Why Brain Games?
We know that dogs needs physical exercise, so we take them for walks, play fetch, throw the frisbee and take them along with us when we hike. We hope that the physical exercise will wear them out and take care of their abundance of energy. But why do they need brain games?
Have you ever taken your dog on a nice long hike only to return home and watch them run around the house like crazy? You thought you wore them out. What’s going on? Their body may be tired, but their brain is still wired! Physical exercise is necessary, but it’s leaving out one very important part of a truly happy dog. They also need mental stimulatlon in the form of brain games.
Signs Your Dog is Bored
So many dogs are completely bored as they wait around all day for their owner to come home. They have nothing challenging to accomplish. Without engaging their brain in some type of mental exercise, dogs will show you they’re bored with excessive barking, whining and pacing. Often they can’t seem to settle down. Then they will search out their own stimulation by chewing on things other than toys, and tearing up the house or your yard.
How Can You Stimulate Their Brain?
There are countless activities to mentally tire your dog. The key is to get them thinking. Many of these brain games can be done at home with things you have around the house and others are games you can purchase. You can do activities that cater to their specific breed, like hunting games, herding, or scent work, or you can use puzzle toys and objects you have at home to create easy and fun activities for your pup.
Would you be surprised to know that just 10-15 minutes of mental stimulation will tire your dog out more than a 30-minute walk will? Think how tired we get when we have to concentrate on something difficult and after a short period of time have to take a break. Both our head and our body feel worn out!
Pick a few of these fun and easy brain games to play with your dog. You can start today! We’ve grouped them into five main categories.
- Puzzle Toys
- Food Dispensing Toys
- Hide-and-Seek Games
- Learn New Tricks.
- DIY Brain Games
Puzzle toys come in a wide variety, but they all have one thing in common — your dog has to figure out how to get the reward, which is usually a small treat. Interactive puzzles are different than treat-dispensing toys which usually dispense treats as your dog chews or rolls the object around.
With puzzles, your dog has to figure out how to get the treat from the different sections and remember how the puzzle works. Dog puzzles come in many different shapes and sizes and can be purchased at pet stores or even made at home. Some of them are pretty basic for beginners while others can be challenging with different levels of difficulty.
Here are some of our favorite puzzle toys.
2. Food Dispensing Toys
Another way to give your dog some mental stimulation is using food dispensing toys.that dispense treats. It requires your dog to figure out how to get the treats out of the toy in a fun and challenging way. Usually as soon as your dog moves the toy around, it will dispense a few treats at a time. Your dog has a natural instinct to hunt and search for food, so these types of toys let them use their natural instincts.
Probably the best known toys in this category are the Kong Toys. Check out the Kong website and you’ll see all the different types they offer.
Here are some other popular food dispensing toys:
3. Hide and Seek Games
These games are great for dogs who have a natural instinct to hunt things out. These types of games encourage your dog to use their sense of smell in order to find you and work well with dogs of all ages. It’s also a fun bonding time to spend with your dog.
How to Play
If your dog doesn’t yet have a firm grasp of the command “stay”, you may need to have a family member hold them while you hide. Begin by telling your dog to “stay” and then hide some place really easy and even let them see you hide. Then tell your dog “find me”. Praise them big time when they find you. Then have them “stay” and change locations, still making it easy for them to find you. Call out “find me”. Get more creative with your hiding as they catch on to the game. Continue playing for 4-5 rounds and you’ll give them a good mental workout.
Once your dog understands the rules, you can change it up and play hide-and-seek with their favorite stuffed toy and watch them as they use their sense of smell to find it.
4. Teach Your Dog New Tricks
Most people want a well-behaved dog that knows the basic obedience commands. They might teach them an additional trick or two, but aren’t really aware of the benefits of teaching a dog new tricks. Happy dogs are dogs who are mentally and physically challenged. They want to have a “job” to do, want to please you and enjoy the time they spend with you while they are learning.
Whether your dog knows a lot of tricks or just a few, there is always something new you can teach them. Most of us are familiar with shake, high five, roll over, play dead and dance. How about spin, bow, back up, crawl or put your toys away?
Here’s a great resource of 27 tricks you can teach your dog complete with a video of each trick.
5. DIY Brain Games
If you are the DIY type, there are countless brain games for dogs that you can make with materials you probably have lying around your house. Take a look at these two games to get started: the muffin tin game and the shell game. A quick search on Pinterest will reveal lots of games you can make at home.
Start by adding 5-10 minutes of mental stimulation to your dog’s daily exercise activities. See if you notice that they seem more settled and tired. Depending on the breed of dog, one session might be enough. If not, add a few more minutes to the routine or add a second session to their day. Make it fun and challenging and you’ll both benefit from these brain games!
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