There is almost nothing worse for your dog than being bored, but with some creativity you can bring fresh air into your daily routine. Joint activities are great to tire out your friend and will strengthen the bond between you.
You can turn a simple walk into an adventure by giving your dog different challenges for his mind and fitness. Let him sniff out mice, do a race, hide treats, toys or even yourself for him to find- forests and fields are like huge playgrounds. A fallen tree can be used for balancing, jumping over or crawling underneath.
Even on rainy days you can stimulate his mind with some tricky brain games. The idea is simple, there is a treat or even a toy hidden somewhere. Your dog knows where it is, but he can’t get to it without figuring out a strategy first.
In this article I will show you some easy ways to create brain games for your pouch, in no time and at almost no cost. The best about this is that you are likely to have most of these things at home already.
Doggy spin bottle
What you need: empty bottle, a stick, scissors
Instructions: Take an empty bottle and put two holes opposing each other just beneath the bottle neck. Push a stick through the holes and make sure that the bottle is able to swing. Take of the lid, put some treats inside, hold on to the stick with both hands horizontally and let your dog give it a spin- the food will fall to the ground if he gets the speed right. This is also great to do in your garden where your dog needs to find the goodies in between the grass.
Pick a treat
What you need: a square piece of cardboard or poster box, tape, scissors or box cutter
Instructions: If you are using a piece of cardboard, fold it into quarters and cut slots opposing each other into different sides. Secure the open side with tape on the in- and outside. If you are using a poster box, you can simply cut the slots with a box cutter. Cut some smaller pieces of cardboard which you will later use as slides. Make sure that the slides can move easily out of the slots.
Start with only one slide, show your dog how you let the cookie fall into the pipe while holding it towards him. It is likely that he will use his mouth to pull out the cardboard slides, but be prepared that he might try to use his paws, too. You can add more slots on every side once he figured out how to use one.
What you need: empty bottle, scissors
Instructions: This works just like a treat ball, take an empty bottle and puncture it with holes big enough for treats to fall out. Fill it with food and let the fun begin. This again is also a great game to use in your garden. When using it inside, be careful what your floor is like, your dog will use his paws and you don’t want him ruining the new parquet.
Box-seek a treat
What you need: empty box, newspapers
Instructions: For this game you can either use an empty carton or, like in the picture example, a water gallon. If you use the water gallon, cut in half vertically and put some tape around the sharp plastic edges. Make some balls out of newspaper, if you like to use something else make sure that your dog can not swallow it. Fill the box with the newspaper balls and hide the treats beneath them-now let him sniff out his rewards.
Instead of newspaper you can also fill it with water for some diving fun.
What you need: piece of rope , toilet paper rolls
Instructions: Attach the string to furniture, a fixed cupboard or hold on to one end. Either slide o-shaped treats through the string and pull toilet paper rolls through or just hide the treats inside the toilet paper roll itself. Your pouch can get to the treats by pushing aside the rolls.
What you need: plastic cups or little boxes, scissors
Instructions: The classic shell game. You can either use identical plastic cups or make some out of drinking boxes. Start off with two cups and let your dog watch how you place a goodie under one of them. Shuffle them around and let your dog pick the desired cup. He can point on the box with his paw or pick it up with his mouth. You can use more cups after this.
As you can see it is quite easy to build brain games for your pouch and they don’t need to cost anything. These are only a few ideas and there are no limits to your own imagination and creativity. Have a look around your house and you will find all sorts of things to make your own tricky activities for your furry friend.
Last but not least, be careful not to leave any sharp edges on the toys or small parts that could accidentally be swallowed. Supervise your dog while trying out these games and most importantly: be patient and have fun.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.