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Five Brain Games for Intelligent Dogs

Playtime with our dogs is a terrific way to build the human to canine bond. But, especially during training, it is a vital method by which you can exercise your dog’s mental prowess by stimulating their brains. Dogs are delighted at the prospect of performing meaningful tasks, especially if those that assist and please their human. In this way, we can enrich a dog’s life and health by providing them with activities that mitigate negative actions like barking and chewing (that often result from boredom) and we help their brains develop the level of analytical, problem-solving skills that a dog can learn.

There are a wide variety of games that a dog owner can play with their dog to promote their brain development. Here are a few ideas for especially useful and effective brain games you can play with your dog to help boost its intelligence and mental acumen.

Food-Dispensing Toys

A food dispenser can provide hours of mental activity for a dog as it challenges him to figure out how to obtain the goodies stored inside the dispensing container. Brands like the Kong Wobbler and Bob-A-Lot are particularly popular, but owners can even make their own dispensing toys from PVC, bottles, or plastic containers.

These provide tremendous mental stimulation as the dog, who clearly wants the treats inside the container, must work to figure out strategic methods of getting the treats out. This is also a great way for the dog to develop scavenging abilities. This is indeed in many ways something that a dog naturally possesses on an instinctual level, but a house raised dog has fewer chances to engage in it than a dog out in the wild, so the instincts can be suppressed simply due to the dog’s lifestyle and its environment where it is taken care of. By engaging in self-reliance training like food dispensing toys, a dog can link to its primal and instinctual roots of being able to solve problems in order to reap the benefits of his efforts.

The “Which-Hand” Game

This is a very easy, yet very effective brain stimulation game for a dog. It’s easy because all you need is some treats, some time, and some patience. Simply put a treat in one hand, and put them out, encouraging your dog to choose the hand with the treat. Allow the dog to see which hand you are placing the treat in, then hold your hands facing down, asking the dog “which hand?” If the dog chooses the correct hand, praise them, and offer the dog the treat he has won. If the dog selects the wrong hand, do not reward the dog, and with time, the dog’s brain will be stimulated enough to catch on to the concept of the game.

Hide & Seek

You may not believe this, but hide & seek is one of the most stimulating mental games you can engage your dog in play. It helps the dog exercise their seeker skills and their scent. If your dog responds to a sit command, instruct them to sit while you hide. Then call out to your dog, and have him try to locate you. When you start, making your hiding spots very easy, and as the progressive learning goes, make them more challenging on every iteration of the game. Even if you pick the same hiding spots in a cycle, the dog will likely struggle at first. With time, the brain will be stimulated to recognize the pattern, assisted by the dog’s scent tracking, which will help to stimulate their skills at finding things.

Find The Treat

This is another version of the hide & seek concept that does not involve the human to hide themselves, but rather some snacks. This is a great way to challenge the dog’s mind in the same way that hide & seek is. Find your dog’s favorite treats and instruct them to stay in place. To start, put the treats around the room you are in, either in open areas or only slightly obstructed ones. Then instruct your dog to find the treats. As the dog starts getting the treats, encourage them, and praise their success. After a few rounds of this, the dog will catch on to the concept, at which point you can begin making the hiding places more challenging. You can place treats behind objects, under corners of rugs, and generally in places where the dog has to work his sense of smell and their problem-solving skills to locate the hidden treats.

While dogs have a powerful olfactory sense, they cannot use it to its full potential unless actively engaged in doing so. Plus, successfully locating the treats results in you encouraging and praising the dog, one of his favorite aspects of interactions with their humans. And of course, the dog gets treats. If your dog begins to be really good at finding the hidden treats, then your brain game of ‘find the treat’ can be considered a success.

Teaching New Tricks

This seems too obvious to be effective, right? But not only does teaching your dog a new trick to instill them with a higher level of intelligence but it also massively boosts his confidence that will make teaching future tricks easier. Your dog may know many of the basic commands, but teaching them new things widens their range of understanding of your instruction. It also teaches them that they can do a lot more than their basic actions.

Once your dog learns the easier tricks, you can (and should) increase their complexity. You can start by teaching the dog his or her name. If you call the dog’s name and he looks at you, reward him. This will teach the dog to associate his name with a treat, and soon he will begin to understand that when the name is called, he should respond to the owner at the chance of a reward.

Once the easy tricks are done, you can move on to more complicated ones like teaching the dog to retrieve an object (teaching them to retrieve the correct one is part of this), teaching a dog to leap or jump through a hoop. You can even teach the dog to ring a bell tied to the door when the dog needs to go outside. Even opening and closing house doors (or fridge doors) can serve as a fun, and stimulating activity.

As your dog learns more complex tricks, you can visually experience the growth in their intelligence and brain development.