Games that Help a Dog Stimulate its Brain

It's a great idea to spend time stimulating our dogs mentally to keep them healthy and happy. Here are several ways to do this.
Games that Help a Dog Stimulate its Brain

Last update: 23 June, 2020

Dogs are intelligent animals that have great learning capacities. Their intellectual ability resembles that of a two-year-old child. However, to keep a dog healthy and happy, it’s necessary to provide some games that will stimulate its brain. This is also true for physical stimulation, as all dogs have lots of energy to burn every day. Here are some ideas and the benefits of doing this with your pet.

Benefits of playing games with your pet

Games that encourage mental and olfactory stimulation in dogs have many benefits for their overall well-being:

  • They help reduce stress levels
  • They prevent boredom and destructive behaviors generated by a lack of stimuli
  • It can improve the bond between owners and pets
  • They release the accumulated energy

In addition to all these benefits, games are a good idea to spend time on cold, rainy, or hot summer days when we stay home longer.

Games for your dog that will stimulate its brain

Dogs have enough mental capacity to memorize gestures and words, show a basic understanding of arithmetic, and are very good at studying their surroundings and locating resources. Therefore, there are many kinds of activities that we can try with them, taking advantage of their canine qualities and abilities.

Brain games

You can find many interactive games for pets on the market, or you can make them yourself. The most typical one consists of a board with notches where treats are hidden. These notches have a lid that the dog has to try to open using its mouth or legs.

Sometimes the mechanism works by turning, pulling, or lifting. With some practice, the dog will be able to get its prize in less and less time. You can acquire various types of boards and alternate them.

This kind of game will stimulate the animal’s intelligence and memory, ensuring it’s mental and emotional health.

A tired dog after playing a puzzle game.

Smelling games

The sense of smell is the most developed sense in dogs. We could say that they “see the world” with their noses since more than 50% of the brain is dedicated to this sense and has more than 220 million olfactory cells. In humans, on the other hand, they don’t exceed 5 million. This is why it’s essential to spend some time daily on smelling games.

One of the ways you can play this game is by placing hidden food balls among old fabrics that you have around the house. In addition, you can also spread them through different rooms without being seen by the dog.

As your pet gets used to the game dynamics, it’s a good idea to increase its difficulty. A way to do this is by knotting the fabrics or using dog olfactory carpets, for instance.

Search games

You can increase the fun by hiding food on your person, and then giving your pet the “search” command for it to find you. With this game, you’ll encourage their sense of smell, their obedience and their search skills. All of these are very useful when we let the dog loose in a park or field.


Coaching is definitely a way to stimulate the dog’s intelligence. Learning new orders or commands, words, and gestures improves communication with your pet.

Some commands help us in everyday situations, such as our animal knowing how to sit and be calm if we go out to eat with them or to come back if they walk away from us.

A very useful command is to make them sit still before they go for the food. With this command, we are indirectly working on the animal’s self-control itself.

Two dogs playing catch.


Sometimes physical training also works as mental stimulation. Passing through an obstacle course or teaching them how to walk backwards is an example.

Using communication, trust, and positive reinforcement is key for the dog to learn how to solve different obstacles by walking, zig-zagging, jumping, or crouching. This is, of course, until they are able to solve them only motivated by our attention.

In sum, it’s important that we spend time with our dog and stimulate its brain with physical and mental games to keep it active, fit and happy. In addition, we mustn’t forget to always use an effective method: rewarding and loving our pets if we want learning to be a positive experience for them.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.