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woman playing hide the treat game with dog

More brain games for dogs

In general, dogs instinctively know how to play fetch, and these games help to keep them physically active. However, did you know it’s just as important to keep their brains active?

Brain games that require your pooch to think about how to solve the puzzle or how to find something can help to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors such as chewing and barking.

Not only do games prevent boredom, but games which require a certain level of thinking will also help to increase your dog’s confidence and strengthen the bond between the two of you. This is especially important for loyal dogs who require a strong bond with their parent.

Try these four brain games with your pooch this week, and he’ll thank you for giving him the challenge!

Game 1: Hot and Cold

Your pooch needs to find the object which you’ve hidden using your verbal cues: “hot” or “cold.” This game is great for strengthening the bond between you and your dog, and his ability to listen to commands.

What you’ll need:

  • You
  • Your dog
  • An object

How to play:

Choose an object familiar to your dog—perhaps one of their favourite toys or maybe a small treat. Find somewhere to hide the object. For the first couple of attempts, you might want to hide the toy somewhere in plain sight until they get the hang of the game.

After you hide the toy, give your dog the release command and let him sniff around the room. The further away he moves from the object, the colder he gets, so say the word cold. When he moves in the right direction, use the word hot.

After a few attempts at this, he should start to understand the correlation between the words, and the direction which he moves in.

When he gets really good at it, he’ll be able to move his head one way, wait to hear hot or cold, and then decide which the right way to go is.

Game 2: Cup Game

Find the hidden object underneath the right cup. This game is great for concentration, focus and problem-solving.

Things you’ll need:

  • 3 cups
  • A small treat

How to play:

Line up three cups on a low table or on the floor in front of your dog.

Let your dog watch you place a small treat under one of the cups, and then place the cup on top of the treat.

Mix the cups around slowly to begin with, allowing your dog to try and follow the treat. Stop mixing them up, and have your dog use his nose to point to the right cup.

Once he has got the hang of this game, you can speed up the mixing of the cups and also add more cups to the game.

Game 3: New Trick

Your dog needs to do a new trick, which he’s not already done in this game. This game is great for helping your dog to think outside of the box and be creative.

Things you’ll need:

  • You
  • Your dog

How to play:

This game is slightly different than the others: Your dog does the creative thinking to come up with a new trick.

To play this game, say the command “new trick” and wait for your dog to do something. For example, if your dog sits, click and reward them with a treat. Then say new trick again and reward him when he gives you his paw or does something else.

He will have to think of a new trick each think you give him the command. Don’t click and reward when he performs a trick he has already done during this game.

Tip: If your dog is new to clicker training, place a ball or simple object next to them and reward them for something as simple as just looking at the ball for the first trick. Then reward them again for sniffing the ball, rolling the ball, etc.

Game 4: Ring Stackers

Your dog has to place the rings onto a stick. This game is great for paw-eye or mouth-eye coordination.

Things you’ll need:

  • A ring stacker

How to play:

This game works best with clicker training because it can be really tricky for your dog to learn what he has to do.

As mentioned in the objective, your dog needs to pick a ring up, and place it on a vertical stick. To start with the very basics, you can click and reward your dog each time he picks up the ring and moves it closer to the stick.

Once they figure out the goal of the game, this can be a really fun and engaging game for them to play, and a great party trick to show off to your visitors!

Conclusion

Spend some time trying out these new brain games with your dog and watch as he becomes more confident as he learns new tricks. While exercising your dog is important for keeping his body fit and healthy, there are ways to keep his mind active too. Check out these additional brain games for dogs.


John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He is a dog-parent to his two rescue dogs, Jeff and James. When he’s not looking after his dogs, or training clients’ dogs, he is an editor for a pet magazine

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