When it comes to training and exercise for your doggo, most people think about teaching them to sit and stay, taking them for walks, and playing with them. But, do you ever think about what’s going on inside their little head? Did you know that just like a child, if a dog is bored and not mentally stimulated, they’re likely to have behaviour problems such as excessive barking or chewing? When you engage in brain training for your pup, you’ll find that they become better behaved and more obedient, their temperament will improve, and the bond between you will become stronger. Now don’t expect your dog to sit down and do a crossword puzzle with you, and to be honest, even a Wordsearch would be pushing it, but as most dogs are motivated by food, there are plenty of easy ways you can start brain training!
One of the simplest games you can start with is scatter feeding, which encourages your dog to search for their food and encourages their natural foraging behaviours. It’s just as it sounds, so instead of using a bowl, you scatter your dog’s food on the floor and leave them to go and find it.
Using a toy like a Kong is also a great way to get your dog using its brain. Start by filling the toy with dried food that will fall out pretty easily. Once your dog has the hang of it, you can gradually make things a little more challenging but using wet food or spreads and other treats and then freeze it to make it last longer and make it even more challenging.
Another easy one, all you need to do is to tell your dog to ‘stay’ and then you go and hide treats around your home. You might have to start easy and place them near them where they can see them, but once your dog gets better at it, you can hide them further away and under rugs or behind chairs.
You can also try using food dispensing toys when brain training your dog. These are toys that contain food, and your dog has to figure out how to get it. To use a food-dispensing toy, you fill it up with treats and encourage your dog to engage with it. As your dog starts moving the toy around, it’ll begin to dispense treats.
Like the food-dispensing toys, there is a wide variety of dog puzzles available where your dog has to figure out how to get the treat. They provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation and help relieve boredom. We love the ones made by Nina Ottosson from Sweden. You can buy them on Amazon here from Outward Hound
The cup game is straightforward for you to play at home with your dog. Just get three cups, hide a treat under one, and then shuffle them around and get your dog to find the treat. If these get too easy for your pup, then move on to playing hide and seek with them, or you could teach them how to tidy up their toys - they enjoy that, and it helps you out too!