When it comes to your dog’s health and happiness, mental stimulation and brain games are very important; almost as important as good nutrition, daily exercise, and grooming. When you challenge your dog with brain games, it helps build a strong bond between you and your pet and also boosts his thinking skills, ramps up his fitness levels, and helps you work on his obedience. While you can always buy canine brain game toys, there are a few ways to devise your own mental stimulation games to challenge your pet with when you are at work.
In this guide, we will consider all kinds of DIY dog brain games, fun games you can play with your dog inside the house, as well as brain game toys you can buy from the stores.
How much mental stimulation does a dog need?
All dogs need daily mental stimulation; younger puppies need more mental stimulation exercises than adult dogs since they have tons of energy. A dog that is not mentally exercised is prone to boredom. Puppies that are left alone for hours are known to indulge in negative behaviors like excess barking, chewing up furniture, digging under the fence, whining, tearing bed sheets, etc.
Dogs belonging to the ‘working class’ also need tons of mental stimulation. After all; they were bred to work outside the house and perform jobs like herding or rounding up cattle, guarding the property, hunting, retrieving, or trapping animals. Such dogs, when raised as companions, tend to get bored when they are left alone all day cooped up indoors. A life of unemployment will not suit these dogs. In such cases, you can always exercise your dog but he also needs some mental stimulation with homemade brain games or store-bought mental stimulation toys and puzzles.
No dog is stupid and all dogs need mental stimulation. Your dog even needs to be mentally stimulated on daily walks. Yes, your dog can learn even while walking! You can use the time to bond with your pet, train him, even talk to him to enhance his cognitive skills.
Here are some benefits of mental stimulation for dogs
- It helps improve your dog’s confidence
- Increases mental focus and concentration
- Teaches your dog to solve problems
- Improves his memory
- Enhances strength.
- Keeps bad behaviors at bay.
Easy homemade brain games for dogs
Simple treasure hunt
Dogs that are prized for their scent-finding skills can take part in a simple treasure hunt which helps stimulate their brain and is a fun way for pet-owner bonding.
- Show your dog that you are hiding an object/treat.
- Give the command – Find it! Your dog gets to eat what he finds!
- Practice this until he understands what the game is about.
- Now, make the game harder: do not let him see where you are hiding the treat. He will understand what he is meant to do by using the ‘Find it’ command. He has to search using his sense of smell alone. If needed, you can give him a ‘bit of a hint’.
- Challenge your dog by making the game harder and harder.
- This is a fun game to play with your pet inside, on rainy or snowy days!
This game increases your dog’s water confidence.
- In an inflatable pool filled with water, toss some hot dog slices
- Encourage your dog to wade after them.
This simple game is great to play indoors on hot summer days or even on cold afternoons. (Just fill up the pool with warm water. )The game encourages your dog to love water. It is ideal for young puppies when you want to introduce them to the water.
Simple memory game
This game is surprisingly challenging for dogs and improves memory and focus.
- Set out two identical pails a few feet apart. Use pails heavy enough that cannot be knocked over by the dog and ones in which he can easily reach over to access the treat at the bottom.
- Have your dog sit-stay on a pedestal in the middle of the two pails.
- Show him as you place a treat in one pail.
- Go back to him and release him to retrieve the treat.
- If he goes and sniffs the empty pail, do not treat him. Ask him to go back to his sit-stay position. Start over.
- Increase the time between showing him the treat in a pail and count to 10 slowly before releasing him.
- Make the game harder by adding a third pail.
Apart from DIY dog brain games like these, you can also buy puppy mental stimulation games in case you have to leave your pet home alone for a long time.
Best dog mental stimulation games
StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive dog toy
This dog toy stimulates a dog physically and mentally. All you need to do is fill up the toy and adjust the bottom opening to a desired level of difficulty. Start by placing a small treat at the bottom opening. Let your dog enjoy that treat. Let him bob and shake the toy. Soon your dog will understand that the more he shakes the toy, he can dispense treats for himself. You can also fill it up with kibble and the toy holds enough food for one time for a medium to large dog. The toy is also available in a smaller size for toy breeds.
- No noise
- Easy to clean
- Provides physical and mental stimulation to dogs
- Dogs love it: thousands of happy customers have given this a 4+ star rating.
- Long-lasting and durable
- Keeps pets occupied
- Great for pet training
- Total value for money.
- Large dogs could chew it up within minutes. More suitable for small and medium breeds.
Idepet Dog Toy Ball Non-toxic Treat/Food Feeder
The multi-functional toy from Idepet does several things for your pet:
- Helps you play a game of fetch which is useful in bonding with your puppy
- Cleans teeth effectively
- Your dog has to ‘work’ to access the treats hidden in the slots; this stimulates him mentally
- Useful in IQ building for younger dogs
- Entertains your pet while you are gone
- Non-toxic, made with sturdy rubber material
- Great for entertaining your pet; multifunctional toy with which you can play fetch and also leave your pet alone to entertain himself while you are at work.
- Cleans teeth and gums effectively
- Useful for dog training and helps increase intelligence
- Great for gifting to dog lovers and pet parents
- Attractive, available in different colors, value for money
- Not suitable for aggressive chewers.
SPOT Ethical Pet Interactive Seek-a-treat Shuffle Bone Toy Puzzle
This is one of the top-rated dog brain game toys available in the market. It has received thousands of positive reviews on top retail sites. SPOT ethical interactive toy is made of wood and is sturdy enough for giant breeds as well. The game actually makes your dog think about what he is doing and is ideal for crate training when you have to leave your pet alone for hours.
- Prevents boredom
- Strengthens your dog’s cognitive ability
- Dogs enjoy flipping the slider to find treats. It is fun for dog owners too watching their pets.
- Suitable for bunnies and cats as well
- Not very durable; breaks easily if you have a dog that drools a lot.
- Slime and saliva can gather in the sliders; so it needs frequent cleaning
- Aggressive chewers can easily break it
- Not challenging enough for very smart dogs
Adequate mental stimulation is a must for dogs. You can devise simple games to train your pet and also encourage him to use his memory, senses, and cognition. We hope this brief guide helps you plan some homemade DIY dog games for canine mental stimulation and also buy a few games to keep your pet occupied when home alone.