A rousing game of fetch is more than just a great way to bond with your dog. Not only does it possess health benefits, it can help change the way your dog thinks. No, really! When you train your dog to catch and return a tennis ball, you’re improving their brain function through stimulating games. Through trial and error, he acquires the cognition to retrieve that ball, and you have a smarter, happier pet on your hands.
Without challenging a dog’s brain in this way, you risk your dog becoming bored. That doesn’t sound like such a big deal … at first. But remember, when people are bored, we usually find a productive task to complete or an interesting hobby to engage in. Dogs don’t have the same luxury. Instead, they might start chewing the sofa, or becoming more territorial, or even become more aggressive.
Stopping these behavioral problems before they develop is essential. One of the best ways to do that is to focus on keeping your dog engaged in games that stimulate their mind. These games can be rewarding for both you and your dog as just like fetch, they can create a stronger connection between owner and pet.
So what games can help your dog develop greater cognitive function?
1. Hide and Seek
As kids, we loved to annoy our parents by hiding under the bed or in the closet and hoping we’d somehow elude their sight. Oh, but they’d always catch us in the end! People have an innate sense towards solving puzzles; it’s in our nature. It’s also in our dog’s nature. Fortunately for them, they have a way better sniffer than we do and will likely find us in half the time.
A smarter way to increase your dog’s mind skills is to play hide and seek — with their food. Rub the scent of his food around different features in your home, like the couch or near the bed. Choose a very challenging spot for him to eventually find his meal so he can take his time figuring out its location. According to Cesar’s Way, your dog will gain more confidence as a result. Not only that, but his ability to detect objects by scent will improve as well.
2. Name Game
Learning how to identify different objects is a skill most children learn early in their development cycle. Dogs can even learn them too. Modern Dog suggests a method for doing it properly. Bring out two of your dog’s favorite chew toys and place them in an empty room with your dog. Show your dog each toy and pronounce their names clearly. Then, have your dog fetch each toy based on the name given. Reward him for his hard work with a yummy treat or a bit of praise.
Making it this simple will enhance his ability to focus and concentrate which will ultimately make the exercise more successful. Don’t overwhelm your dog with needless distractions. It’s going to take a while for him to register the names, but once he does you’ll be surprised at how clever your dog really is.
3. Red Light, Green Light
Looking for a creative way to get your dog to sit? Using the kid game red light, green light has proven to be an excellent method for curbing a dog’s impulse control and can help those who struggle following simple commands. Dog Trainer Games calls it “Ready, Set, Go!” and after uttering the phrase, run with your dog for 5-10 steps. Afterwards, yell “Read, Set, Sit!” Your dog will eventually sit on his paws at your command. This may take a while for some dogs, but it can help foster a calmer, more obedient pet in the long run.
4. Spin the Bottle
No, this is not the classic kissing game. This version of spin the bottle allows your pet to once again problem solve to get his food. Practical Paw tells you how to do it. Simply puncture two holes into the top of a water bottle, one on each side. Then slide a string through the holes and tie it to two objects that will keep it suspended (like a pair of low cabinets or door handles.) Once complete, add a few kernels of food into the bottle. Make sure your dog sees you pouring the food in, then let him have fun trying to get it out.
Because the bottle is suspended in mid-air, he’ll have to discover a way to grab the nozzle and flip it over so the food will release onto the ground. Most likely, your dog will try biting at it furiously to get the food out, but with concentration, he’ll understand how it works. Who knew a water bottle could be so mentally stimulating?
All work and no play isn’t good for anyone, including your dog. These are just some of the many ways you can increase your pet’s brain power while giving them some much-needed playtime. Do you have a favorite stimulating game to play? Tell us on Twitter!