way through to the hollow center. Next, cut an identical line right next to the first one and remove the tennis ball material from between the two lines. The closer together your cuts, the more difficult it will be for your dog to get the treats. Once you’ve made your cuts, squeeze the ball to open the slit you’ve made and insert your dog’s favorite treats.
  • Method 2: Cut a small, about 1” diameter, circle or square (whichever is easiest for you to cut) into one side of the tennis ball. On the opposite side of the ball, cut a small vent hole, not large enough for treats to fall through, to prevent the ball from becoming suction cupped onto your dog’s tongue. Insert small training treats into the hole and give the ball to your dog. He’ll smell the treats inside and will have to work to figure out how to get them out, either by rolling, bouncing, or batting the ball around until they drop out.
  • Method 3: This method produces one of the easiest treat dispensers for your dog to figure out. Using your knife, carefully cut along a section of the curved “S” pattern on the ball. The more you cut, the easier it will be for your dog to get into. Once you’ve made your cut, just open, insert treats, and let your dog enjoy!

#3 Brain Games: Hide-and-Go-Seek

Playing hide and seek with your pup stimulates an integral area of his natural instincts, encouraging him to remember his name, strengthening recall behavior and reinforcing his scent tracking ability. If you want to enjoy the game with your dog, you need to have some basic rules in place. The first thing you should do is make sure that your pup is familiar with the stay command. In this way, he will not simply follow you to your hiding location as soon as the game starts. The next thing is to call him out so that he can start figuring out where to look.


What you want to do is choose a place that is not out of sight, so that he can easily find you the first few times and figure out how things should be going from there on. This will also boost his self-confidence and give him a chance to use his natural instincts to greater lengths. Celebrating your pup’s win will encourage them not to get distracted or discouraged during the game. Make sure you practice it in a safe place where your dog cannot get hurt or lost, and find a trusty helper to help hold your pup while you hide.

#4 Brain Games: New Trick

An activity that boosts your dog's creativity is the "new trick" game. It's a popular game in clicker training because it teaches a dog to think independently and come up with its own ideas about what behavior earns a reward. The premise is simple: Click and treat for a new behavior offered by your dog and ignore a behavior already offered. A typical game between a dog and its owner goes something like this: Say "new trick" and the dog might sit. Click and treat and then say “new trick” again.  Repeat the sequence. The game continues as long as the dog does a new trick each time. Once the dog repeats a trick, let the dog know it already did that trick and don’t offer a reward. If the dog returns with a new trick, restart the game with another round of click and treat and a request for a “new trick.” Depending on the dog, this game can sometimes last for 30 minutes or longer.


If your dog isn't used to clicker training for shaping behavior, start simple when teaching this game. The slightest new thing can earn a treat. For example, set a box next to your dog. Click and treat your dog for looking at the box, for touching it with a paw, for touching it with its nose, for stepping on it, for walking around it, for just about any vague interaction with the box. But don't reward the same action twice. Your dog touching the box with his nose earns a reward once, but the second time it earns nothing. Once your dog gets the grasp of the game, expand it to other behaviors like sit, down, crawl, spin, sit up, and so on. Pretty soon, your dog will be going through your entire repertoire of tricks and coming up with new ones just to earn that treat for creative thinking.

#5 Brain Games: Sniffing Walk

During a sniffing walk, the dog is allowed to determine the pace and the route. He then literally follows his nose. Sometimes he will sniff a blade of grass for a minute, but that doesn't matter because the purpose of this walk is to relax. Sniffing triggers the production of endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. Endorphins have a stress-relieving effect and dopamine and oxytocin add to that and give a feeling of happiness. How simple can it be? No complicated therapies or training sessions, just go outside with your dog and enjoy both. Read more natural relaxation exercises for dogs. 

#6 Brain Games: The Cup Game

The cup game is a simple way to introduce and improve a few of your dog’s skills. It helps them learn to wait for a reward, introduces scent work (where your dog uses their nose to find a treat) and teaches them to think about how they can get a treat from under the cup. Plus it’s really good fun! Here are three cup games to play:


  • Teach your dog to get the treat from the cup and not from the hand: Start by putting a treat in the cup, once your dog starts to pay attention to the cup (sniffing it, putting their nose in it or tipping it over) give them the treat. If they manage to reach the treat by themselves then that’s great, but if they can’t quite figure it out (for example if they put their nose in but can’t reach the treat) it’s important to give the treat to them yourself so they don’t get frustrated;
  • Teach your dog to tip the cup: Once your dog has figured out that the cup can be a good source of treats, teach them how to tip the cup over. Most dogs will be able to do this using their foot or nose, but sometimes you’ll need to make it easier for them at the start so they get the hang of what they need to do (for example, holding the cup still while they tip it over so it doesn’t slide around);
  • Teach your dog to line up three cups and start to play: Start off by asking your dog to wait while you put a treat under one of the cups then tell them to find it. Once they’re confident, the next step is to start to swap the cups around. This means your dog can’t just watch and see which cup you put the treat under but needs to use their nose to sniff it out instead.

#7 Brain Games: Obstacle Course

Training your dog to go through an obstacle course is a great mental workout. This can be a DIY dog brain game where you arrange some chairs, tables, blankets, toys, etc., and create your own obstacle course. Or if you want to go all out, you can purchase some agility equipment for your yard. Here here more about obstable courses

#8 Brain Games: Give Your Dog A Job To Do

Dogs are bred to complete tasks such as hunting and herding. When they aren’t able to fulfill these types of duties, they can get restless. Engage your dog in a game of Frisbee. Get him involved in a sport like agility or Flyball. Take him for a long walk, hike, or swim. Find jobs that fulfill your dog’s breed. If you have a retriever, for example, nothing will leave it more satisfied than a hearty game of fetch.


“I can take my dog for a walk or a run, but the thing that really makes her the happiest is a hearty game of fetch. I take a tennis racket to the dog park and hit a ball as far as I can. She will bring it back to me over and over again like it’s her job.” – John Kurmai

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