While all dog owners will have played fetch and enjoyed seeing their dog running around playing in a park or at the beach, there are a number of ways to engage with your dog’s brain while having fun and exercise at the same time.
Dogs are intelligent animals so playing games that will stretch your pet’s mind as well as his legs will help to keep him mentally active while also helping to strengthen your bond as his owner. A win-win for everyone involved. For this guest post we asked Jane, writer for the MyItchyDog to give her five favourite amazing brain games for dogs.
1. Hide and Seek
This is a great game for your dog and can be played both outdoors and in the house if you have plenty of places to hide. It helps if you have two people to play this game. The first person holds the dog and distracts them while the other person hides. Then they release the dog to go and search for you. A fun game to play whatever the weather, and wherever you are.
It gets your dog into natural search and hunt mode, and you will see the pure joy and delight in his face when he discovers your hiding place. If you have a dog that gets anxious when apart from you, this might not be the best game for them until they are feeling more confident.
2. Treasure hunt
You can train your dog to use his nose to search out treasures in return for treats. Start by hiding a treat or toy in front of your dog, so he can see where you hide it. Release him to go and find it and give him a treat and praise.
Once he has learned the game you can hide the treasures in harder places, in different rooms, or put them inside a box, so that your dog has to work harder, using his brain more to work out exactly where the treasure is, to get his treat.
3. Stacking wooden rings
Dogs are great at learning co-ordination so try teaching them to stack wooden rings on top of each other. Make sure they are designed specifically for dogs as they will be chewed quite a lot. It will take time to get your dog to learn how to do this, but it gives you lots of time together as he learns from you.
Make sure the rings are not only safe for your dog, but they need to be the right size for him to fit into his mouth. Work with him regularly to stack them on top of each other with plenty of healthy treats for encouragement.
4. Plastic cups
Your dog will love this fun game and it will take a little time to learn, giving you time to bond together. Take two plastic cups upside down and place a treat under one cup with your dog watching, then tell him to get the treat.
Do this a few times so he has understood, and then you can mix up which cup you put the treat under, so he has to think more. Then you can add more cups to make it even more tricky for your pet to work out. If he chooses the wrong cup, show him where the treat is but don’t give it to him, give him another chance to find it.
5. Pick up
This is a great way to get your dog to help you with the cleaning, while he has fun at the same time. First you need to teach your dog to drop his toys on command, as you tell him to drop it. Next, you need to get your dog to drop his toy in the toy box where you keep them, for a treat.
Your dog will understand that when you give him the right command, he needs to pick up his toy and drop it in his toy box, so that he can get a treat. Do this with all of his toys, so that he knows it’s not just a particular toy you want him to pick up, but all of them.
These are just five fun brain games you can play with your dog to help engage and bond with him and get his brain working while having a great time. There are many more games you can play. Just bear in mind that all of these games will take time for your dog to learn.
But that’s all part of the fun, you get to spend time with your dog, praising and encouraging him as he picks up each new trick and gets it right. You will also grow your bond with your dog as you work together to learn new skills and enjoy each other’s company.
Jane is a freelance writer who writes for www.myitchydog.co.uk. When she’s not working on her projects she can be seen exploring local flea markets and sampling her collection of cheap teas from all over the world.