Are you looking to expand the capabilities of your dog? Want a dog that will more efficiently exercise its brainpower? Want a smarter dog? Just looking for some advice on mental stimulation games for dogs?
Whether you take a more passive approach to dog training or an active approach, you will always find that a dog with the ability to follow its owners’ command will usually result in a higher-valued dog to prospectors in the dog market, not considering the dog’s breed or age.
Not saying that you may be particularly interested in selling dogs for a living, but to say that it just feels good knowing that your dog will perform exponentially better than most other dogs will when it comes to behavior, ability, obedience, and retention.
Dogs need to be trained. Both House Training and some advanced training tactics can be essential to any dog’s growth. Training your dog will involve both physical and mental stimulation. An untrained dog will rely on instincts and a trained dog will rely on a combination of both instincts and training.
One way for many dog owners to stimulate, exercise, and expand a dog’s mental ability is by playing games that are specifically designed to challenge your dog’s thinking. Assessing the current level of your dog’s IQ will also play a huge role in the effectiveness and length of time it will take to properly train your dog.
Stimulation Games For Dogs
I have tried many different games with my dogs in the past
and it is safe to say that not all of these games will carry the same amount of
weight on the effect it had on my dogs. Here, I have compiled a list of some of
the best mental stimulation games for dogs.
Search and Retrieve – Mental Difficulty: 6/10
Search and retrieve will involve your pet’s favorite chew toy and particularly potent produce of your choice. My dog’s favorite chew toy is the Kong Classic (link to Amazon) and I would spread some Kong Peanut Butter inside for her and hide the toy. The Kong Classic is an interactive toy that would wobble around on the floor while your dog makes numerous attempts to get the peanut butter out of it.
The toy by itself would provide some interactive and mental training for your dog but, I added a twist to it by hiding the toy around my house and letting my dog find it. By doing this, it not only helped her to sharpen her sense of smell, but it would also act as a challenge to get the Kong Peanut Butter (link to Amazon) out, even after she found it.
An untrained dog is a very instinctual creature and will rely solely on or its senses to help them solve problems.
Fetch – Mental Difficulty: 8/10
Playing games like fetch will stimulate your dog both mentally and physically. Fetch will help to properly align your dog’s hand-eye coordination.
The purpose of the game is to get your dog to think ahead. For example, if you throw a frisbee, no one knows exactly where it will land, but as the frisbee gets closer and closer to the ground its landing point will become much easier for us to determine.
In the beginning, your dog will have trouble with this if you have never played fetch with your dog in the past. This is okay. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not born knowing how to fetch. Fetch requires training, practice, and discipline.
For larger, more aggressive dogs, I recommend using the Frisbee by Monster (link to Amazon) as it is virtually indestructible and can also serve as a very long lasting chew toy when not in use.
For Smaller dogs, the Kong Puppy Flyer will be a suitable substitute.
Mini Backyard Agility Course – Mental Difficulty: 8/10
Setting up a timed mini-course for your dog to complete will increase your dog’s agility while simultaneously exercising their mental capabilities. Set up obstacles for your dog to run around and solve his/her way through to the end.
For a lot of my client’s newer dogs, I set the courses up with dog treats scattered throughout the course that would act as the dog’s motivation as well as it kind of showed them how to get to the finish line. As the dogs would progress and eventually learn to move more quickly throughout the courses, I would retract the treats from inside the course and only place them towards the end.
This is also a tactic that would teach your dog that he/she must work for their rewards. Dog’s are goal-oriented creatures. Place an objective in front of them and they will make it a priority of theirs to accomplish the goal.
Foraging – Mental Difficulty: 3/10
Originally, I played this game with my dogs by simply hiding treats around the house and let them sniff the treats out of their hiding spots. Although this is a suitable game to play with your dog to encourage mental stimulation, I found that sometimes my dogs would not be able to find the treats and I just forgot wherever I had them hidden.
Either my husband or my dog would eventually find the treats days later.
I found that a much more efficient way of playing the foraging game was by using a Wooly Snuffle Mat. I scattered treats throughout this mop-like mat for my dogs to find.
It encouraged them to use their brain along with their sense of smell to find the treats that were scattered throughout the mat. On average it took anywhere from 10 – 25 mins for my dogs to find all the treats I had placed in there for them.
This is also a great exercise for focus training in dogs with much shorter attention spans.
The Dog Brick Puzzle – Mental Difficulty: 3/10
This game involves the Hound Ottosson Puzzle Brick Dog Toy (link to Amazon). You simply place a few treats in the plastic cubes for your dog and place them in front of them. Your dog will be given the task of finding the treats either by unlocking, sliding, or flipping the puzzle pieces to uncover the surprise left inside.
I recommend this game for dog owners with small to medium-sized dogs because some of my larger, clumsier dogs would simply flip the entire puzzle over and just eat the treats up off the floor.
This exercise has proven to me that dogs can accomplish any goal they put their mind to as long as their favorite treats are involved.
Doggie Casino – Mental Difficulty Score: 8/10
This game has poised as a bit of a challenge for the majority of dogs that are initially introduced to it. The Nina Ottosson Dog Casino is another treat dispensing dog toy. The toy would release a hidden drawer and expose the treats for your dog whenever they spun the correct bone.
This game will require an ample amount of patience when
teaching it to your dog as they will not understand exactly what releases the
treat-dispensing drawers for them to enjoy.