Everyone knows, or so we hope, that dogs need a lot of physical activity to keep them happy and healthy. During the pandemic, this was a big reason why dog ownership went up. People were working from home and knew that having a dog meant daily walks and time outside for the dog and their human companion. But what about brain games for your dog?
A lot of people harbor the assumption that dogs just need physical activity and that in and of itself is enough for their brains. While there is certainly truth to the idea that running and walking and being outdoors is good for their mental health (again, just like it is for humans), they still need more (again, like humans).
And sure, I bet if you’ve known more than one dog in your life, you’ve noticed that they have different… intellectual abilities from one breed, from one specific dog to another. We don’t want to say that any animal is not bright, but there are certainly… differences.
But whether your dog is only into TV watching or is writing their first novel ((giggling over here)), all dogs need mental stimulation to be the happiest and healthiest versions of themselves. I mean, consider the fact that some dogs learn a pretty large vocabulary and can be very specific in their communications. Check out this video.
Why Brain Games for Your Dog are a Good Idea
If you need motivation for playing games with your dog, just think about what happens when they’re under-stimulated or bored. They are way more likely to engage in behaviors that you don’t appreciate. They can even get destructive. And of course, like anyone, they can get grouchy or depressed.
The more we study dogs, the more we understand that there’s a lot more going on in their brains than we’ve ever assumed. Besides being very intuitive about people and their surroundings, we know, for one, that they can learn to count. Furthermore, the average dog can learn up to 165 words and some exceptional dogs can learn as many as 250. That’s not a bad vocabulary, and you can take advantage of that ability to communicate to have a more bonded relationship with your dog.
Remember, too, that brain games over their lifespan can mean healthier senior years, keeping them curious and engaged.
Let’s look at some games and what they can do for your dog.
Note: For any of these games that involve treats, check out our blog about the 7 best training treats that keep your dog motivated.
Hide and Seek
You can do this in so many ways. You can have your dog looking for a treat or a toy or even you. They get to practice with words like come, wait, and find. And they get to use their noses and their problem solving skills.
These don’t just have to be agility courses at dog trainers’ facilities. You can create a course in your house using anything from chairs to sheets and pillows and brooms and mops. You can set this up inside your home or you could make a course in your yard.
Putting Toys Away Game
Okay… this might feel familiar from your own childhood ((ha)) but it really is a great game for your dog. You can work with more words like drop it and give it, but you can direct the action into a toy box or basket.
These come in all shapes and sizes and are a great way to keep your dog occupied in a small space and probably pretty quiet for an extended period. Then, of course, they get a treat when they solve the puzzle! (Who doesn’t want treats every time they solve a problem!?)
The Shell Game
Yep, just like you’d see on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Put a treat under one of three cups after showing it to your dog, and then move the cups around and encourage your dog to find the treat. This is great for concentration.
Toy Name Game
This one takes time but is worth it for stimulating language and memory. Play with one toy consistently, giving it a name that you use every time, and then start to ask your dog to bring you that toy.
Keep in mind that a lot of games and toys that are great for human toddlers can actually be appealing to dogs. Like ring stacks, for example. But just be sure to get wooden toys that are made with natural dyes. This is a great excuse to hit up a local toy shop!
Do you have a favorite game you play with your dog? We’d love to hear about it.