12 Brain Boosting Activities You Can Do with Your Dog
by Melody Keilig
Playtime with your dog doesn’t always have to be a game of fetch or tug-of-war. Sometimes, you want to make sure that your pup’s noggin is getting stimulated. Check out these easy ways to challenge your dog’s mind and get them thinking!
1. Teach your dog the names of their toys
Expand your dog’s daily vocabulary by teaching them the names of their toys. Start with their favorite toy and clearly say the toy’s name with your pup paying close attention. Next, toss the toy to them and say the toy’s name. The next time your dog is looking for a toy, tell them to go get “[toy’s name].” Show them the toy and repeat the name if they need some guidance.
2. Teach your dog 1s, 2s, and 3s.
Test your dog’s knowledge by teaching them how to count. Start simple with 1s, 2s, and 3s by taking several pieces of kibble. Divide them unevenly by putting six in one hand and two in the other. Show your dog both hands with the kibble pieces and give them the smaller portion while saying, “Small.” Once your dog gets the idea, show them both hands and see if they will select the hand with the smaller amount of kibble pieces.
3. Hot-Cold Game
Select an object in your home, like a bookshelf, coffee table, or your dog’s toy bin. Point to the object and direct them to it until they get close enough to it. Say “Hot!” and give them a treat. If they start to walk away, say “Cold!” and offer no treats until they go back in the direction of the original object.
4. Teach your dog to find lost items
Are you routinely losing your car keys, handbag, or other items you need every day? Teach your dog how to find your lost items! Dab the item in a particular scent using an essential oil that your dog can smell. Show your dog the scented item and purposely hide it. Give your dog a whiff of the scent and tell them to fetch the item. This game will take more practice, patience, and brainpower, but keep it up and your super pup will get it down perfectly!
5. Treasure Hunt
Hunting for treasure is a great way to get your dog’s brainpower going! Start out on an easy task, like hiding a toy or treat while your dog watches where it’s placed. Tell your dog to “Find it!” Keep repeating this process until your dog understands the command. Up the ante by hiding the toy or treat in another room. Or, up the ante by bringing the game outside. You could even plan out an entire playtime treasure hunt and see how many objects your dog can find.
6. Ring Stackers
Perfect your dog’s eye-paw coordination with ring stackers. Much like how toddlers enjoy stacking the colorful rings, your pup can practice their brainpower with this skill. This game will take extra patience, so keep practicing with your dog. It may take a few weeks for them to get the idea and successfully stack the rings. Show your dog how to stack the rings and then get them to bite down on one. Motion them to the pole where they can stack the rings. Keep practicing until they understand.
7. Teach them a new trick
Is there a trick you’ve been wanting to teach your dog fur-ever, but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Get going on that cool new trick, whether it’s the classic handshake move or playing “dead.” Does your pup already know those tricks? Look up a new trick online or ask your fellow dog lovers if they’ve got any tricks up their sleeve!
8. Toy Clean-Up
Wouldn’t it be a time-saver if your dog could clean up their toys every day? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a simple way to teach your pup to put their toys away! Start by teaching them the “drop it” command when they pick up a toy. Once they listen to the command, bring over their toy basket or bin. Tell your pup to “drop it” into the basket. Test their knowledge by pointing out their other toys on the floor to see if they will bring them over the to basket.
9. Jump Rope
Think a dog can’t jump rope? Think again! Start this activity by getting a long stick. Place it on the floor or ground outside and have your dog stand next to it. Entice them with a treat so they walk over the stick, back and forth. Once they get the idea, put the treat in the air so they jump over the stick. Create a command like, “Jump!” and replace the stick with a jumping rope. This will take practice and patience, but your pup can do it!
10. Red Light, Green Light
This game is perfect for dogs who get overly excited during playing, so “Red Light, Green Light” is a great activity to practice their impulse control. Plus, it’s a game that requires your dog to pay close attention to you, thus perfecting their listening skills. First, you need to teach your dog the difference between “Red Light” and “Green Light.” Simply have your dog sit and practice the command, “Red Light.” Then, call your dog and use the command, “Green Light.” After they master the commands, begin the game!
11. Which Hand?
If you need a really easy game for a puppy, “Which Hand?” is the perfect activity. All you need to do is hide a treat in one of your hands. Hold both of your hands in front of them and ask them which hand the treat is hidden in. Have them choose and reward them when they select the correct hand.
12. Look at Me
To train a dog, especially a puppy, it’s important you teach them to maintain eye contact with you. That’s where “Look at Me” steps in as a good listening activity. Simply hold a treat above your dog and use the command, “Look at me!” or “Look up!” See how long your dog holds eye contact with you and then reward them.
Our dogs may be learning about the world around them every day, but it’s a great idea to boost their noggin with these fun, thought-provoking activities!