There are a lot of different options for you to entertain your pup. And brain games for dogs are among the best.
Often you will have to go above and beyond to find ways to stimulate a dog’s brain, and that’s why I’ve collected a whole lot of different games with varying levels of difficulty to really challenge your dog.
So keep reading and see all of these different fun brain games for dogs!
The 15 Best Brain Games for Dogs
Playing games with your dog is a great way to keep them mentally stimulated and engaged. It can also be a fun way to bond with your furry friend. However, not all games are created equal, and not all dogs enjoy the same activities.
In this article, we’ll explore games such as Hide and Seek, a classic that most dogs love, and numerous other games you can play with your furry friend.
Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek is a game that has been enjoyed by children for generations, and it turns out that dogs love it too. The game involves hiding and having your dog find you. This activity can be played with one or more people and can be adjusted to the skill level of your dog. It’s a game that doesn’t require any expensive equipment and can be played indoors or outdoors.
To play Hide and Seek, start by having your dog sit and stay while you go and hide. You may want to start with an easy hiding spot at first so that your dog can quickly find you. Once you are hidden, call your dog’s name and encourage them to come to find you. When they do find you, make sure to give them plenty of praise and love.
One great thing about Hide and Seek is that it can be adjusted to the skill level of your dog. For dogs who are just starting, you may want to make it easy by hiding in an obvious location, such as behind a couch or in a closet with the door slightly open. As your dog gets better at finding you, you can make the hiding spots more challenging, such as hiding in a place that requires your dog to jump up or climb over something.
Another great thing about Hide and Seek is that it doesn’t require any treats, making it a great option for dogs who are watching their weight. Instead of using treats as a reward, you can use praise and affection to reinforce good behavior. This can help to build a stronger bond between you and your dog.
Dog puzzles are an excellent way to give your furry friend the mental stimulation they need while also relieving boredom. You can find puzzles in various shapes and sizes, and they all have one thing in common: the dog must figure out how to get the hidden treat on their own.
Pet supply stores offer a variety of puzzles that range from basic to challenging. Some puzzles can keep a dog occupied for several minutes, while others take just a few seconds to solve. The PAW5: Wooly Snuffle Mat and the Outward Hound Puzzle Toy (affiliate link) are two of our favorite puzzles that we have tested and tried.
Puzzles are an excellent way to keep dogs of all ages engaged and entertained. They provide mental stimulation that can help keep them sharp and prevent boredom. Dogs that are left alone for long periods can benefit from the extra entertainment that a puzzle can provide. Furthermore, they can help to improve problem-solving skills and boost confidence.
Remember to supervise your dog when they are playing with a puzzle. Some puzzles have small pieces that can become a choking hazard if they are not used correctly. Puzzles that are too challenging can lead to frustration, which can lead to destructive behavior. By starting with a simple puzzle, you can help build your dog’s confidence and prepare them for more challenging puzzles in the future.
Indoor Agility Course
When outdoor play is not an option, creating an indoor obstacle course can keep your dog entertained. Look around your house for items like your dog’s toys, chairs, towels, and blankets to set up an obstacle course. For example, have your dog walk around each chair, jump over or duck under towels, and perform tricks in a blanket-covered area. Use your imagination to create a challenging course.
Indoor agility courses are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog but can be time-consuming to set up and take down. So, it’s recommended to start with a simple course and gradually increase the difficulty level. With patience and consistency, your pup will become an agility master in no time.
It’s essential to ensure the safety of your dog while setting up an indoor agility course. Remove any hazardous objects and make sure that the course is not too difficult for your dog’s skill level.
Overall, indoor agility courses are a fun way to keep your dog mentally and physically engaged when outdoor activities are not possible. They are also a great bonding experience for you and your furry friend. So, let your creativity flow and have fun creating obstacle courses for your beloved pup.
Treasure hunting is an easy game you can play with your dog that will stimulate their brains and senses. Start by having your dog sit and stay while you hide a treat somewhere obvious. Once your dog understands the game, you can start making it more challenging by hiding the treat in harder-to-find places.
Introduce a cue to start searching, like “find it,” and reward your dog with praise and attention when they find the treat. As your dog gets better at the game, you can gradually increase the difficulty level.
Treasure hunting is a great way to entertain your dog, and it requires little effort from you. It’s also an excellent way to bond with your furry friend and provide them with mental stimulation. Try it out, and you and your dog are sure to have a blast!
The Muffin Tin Game
The muffin tin game is a great option for those short on time but wanting to stimulate their dog’s brain. It can provide hours of entertainment for your furry friend.
First, find a muffin tin or something similar that can hold tennis balls. Make sure the balls fit snugly, so they won’t come out too easily but not too hard for your dog to remove.
Next, put treats with a strong scent into some of the holes and cover them with tennis balls. Your dog will have to figure out how to remove the balls to get the treats. If they’re having difficulty, start with something smaller to make it easier for them.
If you’re unsure about what treats to use, try using everyday snacks like eggs or bananas that you likely have at home. Your dog will love the challenge, and you’ll love watching them figure it out.
The Cup Game
This is another good game to play with your dog, but be aware that it does require some brainpower. And while you can increase the difficulty of the game, your dog might never quite grasp it, so you might have to keep it simple.
Take two cups and put them in front of your dog. Then put a treat under one of the cups.
Once you’ve put the treat under the cup, let your dog guess exactly what cup it’s placed under. In the beginning, you should give them the treat anyway, no matter what cup they choose. And after 12-15 tries, they will typically start to figure out that every time they guess a cup, they will receive a treat.
Your next step is to no longer give them a treat when they get the wrong cup. This will usually take a lot more time for your dog to understand. But with continued practice, in most cases, they’ll soon learn just to guess.
When they are able to guess the difference between the wrong cup and the right cup, you can make the game even harder. Now you start swapping the cups around, and your dog might not be able to guess correctly any longer.
Instead of switching the cups around, you could always try to just add another cup or two to the game as well.
If your dog has problems guessing correctly, it doesn’t mean that they’re not smart. As with humans, dogs’ intelligence can show in many different ways. And if they aren’t good at guessing what’s hidden under a cup, they can most certainly still be great at a lot of other things.
One game that’s similar to the cup game is perfect to play with your dog. The concept is pretty much the same.
- Allow your dog to see you and place some treats somewhere behind you.
- Now you should put both your hands behind your back and hide a treat in one of your hands. Now show your dog both hands.
- When they nudge at or show interest in one hand, show them that hand. If they’ve chosen the empty hand, close both your hands again and let them get another guess at finding the right hand.
- Your dog will in time begin to understand the concept of this game, and they will keep on guessing till they get the right one.
This trick is quite a bit easier than the cup game, so if you just have time for a few quick and easy games, this is a perfect fit.
Red Light, Green Light
If you have a dog that struggles with knowing when to be calm and when to be excited, this is a great game for them. However, if your dog is overly excitable, you will need to be patient.
- Before beginning this game, you will need to teach your dog a command to lie down.
- Once they have learned this command, take them outside and have them lie down. Then say, “Ready…Set…GO!” and sprint a few steps forward. Stop and say “Down”. If your dog lays down, give them a treat and lots of attention.
- As your dog gets better at this game, you can increase the speed. Once they have mastered it, try saying ‘Go’ just as their belly touches the ground. Eventually, your dog will play this game for fun and not just for the reward.
Playing this game with your dog is a great way to bond with them. While it is best played outdoors, it can also be played indoors if you have enough space.
Big or Small
This is another great game that can not only entertain your dog but also teach them a new trick. However, if your dog is overweight, this may not be the best game for them.
- Start by taking a handful of kibble and holding it in one hand while holding a single piece in the other.
- Extend your closed hands in front of your dog and say “big” as you open both hands.
- If your dog goes for the bigger pile, they are allowed to eat it. But if they go for the smaller pile, close your hands and try again.
- Repeat this until your dog associates the word “big” with the larger pile of kibble.
- Once your dog has learned this, move on to phase two where you say “small” instead of “big”.
- Keep practicing until your dog understands both words.
- When they have learned both words, you can really start playing the game with them. Eventually, you can say “small” or “big” and your dog should be able to pick the correct pile every time. However, be sure to withhold the treat until they choose the right pile.
If you’re up for a challenge, ring stacking is a great game to test your dog’s mental abilities. However, be warned that it takes time and patience for your dog to understand the goal of the game.
- First, find some rings and a stick that are the right size for your dog. Wooden, dye-free options are a safe choice. Using a clicker or similar tool, give your dog a treat every time they pick up a ring. Once they’ve learned this step, give them a treat every time they bring a ring to the stick.
- At first, you may need to guide the ring onto the stick. Click and treat when the ring is successfully on the stick. It may take several weeks for your dog to fully understand the game, so be patient.
- When they’ve mastered the game, try placing the stick on different surfaces, such as a wall or in a different room, to make the game more challenging.
Ring stacking is one of the most difficult brain games for dogs, but it’s a great way to test their mental abilities.
Are you tired of picking up your dog’s toys scattered around the house? Then toy pickup might be the perfect game for you and your dog. This game will encourage your dog to pick up its toys and put them away all by itself, freeing up your time.
- To begin with, you need to teach your dog the “drop it” command. Give them an item to hold onto, then show them a treat and use the command. If they drop the toy, give them a treat. Repeat this until they understand what “drop it” means.
- Next, get them to drop a toy into a box or basket. Guide them to the basket when they have a toy in their mouth and say “drop it.” If they drop it near the basket, still reward them.
- Once they can drop the toy correctly, add a new command like “box” to teach them the difference between “drop it” and “box.”
- When they can put toys into a box on their own, try taking it further by getting them to pick up a toy with a specific name like “ball.” Eventually, they’ll know precisely what it means when you say “ball” or “box.”
This game requires patience and practice, but it’s worth the effort to have a tidy house and a smart dog. Who knows, maybe you’ll wish you could teach your kids this trick as easily as your dog!
The Name Game
Dogs can actually remember the names of their toys, so teaching them the name can be a fun game.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Pick a toy that you want your dog to learn the name of, such as a ball.
- Give your dog the toy and say the name of the toy, for example, “ball”. Then give them a treat.
- Repeat this for a few days until your dog starts to understand the name of the toy.
- To check if your dog knows the name, say the name of the toy when it is nearby, and see if they go for it.
This can be done with every toy, and soon your dog will know all of their toys by name.
Hot & Cold
Playing Hot & Cold with your dog is a great way to test their brainpower, just like how we used to play it with our friends when we were younger. Even though it works best with a clicker, it’s still possible to play without one. However, if your dog gets easily frustrated, this game might not be the best choice for them.
- Choose an object you want your dog to pick up and then let them close in on it.
- When they start to approach the object, click the clicker, give them a treat, and say “hot”. But if your dog starts to move away from the object, don’t click or treat them, just say “cold”.
This game requires a lot of repetition and patience, but eventually, your dog will understand the difference between “cold” and “hot”. When they finally pick up the object you wanted them to, give them a lot of love, attention, and a treat.
Playing Hot & Cold is a great way to test your dog’s intelligence, and it can be a fun and engaging game for both you and your furry friend.
If you have played regular fetch with your dog countless times and want to try something new and exciting, obedience fetch can be a great alternative.
- Start by throwing the ball for your dog as you usually do, but instead of just picking up the ball and bringing it back, you can now train them to do a specific trick before returning the ball.
- To get your dog to understand what you want them to do, you might have to start with easy tricks such as sitting or lying down and then gradually move on to more advanced tricks.
- Once your dog has learned a few tricks, you can make it more challenging by asking them to perform multiple tricks before fetching the ball.
- And to really challenge your dog, ask them to do a different set of tricks every time before they get to fetch the ball again.
This is an excellent way to exercise your dog’s brain, and the best part is that you don’t need to use treats to do it. So if you are worried about your dog’s weight, obedience fetch is definitely worth trying out.
The final brain game for dogs is perfect if your dog already knows a lot of tricks and you want to keep their training fresh and interesting.
This game is easier with a clicker, but it’s not a necessity.
- Start by having your dog perform a trick, and when they succeed, give them a treat and use the clicker.
- Then say “next trick”, and reward them with another treat.
- Repeat this process until your dog repeats a trick twice. At that point, say something like “no, not that one…next trick”, and they’ll learn not to repeat the same trick twice.
When your dog is still a puppy, reward them for anything they do, even if it’s not perfect. For example, if they jump at you, give them a treat, but don’t reward them if they repeat the same behavior.
This game requires patience, but it’s an excellent way to keep your dog’s training fresh and engaging.
Once your dog becomes really good at these games, you can extend playtime to 15-20 minutes.
If you’ve exhausted all the brain games for dogs, consider checking out the Brain Training for Dogs program created by Adrienne Faricelli.
This program features a variety of enjoyable games that you can play with your furry friend, all presented in simple videos for easy understanding.
By enrolling in the program, you will also gain access to a members’ area where you can directly ask Adrienne any questions and access numerous case studies.
For more information, check out this link. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for fun and engaging ways to train their dog’s brain.
Some of My Favorite Products For Dog Owners
I hope this article has helped you just a bit in everyday life as a dog owner. Being a dog owner for more than 25 years, I’ve tried many different products with varying success, but these products below are some that I can highly recommend to every dog and their owner without hesitation!
These links are affiliate links, so if you do end up using the links, I will earn a commission. But it’s products that I use daily myself, and I have the utmost praise for.
Dog Food: Every dog needs to eat correctly, and finding the best food for your dog can be challenging, as the market is absolutely flooded with products. But since 2015 when the company was founded, I’ve been using Ollie Petfood. With their product being tailor-made to suit every dog’s specific needs, and as my dogs love the product, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a product I will continue to use for many years more. If you use my link you can get 50% off your first order.
Dog Training: If you’ve ever owned a puppy, you know that it requires a lot of training to grow into a well-behaved adult. Brain Training for Dogs has helped me immensely with the mental training part of raising a dog, and it’s something I strongly recommend you consider.
Grooming: If you have a dog in your home, you’re going to need a brush, and for this, I recommend a Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush. For that price, you simply can’t beat this brush for everyday grooming.
If you’re looking for the most up-to-date recommendations, check out my recommended products section that I’ve created to help every dog owner!