Mental exercises can help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, give him more confidence and prevent any unwanted or destructive behaviors.
Depending on what your dog is most motivated by, you’ll be able to use this to your advantage; for most dogs, it’s treats or toys.
Here are four of the best ways to exercise your dog’s brain, even if it’s too cold to go outside.
Find the Treat
Find the Treat is an excellent way to encourage your dog’s natural hunting instincts, and also to slow down any dogs that eat their dinner too quickly.
For this game you’ll need to:
- Hide parts of their meal or even just a few treats in different places around your home.
- Then let them sniff out and eat their food.
- Once your dog understands the game, you can start hiding the food in more hidden places, and even in different rooms around the house.
The Shell Game
The Shell Game is a major favorite for most dogs. To play this game you’ll need two or three cups, and a few treats to play.
For this game you’ll need to:
- Ask your dog to sit, and then place a treat on a small table in front of him.
- Put one of the cups on top of the treat, and then place another cup next to the first one.
- To begin with, reward him when he touches his nose to the correct cup.
- To make this game more challenging you can shuffle the cups around, add more cups to the game and even train him to point with his paw to the correct cup.
Hide and Seek
This could be your dog’s favorite game because his prize is you! Just like when you were a child, hide and seek can be a really fun way to pass some time on a miserable day.
To teach this game, your dog will already need to understand basic obedience commands such as sit and come. Here is how to play:
- Put your dog into the sit position while you go and hide close by.
- Shout ‘come’ followed by his name, and your dog should come and sniff you out, make sure you praise him when he does.
- If he struggles with this you can take a treat or two with you to increase the chances of him being able to find you.
- As he gets better at this game you’ll be able to hide in trickier places.
Puzzle Treats and Toys
There are so many different dog puzzles around; most of them focus on getting a treat out by figuring out the game.
A few examples of these are kongs and puzzle feeders. You can even have a go at making your own puzzle:
- Using a muffin tin and some tennis balls, hide a treat in a few of the slots
- Then place tennis balls on top.
- Your dog will have to use his brain to sniff around and figure out where the treats are and move the balls.
These are just a few simple games which you can play with your dog to help to prevent boredom on a miserable day. There are plenty of other fun games you can play, too, like fetch or even setting up a miniature indoor obstacle course. Any attention you give to your dog that encourages him to use his brain will be good for his mental health.