Adults and children benefit greatly from brain games and activities that promote mental stimulation. Scrabble, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and word finds are common brain games that many adults partake in every day. But did you know that there are brain games and toys that can promote mental stimulation for your dog too? That’s right, there really are!
Your dog can experience serious health benefits from brain games and can realize lower stress and a longer lifespan when adequately challenged. Here is a list of some easy games that you can play with your dog to help stimulate them (tire them out) and to help you bond.
- Coordinate a treasure hunt full of tasty treats. As you know, your dog loves treats, and dogs have a heightened sense of smell. When Fido gets to use his sniffer to hunt down some special treasure, you provide him with an excellent experience to use all of his senses. The first time you play the game, be sure to keep it simple and make it very easy for him to find the treats. You don’t want him to get discouraged right off the bat. Have your pup in a sit-stay position and then hide the treat somewhere visible. Don’t worry if he sees you hide it because he will still have the opportunity to practice his directed release, and will likely catch on to the game faster. Then, go ahead and release him so that he can find his treat. And if he finds it, be sure to offer him some exceptional praise such as some vigorous ear scratching or a tummy rub. The next time you play, make it a bit more difficult for him to find the treat and continue to ramp up the difficulty as he gets better at it.
- Play the cup game. You’ll love this YouTube video of an adorable fluffy pup watching the cups and then finding his treat. While you might not be able to get this aggressive with the cup switching off the bat, perhaps start with three or even two cups and most them around slowly for the first few rounds. Add more complexity in future rounds. And, as with the treasure hunt, when Fico gets it right, let him enjoy his treat but then follow-up with a big round of praise.
- The clean-up game. If you are of the generation that experienced Barney, the big purple dinosaur, then you are probably familiar with his clean-up song. You can play a similar game with your puppy, teaching Fido to go retrieve his toys and return them to his toy basket. So, if you find that Fico has left several toys strewn around the room, work with him to start fetching the toys and bringing them to you one by one. Position yourself by the toy basket, and then when Fido returns each item to you, reward him with a quick treat, and have him watch you put the toy in the basket. Of course, playing the Barney game during the clean-up game is completely optional.
Be sure to engage your dog in some mental stimulation a few times per week. This will help reinforce positive behaviors and will keep his brain sharp. Not only that, but taking the time to have this direct interaction with your dog is good for both of you. So, find some treats and start stimulating!