Playing Mind Games with Your Dog: Help Keep Your Dog Mentally Fit

One of the best things you can do for your dog is to keep his mind active and stimulated. Just as we need intellectual stimulation to stay healthy, so does your dog. Playing games with your dog is a fun way to keep him mentally fit, as well as physically active. Here are some ideas for how to challenge your dog’s mind and keep him entertained!

One way to keep your dog’s mind challenged is to provide him with opportunities to use his nose. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and using their noses is a wonderful way to give them mental stimulation. You can hide treats around the house or yard for your dog to find, or even invest in some puzzle toys that require your dog to sniff out his reward.

Food-dispensing toys require your dog to figure out how to get the treat out. More complex puzzles are games that challenge your dog to solve a problem. Just search “dog puzzles for smart dogs” on your favorite shopping app to provide your best friend with lots of brain activity. These kinds of toys are great for mental stimulation and can be used even when you don’t have time to play with your dog yourself.

Another way to give your dog’s brain a workout is to teach him new tricks. Dogs love to learn, and they are always eager to please their owners. Teaching your dog a new trick — whether it’s something simple like “sit” or “stay,” or something more complicated like “roll over” — is a wonderful way to give him mental stimulation. Have a handful of small treats ready to praise your dog for completing a new trick or for every positive step of the way. Not only will he be learning something new, but he’ll also be getting physical exercise as he practices his new trick!


Other games your dog might enjoy include:

  • Fetch: This classic game is not only great for physical exercise, but also for mental stimulation. As your dog fetches the ball or toy, he’s using his brain to figure out where it went and how to get it back to you.
  • Tug of war: This game is a terrific way to bond, and it certainly provides physical activity. To know that it’s giving your dog mental stimulation, just look into his eyes. You’ll see his mind at work trying to figure out how to beat you at this game!
  • Which Hand? Game: This simple game only requires you, your dog, and a few small treats. Without your dog seeing, place a treat in one of your hands but close both hands. Extend your hands in front of you with your palms facing downward. Start by rewarding your dog for touching his nose to the hand that holds the treat. You can work up to rewarding him for touching the hand that holds the treat with his paw.
  • “Shell Game” for Dogs: Along the same lines as the Which Hand? Game, the Shell Game is the doggie version of the classic shell game. Start with three opaque cups. Using paper cups makes it easier for your dog to knock over the correct hiding place and find his reward! Place a treat under one cup then shuffle them around, changing the position of the cup with the treat. 


Finally, one of the best ways to keep your dog’s mind challenged is simply to give him plenty of attention. Dogs are social creatures, and they thrive on human interaction. Spending time playing with your dog, petting him, and talking to him will make him happy and help to keep his mind active. So, go ahead and play “mind games” with your dog! He’ll thank you for it, and you’ll enjoy having a dog that is more alert, mentally active, and fun.



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