Staying Sharp: Brain Games for You & Your Dog


Brain games are a great way to provide mental stimulation, encourage curiosity, develop problem-solving skills and build confidence. They challenge your dog mentally, and are just as exhausting as any physical exercise you do.

As an added bonus, brain games can also help curb behaviour issues that boredom can bring on.

All this by spending a little time with your dog and having some fun!

Pick Up Your Toys

What better way to help yourself out than to train your dog to do chores! A dog that already knows how to fetch will have an easier time learning this game.

With toys scattered around the room, ask your dog to fetch one. Wait by the toy box and when he returns have a treat over the toy box. When he opens his mouth for the treat, the toy falls into the box. Mark it by saying “yes” as soon as the toy is dropping and then give your dog a treat.

Through repetition and reward, eventually you should be able to give the cue or point to the box and your dog will be more than willing to put his toys away for a tasty treat.

Which Hand Is It?

This human guessing game is a great way to introduce a search game to your dogs. Hide a favourite treat in one of your hands and tell your dog to pick a hand. When your dog noses or paws the correct hand, say “yes” and open your hand with the treat to reward the correct choice. If your dog chooses the wrong hand, just encourage them to continue searching and reward extra when they guess correctly. Once your dog gets used to the game, you can increase the difficulty by moving on to the shell game.

Shell Game

This popular sleight-of-hand game can easily be adapted to a fun brain game. Line up three identical objects and hide a treat under one of them. Show your dog where the treat is, shuffle the objects and get your dog to choose the correct object for the reward inside.

You can make this game easier by training the “find it” and “alert” on one object to start. Once they know what they are doing, you can increase the difficulty by adding objects or moving the objects more quickly. Get ready to wow all of your friends.

Scatter & Search

This is a great activity for small and large areas. It also encourages natural instincts by using their sense of smell to search out the reward.

To begin, use a handful of kibble or small treats and toss them out onto the floor. Ask your dog to search and release them. As your dog becomes familiar with the game, you can increase the search area and make the treats harder to find.

For more difficult search locations, you can make them a “jackpot zone” to make the harder search more rewarding.

There can be multiple variations of this game by increasing the size of the search area, adding obstacles, creating mazes, making the reward less accessible or searching for items rather than treats.

If you play this game often you may want to consider using their regular meal rations as a reward to avoid overfeeding.

Tracy Hahn
Tracy Hahn
Tracy is a multimedia designer and desktop publisher by day, and a dog sport and training enthusiast by night. She is the art director and publisher of PAW Quarterly, a magazine dedicated entirely to our best friends, playmates and partners in crime - DOGS!