Most of us dog owners realize how important daily exercise is for our dogs, and will take them on one or two walks a day to ensure their exercise needs are met.
But how about stimulating them mentally too? All too many of us don’t give our dogs as much as they need to exercise their brains, which is just as important as physical exercise.
Mental exercises can help to strengthen the bond between the two of you, give your dog more confidence and eliminate any unwanted or destructive behaviors.
Depending on what your dog is most motivated by, you’ll be able to use this to your advantage; this is usually treats or toys.
Here are five of the best games you can play with your dog, if you can’t get outside due to the weather.
Treasure hunts are an excellent way to encourage their natural hunting instincts, and also to slow down any dogs that eat their dinner too quickly.
For this game you’ll need to:
- Hide parts of their meal, or even just a few treats in different places around a round.
- Then let them sniff out and eat their food.
- When you dog understands the game, you can start hiding the food in more hidden places, and even in different rooms around the house.
The Shell Game
Also known as the cup game, this is a firm favorite for most dogs. To play this game you’ll need two or three cups, and a few treats to play.
For this game you’ll need to:
- Ask your dog to sit, and then place a treat on a small table in front of him.
- Put one of the cups on top of the treat, and then place another cup next to the first one.
- To begin with, reward him when he touches his nose to the correct cup.
- To make this game harder you can shuffle the cups around, add more cups to the game and even train him to point with his paw to the correct cup.
Hide and Seek
This is one of my dog’s favorite games, because his prize is me! Just like when you were a child, hide and seek can be a really fun way to pass some time on a miserable day.
To teach this game, your dog will already need to understand basic obedience commands such as sit and come. Here is how to play:
- Put your dog into the sit position while you go and hide close by.
- Shout ‘come’ followed by his name, and your dog should come and sniff you out, make sure you praise him when he does.
- If he struggles with this you can take a bone with you to increase the chances of him being able to find you.
- As he gets better at this game you’ll be able to hide in trickier places.
There are so many different dog puzzles around; most of them focus on getting a treat out by figuring out the game.
A few examples of these are kongs and puzzle feeders. You can even have a go at making your own puzzle:
- Using a muffin tin and some tennis balls, hide a treat in a few of the slots
- Then place tennis balls on top.
- Your dog will have to use his brain to sniff around and figure out where the treats are and move the balls.
Which hand is a really simple game which you can play anywhere to pass the time while it’s raining outside.
You’ll need a few treats, and around 5 minutes to play:
- Hold a treat in one of your hands.
- Hold both hands in two fists, up to your dog.
- Reward your dog when they choose the correct hand.
- To increase the intensity of this game, you could train him to place his paw on the right hand.
These are just five simple games which you can play with your dog to help to stimulate them and decrease any chances of boredom on a miserable day.
There are plenty of other fun games you can play, such as fetch, or setting up a miniature indoor obstacle course. Any attention you give to your dog which encourages them to use their brain power will be enjoyed.
Author Bio: John Woods is a professional dog trainer and member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He created his website All Things Dogs to educate people worldwide about the importance of caring and training dogs appropriately.