Fun brain games for dogs
Running around like crazy also burns off excess energy, but it also has the downside to excite hyper dogs even more and lead to endorphin dependency. All the running around in the world is also not stimulating enough for a lot of working breed dogs. Mental stimulation is a calm activity that helps dogs focus on something specific. Plus, even though it does not seem like it, it does burn a lot of excess energy. Brain games can also be the perfect alternative for a rainy day or for a dog that needs to recover from an illness or an injury.
There are a lot of toys on the market that are meant to mentally stimulate dogs. Aikiou and Kong are two popular brands. This article instead suggest fun brain activities that require nothing but your time:
Obviously, learning is mentally stimulating to dogs. And learning does not have to be, and should not be, boring – it can absolutely be fun to your dog! Some tricks are more fun to teach and learn, but you can teach your dog any trick you like! Here is an article that describes through an example easy steps to teach your dog a trick or a behaviour: https://www.ovenbakedtradition.com/en/dog/bad-weather-entertaining-your-dog-by-teaching-him-or-her-a-good-behavior
When you teach your dog a trick, he or she has to think hard to understand what you expect from him, and that sure burns a lot of energy.
On your end, you can also do some thinking to invent a fun brain game for your dog J. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Hide and seek
Your dog first needs to have a solid “STAY”. After asking him to “stay”, simply hide in the house or outside and ask your dog to “FIND” you. He will have a lot of fun sniffing his way to your side. You could also hide his favorite toy or delicious treats that he has to “FIND”. Most dogs love to track scents, especially hunting dogs.
This video shows a classic hide and seek example, a “treasure hunt” with treats, as well as a simple game where you hide treats under a sheet or several sheets and your dog has to understand how to get these treats into his mouth: http://youtu.be/GptyRNjplOo
The previous video also shows another classic game, « find it », where you hide a treat in one of your hands and ask your dog to identify the right hand, meaning the hand with the treat. You could do this same trick by hiding the treat under cups, at first, two, then more and more cups as your dog gets better and better. You just hide a treat under one of the cups, and you mix them in front of your dog before asking him to identify the cup with the hidden treat with his nose. Fun times!
A lot of dogs like to dig and destroy things, yet they are not allowed to. During this game, they will get to do just that AND think with their nose. Just hide a treat or a toy in one big box that you fill with a lot of paper and other things that have no value to you and that you do not mind your dog destroying, and ask your dog to “get it”.
You can also play at this game outside on a land you do not mind your dog to dig into. At first, do not put the treat too deep into the ground. Wait until your dog gets better and better at this game, and then you can hide the treat deeper and deeper into the ground. This game is also a lot of fun (and less messy) to play in the snow during the winter!