Ways to Stimulate Your Dog’s Brain
There are a lot of breeds of dogs that are known for high levels of intelligence and the need for mental stimulation. These include Border Collies, German Shepherds, Poodles, Australian Cattle Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Schnauzers, Labs, Papillons, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and the list goes on.
However, all dogs, either purebred or mixed breed, are all smart in their own way. Each purebred and mixed-breed dog also needs to have mental stimulation throughout the day to keep them from becoming bored and engaging in problem behaviors such as chewing, barking, or destroying things in their environment.
One great option to help your dog stay mentally challenged is the new types of interactive games for dogs. These are games you can make at home or that are available at your local pet store that keep your dog thinking and problem solving on a level that works for them.
Find the Treat
Similar to games for toddlers were the kids remove different objects to find a hidden treasure, this type of game also works well for dogs. To get started, an easy game for any dog is the “Find the Treat” game.
While there are many versions of this game available to purchase online or at your local pet store, you can also DIY this project! You’ll need an old muffin tin and six tennis balls or balls of similar sizes. Place a small piece of treat in the bottom of three of the muffins, then place balls in all six holes on the tin. The dog has the task of lifting out the balls to find the treat and enjoy a tasty snack as a reward.
To get started, make it easy for the dog by “helping” to remove the balls. Typically, most dogs will catch on to this very quickly. Once your dog has the hang of the game, there are more complex options.
Commercially available games similar to this require the dog to lift some items out, slide items to open the hidden treat slot or other similar types of activities. There are even games that require the dog slide around multiple pieces to open up the treat compartment and enjoy their just reward.
Balls and Cubes
There are also a number of specialized balls, cubes, and rubber or very strong plastic toys that are a big hit with dog owners because of the ability to hide a treat inside of the toy. The dogs must learn to manipulate the exterior shape to release the smaller ball or toy inside for their reward. While this may seem easy to us, it can be pretty challenging for a dog to learn.
The old classic shell game is fun to play with your dog. You can use red plastic cups or whatever unbreakable cups or containers you have on hand. Start by hiding the treat under one cup and just move the cup around. When you stop moving the cup, ask the dog to find the treat. When the dog knocks the cup over, he or she will quickly catch on to the game.
Next, add another cup, giving your dog a choice. For really clever dogs, try doing the full shell game with three cups, hiding the treat under only one cup.