Dogs are incredibly smart animals. It’s no surprise as they can be trained to do all kinds of amazing things, such as serve as service animals or aid the police or military to accomplish important tasks.
In fact, dogs are so brilliant that, if you don’t take the time to keep them mentally stimulated, they can use their cleverness to get themselves into trouble. For this reason, it’s important to always incorporate some sort of mental exercise into your dog’s weekly routine…and what better way to do that than by playing a game!
How smart is your pup? Give the following games a try and find out…
Dogs are natural-born hunters, so they have a deeply embedded desire to track and hunt for things. Of course you don’t want your dog “hunting” you, but a friendly game of hide and go seek can quickly satisfy your dog’s desire to search and find while also stimulating his brain.
There are many ways you can play hide and go seek with your dog. Some people enjoy hiding and having their dog sniff them out—much like search and rescue training when you train a dog to follow the scent of a person.
Other people prefer to hide food or toys around their homes/outside.
Here’s how you can train your pup to play this game.
Step 1: Determine what you’re going to hide.
Step 2: Start small. Show your dog the object you’re going to hide. Or, if you’re the one hiding, have a second person with you that can hold your pup while you go find a hiding place. Keep your hiding place obvious and stay close until your dog gets the hang of the game.
Step 3: Once hidden, give your dog the command to “go find it.” For the first few times, you might have to actually call your dog to find you (if you’re the one hiding) or you might want to include a piece of food/a treat with the object you’re hiding. Repeat the process several times until your dog gets the hang of the game and reward him each time he finds the hidden object/person.
Step 4: Make the game more challenging. Once your dog is a pro, pick more challenging places to hide yourself/the toy. Be sure to reward your pup with a treat or a pat every time he successfully finds what he’s searching for.
Tired of your pup always leaving his toys all over your house? Then maybe it’s time to turn clean up time into a game!
Believe it or not, you can train your dog to put his toys away so you don’t have to. And, if you do it correctly, your dog will definitely think it’s a game, not a chore!
Here’s how you can turn tidying up into a game for your dog:
Step 1: Grab a basket to use and make it your dogs toy bin.
Step 2: Start slow. Place a toy outside of the basket and encourage your dog to pick up the toy and drop it into the bin. You can use a command such as “clean up” to encourage your dog to pick up the toy. Don’t get discouraged if your dog doesn’t get the hang of it right away. You’ll certainly have to help guide your dog to drop the toy into the basket on the first few tries.
Step 3: Reward your dog the second he drops it in the bin. I highly recommend using food for the first few times as food rewards tend to be more exciting.
Step 4: Remain patient and keep repeating the process. Over time, your dog will associate the command “clean up” with dropping his toys into the bin and this game will become fun for him.
While dogs don’t speak English, they certainly can learn a large range of vocal commands, which makes a game of red light green light a lot of fun.
This game serves two purposes.
Here’s how the game works…
Step 1: Put your dog on a short lead line and go for a walk.
Step 2: Throughout the walk, randomly give your dog the command “red light” and have your dog stop and sit. Reward your dog with a treat or a pet when he sits calmly.
Step 3: Make your pup wait patiently until you give the command “green light.” Once the command is given, continue your walk.
Step 4: Repeat the process until your dog responds quickly to the red light and green light commands. Once he has the hang of it, you can play the game off-leash at the park or in your backyard.
Is your dog good at gambling? While we wouldn’t recommend letting him take a seat at the blackjack table, we do know of a game he’s probably pretty good at—the shell game.
The shell game is quite easy and simple. All you have to do is hide a piece of food underneath one of three cups, mix up the cups and have your dog figure out where the food is hidden.
This game requires your dog to focus and use his sense of smell to find the hidden food pieces. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Grab 3 cups. We recommend paper cups as they are easy to use and can be thrown away when the game is over.
Step 2: Cut up a few small, stinky pieces of food such as cheese or lunch meat.
Step 3: Let your dog smell the piece of food, then hide it under one cup.
Step 4: Mix up the three cups and let your dog guess where the food is hidden.
Step 5: If he picks the right cup, lift it up and let him eat the treat.
Last, but not least, agility games are great fun for most dogs, but also require your pup to use his brain to follow commands and overcome obstacles.
The best part…not only are agility games mentally stimulating, but they are also physically stimulating, giving your pup a good work out!
Most people don’t have agility courses set up in their backyards. So, if you want to try agility with your dog, I recommend you check out your local dog parks (some have courses set up that you can use for free) or contract local agility centers where you can rent out time to use the courses they have already set up.
There are many ways you can train a dog to do agility, and if you’re unfamiliar with agility training, I advise you to contact a local agility training center to help teach you the best ways to help your dog complete a course.
In the meantime, here are a few recommendations on how to get started:
Tip 1: Start small. Begin with the easiest obstacle to help build your dog’s confidence on the course.
Tip 2: Make sure to reward your pup every time he does what he is asked to do. Pats or treats are a good way to encourage your dog as he progresses.
Tip 3: Keep your dog on a lead line. This will allow you to help guide him through a course and assist him if he becomes nervous with any of the obstacles.
Tip 4: Know your dog’s limits. Your dog’s age, fitness level, and health might limit what types of obstacles he can do. Always ensure you’re not pushing your dog to complete obstacles that he’s unable to do.
Tip 5: Be patient. Agility training takes time. I advise that you start with one obstacle and work on it until your pup masters it. This allows you to safely train your dog without overwhelming him/making him nervous.
All of these games can easily be played with your pup. However, in order to train your dog successfully, your pup needs to be able to calm down, relax, and focus on what you’re asking him to do
If you’re struggling to get your pup to relax, I highly encourage you to check out my program The Dog Calming Code.
It’s this program that has helped me train over 37,000 dogs—and I know it will help you too!
Best of luck and have fun!