Keep ‘Em Sharp with Brain Games for Dogs

All dog owners know just how intelligent their best friends are, and that’s why it’s important to make sure to stimulate your dog’s mind so that he will not only get lots of healthy physical exercise but some mental exercise too! One of the best ways to stimulate your pooch’s mind is to use fun brain games for dogs.

Your best friend will look forward to playtime when he gets to exercise his body and his mind! 

Whether it’s puzzle games, treat-dispensing games, or interactive dog toys, your buddy will get lots of enrichment out of playing his favorite games with you. It’s important too because bored dogs can be destructive and even require dog training to correct for problems that crop up.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the best doggy brain games to help you keep your furry friend happy and healthy. Let’s begin with some basic information about why it’s helpful to mentally stimulate your dog. 

hide and seek dog toys

Why are Brain Games Important for Your Dog?

For any intelligent creature, mental stimulation is a must to keep them happy and healthy. Without it, your dog can become bored and look for things to do that you might not like, such as eating your couch. You really don’t want your dog to become a furniture chewer just because he’s bored. 

You do want to encourage your dog to use his brain as much as possible. Luckily, there are many types of brain games and dog puzzle toys that will provide your pooch with lots of mental stimulation. Many don’t even require any specialized equipment. 

That means it will be easy to keep your furry friend occupied with fun games you both can enjoy and that will provide him with all the mental stimulation he needs to feel like he’s got something meaningful to do too!

dog enrichment brain games for dogs

Will Brain Games Tire Your Furry Friend Out?

Well, just like school might tire you out, mental stimulation can be tiring for your pooch. That can be good for getting him to quiet down when you’re ready for a nap, but it’s also good for his mental and emotional health. 

Your dog is capable of learning his entire life, and by using brain training games that require problem-solving, you can help create positive emotions for your best friend and slow any mental deterioration. 

What’s more, as your best furry friend gets older, it’s a great way to challenge him without having to overly exert him physically. It’s even possible there’s an app for that! Researchers in Vienna have proposed a fun computer game so you can challenge your pup with mental stimulation in lieu of physically demanding training. 

You’ll be doing your best friend a huge favor since it will help to keep him mentally fit into his old age. Even dogs who are not the brightest bulb on the tree can use their brain to solve mental exercises using interactive games that will help keep them intellectually fit. You just have to choose an interactive game with the appropriate level of difficulty. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best brain games for dogs with different levels of difficulty!

dog smart puzzle puppy enrichment toys

1. Dog Worker Dog Puzzle by Nina Ottosson

This Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Dog Worker treat puzzle will keep your furry friend entertained for hours. It’s a challenging puzzle game that stimulates your dog’s instincts by sending him on a treasure hunt for dog treats.

This dog puzzle game requires your dog to take three steps to get that tasty treat, so he really has to be a dog toy expert to navigate the three levels with swiveling flippers, scooting blocks, a spinning center wheel as well as a snuffle mat to find their buried booty!

You can also help your best buddy so you get some playtime together. If your dog isn’t quite ready for this advanced game, Nina Ottosson has some easier games for newbies or puppies. 

dog worker interactive dog puzzles

2. Find the Treat

This one isn’t quite as advanced as the dog worker dog puzzle. It’s something you can easily play with your puppy, and you don’t need any special equipment or training. 

The way this one goes is that you get your dog’s best dog treats and hide them around the room. Then you give him the instruction to “find the treats.” Most dogs will naturally sniff out food, but if he’s having trouble getting started, you can help by giving him some hints. 

It also helps if you start out by hiding his favorite treat in an easy place for him to find. Once he’s got the hang of it, you can start hiding the treats in more difficult places. Your dog will love spending time with you and getting rewards too. 

3. Learn a new trick

I know you’re thinking this isn’t a game at all. After all, it’s something most dog owners do with their furry friends. That’s true, but if you’re teaching your puppy a new trick, you want to do it in a fun way that is also a good brain training technique. 

Here are a couple of new tricks that are more challenging than simply ‘sit’ or ‘shake:’

  • ‘Bow’ — you want your dog to know this one so that he can take a bow after impressing all your friends with his many tricks
  • ‘Spin’ or ‘twist’ — with this trick, you teach your pooch to turn around in a circle, both clockwise and counterclockwise. It’s extra impressive if he knows to turn around in both directions
  • ‘Shy Dog’ — the goal here is to get your furry friend to paw his nose as if he’s feeling shy
  • ‘Speak’ — this is a classic, but teaching your dog to bark is the first step for teaching him not to bark too

These are just a couple of ideas of new tricks that are a little different from the common ones most dog owners will teach. Whatever you teach your pooch, remember to start with short sessions so you won’t overdo it. 

dog training with bag of treats

4. The Cup Game

This is a kind of doggy shell game that requires at least two cups and some treats to get started. It’s easy though — you just put some dry dog food under one of the cups and then ask your dog, “Which cup?” 

Because most dogs can easily sniff out food, he’ll likely find it quickly, and when he does, give him a treat as a reward. After your puppy gets the idea, you can increase the level of difficulty by adding more cups and moving them around. 

This is a good game for teaching your dog impulse control and helping to improve his focus. You can bet that he’ll be keeping an eye on every move you make when you’re mixing up those cups. 

5.  Stuffed Snoop

For this fun doggy game, you’ll need a Snoop or Kong toy, something to fill it with like kibble, peanut butter, cheese, or canned dog food. Then you simply fill it with the treat you’ve chosen and freeze the toy to ensure the filling is solid. 

Once it’s frozen, you can give it to your dog and watch the fun. It will be a source of entertainment for hours as you watch him trying to get that treat. You should be aware, however, that some fillings get a little messy. 

dog with face in snoop

6. Towel roll

This is a really easy one that uses supplies you’ll have readily available. All you need is a towel, some dry kibble or other dog treats, and a floor. You simply lay the towel open on the floor and spread the dry dog food over it so that when you roll it up, the treats are distributed throughout the layers of the towel. 

After that, just roll the towel and watch your dog get to work trying to unroll it to get the treats. You can turn this into a more difficult brain training game by using several towels that will make your dog have to use his problem-solving skills to find the ones with the treats. 

7. Muffin tin puzzle

For this fun game, you need a muffin tin, enough tennis balls to fill the cups in the tin, and some kibble. There are three levels of difficulty with this brain training game too. 

For your young learners, turn the muffin tin upside down and put some kibble in between the cups. Present it to your dog so he can turn the tin over to find the kibble. 

To make it more difficult, put some kibble in each cup and cover it with a tennis ball. Present it to your dog and watch the fun. 

For the most difficult level, just put kibble in a few cups and cover all cups with tennis balls. This will help your dog’s brain get primed for nose work. It’s great for dogs like beagles, but it’s also great fun for any dog. 

8. Food dispensing toys

These are a little different from dog food puzzles in that they require more work to get the food out. Your dog will have to roll, bash, pull, or spin the toy to get it to dispense the food. 

You might have heard about treat balls that are a simple version of this kind of dog toy. There are, however, more complex versions, and there are even some DIY dog food dispensing toys out there. 

These are great for keeping your dog entertained, helping him with impulse control, and teaching him patience since he has to wait to get the dog food out. 

9. Hide and Seek

how to play hide and seek with dog

This is a particularly great game for those days when you can’t get outside, when there are children around to play too, or if you just want to help your dog with recall skills. It’s also easy to teach your dog. 

To play hide and seek, simply either tell your dog to sit and stay or have someone hold him while you hide. When you’re ready, call him to come to find you, and when he does, praise him extensively. 

You can increase the level of difficulty by hiding in increasingly difficult places, by having several people hide, or by making your dog find particular family members or toys. 

10. Go Get It

dog socialization post-covid dog treats

This is probably one you’ve already taught your dog, but it’s a great way to help him with impulse control. Get some kind of treat like dog kibble, and show it to your dog so he knows what he’s looking for. 

Then, throw the kibble and tell your dog, “Go get it!” His natural instincts will probably kick in, and he’ll be off and running. When he finds the treat, call him back to you and make him sit before moving on to the next round. 

Once your dog understands the game, you can vary it by throwing the kibble at different distances and directions. You can also throw it up high one time and then roll it on the ground the next. Just be sure to make your dog come back and sit before starting a new round.

11. Put away your toys

happy dog with a toy

Once playtime is over, it’s time to put everything away, and just like a child, your dog should help. This might take a while to teach, but when you get it done, it will be a great brain training game to make your dog feel like he’s done meaningful work. 

Before you can teach him to put his toys away, however, you’ll need to teach him the “Go get it” command and the “Drop it” command. It’s also helpful if you teach him his toy names. When he knows those, you can get him to go get his toys and call him back to you. 

Hold a basket out for him to drop his toy into, and each time he gets closer, give him plenty of praise and a reward when he actually drops the toy in the basket. Pretty soon, he’ll be happy to pick up after himself unlike your children, and maybe, your husband!

Brain Games for Dogs

dog puzzle enrichment game

Keeping your dog mentally sharp is part of keeping him healthy overall. These brain games for dogs can really help your pooch feel happier and more mentally stimulated too. These games will entertain him, and you, for hours. Before you know it, you’ll have a little doggy Einstein on your hands!