Spending time playing games with your dog is not only a great way to help your relationship grow but it also helps with your dogs well-being. We spend a lot of time working on our dogs physical stimulation by taking them for their daily walks but is your dog getting enough mental stimulation as well? We’ve listed five great games for your dog to play to help them learn and become clever happy dogs.
Why Is Mental Stimulation Important?
Just like us, dogs need to use their brains. A lot of our pet dogs are actually bred for working lives and need to have a healthy balance between both physical and mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble. This is why it’s great to leave your dog with some toys, games or even book them in with a dog walker when you’re out at work and they are left at home. If your dog is lacking in either mental or physical stimulation then this is normally when behavioural problems occur such as chewing or destroying items around the house, barking and howling as well as other destructive behaviours.
There are lots of different ways to get your dog using his brain, the most obvious one is training sessions, wether this is just some general obedience training or trick training it will get your dog thinking. Today we’re going to give you some other ideas for games to play with your dog at home or things to leave them with when you are out.
Make sure you take some time in helping your dog get the correct mental stimulation they need, and mix things up so the games and walks are always new and exciting. To have a healthy dog they need to be happy in mind and body just like us.
Five Great Games For Your Dog To Play
-Hide And Seek-
This game not only helps your dog use their brain but also their nose and is a great game to play to help improve your recalls as well.
This is the same as the hide and seek game you would play as a kid, you have to hide and your dog has to come and find you.
• If you are playing on your own with the dog wait until they are laying on their bed or distracted in the garden, if you have a good stay command put them in a stay on their bed. If you have two people, one person can distract the dog while the other goes to hide. Make sure you have some treats and go and find somewhere to hide in the house. Don’t make it too hard to start with, just stand behind a door somewhere.
• Once you’ve found your hiding spot you can call your dog. To begin with you may need to call them a few times to give them a helping hand but once they get the hang of the game you can just let them work out where you are themselves.
• When they find you make a big fuss and reward them with the treats. As you play more you can find hard places to hide and even have a go when you are out walking, but make sure you have a second handler around to help the dog so they don’t panic if they can’t find you.
– The Cup Game –
Another great game to get your dog using their noses as well as a lot of brain power. Aim of this game is to progress to hiding a treat under 1 of 3 cups and your dog has to guess which one it is.
• To start this game we just need two cups. With your dog in a stay let them see you put the treat underneath one of the cups and give them a release command to come and push the cup over and get their treat. Repeat this a few times with the same cup.
• Once they’ve got the hang of this alternate which cup you put the treat under. At this point if your dog picks the wrong cup then lift up the other cup so they can see the treat there, but don’t let them have it. Replace the cup and let them choose again, it should be the correct cup this time.
• When you’ve mastered this you can make it harder by placing the treat under one cup and then switching the cups around by sliding them across. This will require more thinking and some nose work by your dog to pick the right cup. Again once they are getting the hang of this you can make it more difficult by adding the third cup. This level of switching the cups and adding more cups is difficult for some dogs to pick up but keep helping them out and if they learn to use their noses they should get the hang of it.
– Treasure Hunt –
Hide your dogs favourite treats or toys around the house and let them find them.
• Start off this game fairly easy and show your dog their favourite treat or toy that you have and where you are hiding it. Once it’s in the hiding location move your dog away before letting them go and find it.
• After repeating that a few times try getting your dog to do a stay and walk over to the hiding place, you still want your dog to be able to see you placing the treats or toy there. Go back to your dog and release them. You can use different hiding spots it doesn’t have to go in the same spot every time.
• Time to make it harder, this time put your dog in a different room where they can’t see where you are hiding the reward. Once your dogs got the hang of playing this with one reward you can try hiding multiple rewards in different locations.
– Tidy Up –
This is a more complex game and your dog needs to know a retrieve command as well as a leave command before starting.
• Start with just one toy and a basket for the toys to go in. Place the basket in front of you and send your dog to retrieve the toy.
• To get your dog to drop the toy in the basket, try just using their leave it command when they reach you and the basket. If they don’t know a leave it or are struggling as they reach you with their toy offer them a treat just over the basket, this should make them drop the toy (in the basket) to take the sweet. As they drop the toy give a leave it command. Repeat these steps until your dog understands they need to drop the toy in the basket.
• Once you have a reliable retrieve and drop in the basket with it just in front of you try taking a step or two away from basket and repeating the retrieves until the dog again is reliably dropping the toy in the basket.
• After this if you want to use a tidy up command instead of fetch then add tidy to you fetch command ‘tidy, fetch’ and repeat this command for a couple of training sessions. If your dog is still completing the task try taking the fetch command away and just using the new command of tidy.
• If your dog has then mastered all the above steps then just try adding on more toys and then reward less so they have to tidy up two toys before a reward, then three.
– Puzzle Games –
These are great for when dogs are left at home alone and you can get some cheap ones online or even make your own. Try getting a treat ball or treat discovery boards where the dog has to work out how to get their treats out. These keep your dog occupied as well as getting them to use their brains to get their rewards. If you want to make one of these at home try getting a muffin tin and placing a treat in each hole and then adding some tennis balls on top, then let them work out how to get the toys out to get their treats.
If you have any games you play with your dog at home that we have not listed then please let us know in the comments below.