Does your dog need more mental stimulation? Keeping our pups engaged and entertained can be a tall task, since they can quickly become bored. It can be especially difficult to do during winter, though this can also be a year-round challenge for some. Fortunately, brain games are an effective way to entertain your dog. These games are not only mentally stimulating and rewarding, but can alleviate boredom and prevent problematic behaviors. Here are some easy at-home brain games for your dog:
1. "Which Hand" Game
This is one of the easiest brain games for you to play with your dog. All you need are your hands and some kibble or treats. Start by putting the kibble or treat in one of your hands without letting your dog see. Then make fists, hold your hands to your dog and ask him or her to find the treat by sniffing. Whichever hand your pup puts his or her nose on is the first guess. If the guess is correct, turn your hand over and give your dog the kibble or treat to reward him or her.
2. The Shell or Cup Game
This is a variation of the first game, but more advanced. Instead of using your hands to hide the kibble or treats, you use cups or small boxes. And because of that, your dog has to find the reward among more options, which makes the game more difficult. Start by hiding the kibble or treat in front of your dog and then move the cups around. If your dog selects the correct cup, give them the kibble or treat as a reward. If he or she is wrong, mix the cups around once more and ask again. To make the game even more challenging, you can increase the speed at which you move the cups around.
Pro Tip: To help get your dog started with the game, begin by placing treats under all the cups or small boxes. Then reduce it down to two and finally one.
3. Treasure Hunt
This brain game takes the previous two to a whole other level. Instead of hiding kibble or treats in your hands or under cups, you hide them around your house. Put your dog in a separate room when you hide the kibble or treats so he or she can't see where you put them. Then let your pup in and watch as he or she sniffs out the goodies. It's recommended that you start in one room and, as your dog becomes more familiar with the game, extend to other rooms to increase the difficulty level.
4. Training Practice
One tried and true way to keep your dog's brain working is to practice training. Even if your dog has already learned several tricks, practicing them will still provide mental stimulation. Whether your dog knows commands like sit, stay, shake or paw, beg, roll over, leave it - practice makes perfect and keeps your dog entertained.
5. New Tricks
Along the same lines, teaching new tricks is a great way to entertain your dog and keep him or her mentally stimulated. Learning new tricks will challenge your dog's mind in different ways than other brain games. Plus it can boost your dog's confidence, which is always a good thing.