Brain Games for Dogs

Updated: May 15, 2024

Dogs are intelligent creatures and they love games! As pet parents, one of the most important goals we have is for our furbabies to have fun through games that can mentally stimulate them. These games are truly enrichment activities for dogs that also help build your bond together.

Keeping your dog mentally stimulated is just as important as keeping them fit and you can do this by letting them play dog brain games.

Brain games for dogs have a lot of benefits. In this article, we'll talk about how your dog's brain works, what these different dog brain games are, and how these games benefit your furbaby in more ways than one.

brain games for dogs, dog brain games

"Keeping your dog mentally stimulated is just as important as keeping them fit and you can do this by letting them play brain games."

Brain games for Dogs

Mental enrichment for dogs is extremely important in keeping your dog happy and entertained. Dog enrichment does not have to be boring or difficult! Enrichment games for dogs provide mental stimulation and can actually make your dog more physically tired as well. Below are some dog enrichment ideas for brain games for dogs that both you and your pup will love!

Hide and Seek

You have always enjoyed playing hide and seek with your friends when you were little and it's time that you share the fun with your dog. Hide and seek is one of the most trusted brain games for dogs there is and a great enrichment game for dogs.

To play hide and seek, command your dog to stay while you try to find a perfect hiding spot. When you've hidden, tell them to "Come!" or any command words that will signal your furbaby to come and look for you. Be sure to start off easy so your dog understands the enrichment game before making your hiding spot too difficult.

This brain game will allow your dog to use their listening and smelling skills to try to find where you're hiding. Not only will this provide dog enrichment and mental stimulation for your dog, but you will have a blast playing this game with your furbaby.

Note: Teaching your dog commands like “Come”, “Stay”, and many others may take time. Remember, practice makes perfect. Give a few minutes a day to train them these commands until they get it right.

dog brain games, brain games for dogs for mental enrichment

Red Light, Green Light

Red light, green light is a brain game that's perfect for dogs who seem to lose control of their excitement during playtimes and walks. This is the perfect opportunity to incorporate dog enrichment into play time.

To play this dog brain game, walk them on a leash (may it be during your walks to the park). As you say "Red light", stop and command them sit. Reward them with a treat immediately after. Until you say "Green light", don't let them move. This will help your dog learn how to properly control their impulses.

Note: If your furbaby is still learning command words, taking regular walks can be enough to stimulate your dog. According to Pets WebMD, regular walks allow furbabies to explore new sights, sounds, and smells (especially if you take different routes) which can be mentally stimulating. Keeping your dog active during daylight hours can also help reset a confused sleep-wake cycle.

Treasure Hunting

As much as we enjoy playing treasure hunt, your dog does, too! Treasure hunting is a fun brain game for dogs that will interest most of the food-driven furbabies. This is a great way to provide DIY dog enrichment and encourage your pup to use their natural senses.

To play this, hide your dog's favorite treats in different areas of your room or house and encourage them to look for the hidden treats. If they find it, it's theirs. This game will encourage them to use their sniffing abilities and to exercise their brain, too. But remember not to make the game too hard, especially while introducing it.

Activity Toys

Activity toys are specifically made to mentally stimulate your furbaby. Feel free to make DIY activity toys. Make a small cut in a tennis ball and fill it with your furbaby's favorite treats. Observe how your dog will roll the ball to get the treats.

Another DIY dog enrichment option is to place treats inside a cup and turn it upside down. Mix it with other cups with no treats inside and watch your dog figure out which cup has the treats. However, these DIY options might not be as pet-friendly compared to pre-made toys or bones. It all depends on your pup!

Note: Remember that for these brain games to be extra exciting, positive reinforcement is needed. Don't forget to give your furbaby rewards. You can give them their favorite treats or you can give dog chews like Gnawtlers®!

Gnawtlers® only come from premium antlers that have naturally fallen from elk and deer, harming no animals in the process. These dog antler chews are packed with calcium, phosphorus, manganese, & zinc. They provide a delicious treat that strengthens your furbaby without all the calories, choking hazards, and digestive issues.

Might as well give your pup a treat they will love and that provides health benefits! Plus, it does not easily splinter, making it safer for your furbaby to gnaw on! Since chewing is also a natural instinct for dogs, it is important that they are provided with safe chews to enjoy.

You can also opt to give your dog a snuffle mat for treats and food to provide mental stimulation. You can hide treats inside a Forager® Bowl and allow your dog to exercise their brain for a tasty, mentally stimulating reward.

Eye Contact

Yes, teaching your furbaby to make eye contact with you can also be a brain game or your dog. To do this, hold a treat to your eye or to your forehead, call out your furbaby's name, and wait for them to make an eye contact with you. This will provide mental stimulation while teaching an them to keep their attention on you.

Slowly fade the treat, making sure your furbaby still makes eye contact with you. If they take their eyes off, put the treat back, call out their name, and repeat.

According to the American Kennel Club, this brain game does not only help you with getting your furbaby's attention when they are distracted with something else, but can also help release a hormone called oxytocin. And this release not only happens with your dog but also with you. Oxytocin is also called “eye hugs” or “love hormone”, the hormone for attachment between parent and child, or in this case, furbaby and pet parent. This makes practicing eye contact not only one of the great enrichment activities for dogs, but also a great way to provide happiness to your pup.

Benefits of brain games for dogs

Dog brain games have a lot of benefits for your furbaby. Enrichment games for dogs can help improve your dog's relationship with you and their trust in you. It can also build their confidence and can help improve unwanted & destructive behaviors whenever they get bored, anxious, frustrated, aggressive or whenever they are triggered by something to excessively bark or chew.

Mental health for your furbaby is also as important as their physical health. The other benefits of brain games for dogs include:

  • Slowing down the age-related brain and behavioral changes
  • Stimulating your dog mentally and physically
  • Keeping memories sharp (making it easier for your furbaby to learn more tricks!)
  • Helping reduce memory loss
  • Helping you have a smarter and happier dog

"Gnawtlers®only come from premium antlers that have naturally fallen from elks and deer, harming no animals in the process."

mental games for dogs, mind games for dogs

Your furbaby's mental ability and learning capacity declines with age, just like ours. Brain games for dogs and enrichment activities for dogs will help your dog exercise her intellect and decision-making. Helping your furbaby engage in these brain games for dogs will help her keep a sharp mind and help build your bond together. Try these games and enrichment activities for dogs and see how it can create a healthier, happier life for you and your furbaby.