Just like humans, dogs have different personalities.
How a dog behaves largely depends on their genes and their environment (how they are raised).
Yes, we mean that old nature vs. nurture egg.
Sled dogs were bred to endure movement over long distances and hounds and terriers were bred to hunt. In many instances, as pet-parents, we take our beloved companions away from their original purpose and expect them to just fit in with our lifestyle.
Some dogs are incredibly adaptable, other dogs not so much.
It’s all too easy for energetic, intelligent and alert dogs to become bored. Boredom is a form of distress. Dogs will often seek stimulation in any way possible which can result in chewing, barking, biting, self-mutilation, digging, inappropriate urinating or defecation and many more unwanted behaviours. Equally, boredom can be passive and result in excessive sleep lethargy.
Thankfully, along with adequate exercise, brain games can be a great addition to our routines to ward off boredom, destructive behaviours and cognitive decline.
We’ve Selected Our Top Three Dog Brian Games
1) Fancy a Burrito?
Find a bath sheet or large towel and lay it flat.
Sprinkle kibble or treats across the towel. Roll or fold back up. Encourage your pooch to unroll or rummage to get to the treats or kibble.
This can be a great way to slow fast-eaters down if you spread their meal allowance across the towel.
Just be mindful that Fido doesn’t get frustrated and start chewing through the towel instead!
You can also do this with a yoga mat – but you’ll likely roll the mat up instead. Again, be mindful he doesn’t start chewing in frustration!
2) Cheesy muffins?
Grab a muffin tin and spread cream cheese, dog-safe peanut butter or a small amount of wet food in some of the holes of the muffin tin.
Be mindful of how much you are using and how this fits in with his daily food allowance.
Also, ensure that Fido tolerates the food you are using.
Place tennis balls over each hole on the muffin tin and Fido has to figure out which holes have food in.
This will keep him occupied a little longer than dry food or treats as he’ll need to lick the remnants off!
3) Party time?
Remember playing musical chairs or statues when you were younger?
Try this with your pooch. Play some music and dance if no-one is watching.
Stop the music and ask Fido to perform a command (one that you have already trained). It could be sit, stand, down, paw, anything.
Reward him as soon as he has carried it out and start the music again. Repeat.
Change the commands. Chances are Fido will start performing commands when you stop the music.
Remember this isn’t a shaping exercise, it’s simply a game to encourage interaction and time with your companion. If you choose the same song each time, you may even notice Fido get excited as soon as you start playing it.
Why Play Games
Asking your faithful friend to perform new tasks or think about how they get to those tempting treats or food is asking his brain to work.
Some behaviors in dogs are genetically wired, but they only become refined through experience and learning. Use this to your advantage.
Consider Fido’s history, what was he bred for?
Your Labrador Retriever will love treasure hunt games and your scent hound will love the burrito game because he can follow his nose to get to the food.
Any historic working dog will excel at musical chairs or statues because they are eager-to-please and trainable.
Figure out if your pooch is food or toy orientated.
Create and use brain games that they will be interested in. Many studies have shown that animals prefer to work for their food rather than having it freely available, so this is an easy way to introduce mental stimulation no matter how much time you have available.
Dog brain games can be a great addition to any routine, both keeping Fido stimulated and warding off cognitive decline as he ages.
Select games that he enjoys and shows interest in. As we mentioned, like humans, all dogs are different. Not all games will work with all dogs.
You know your pooch best, be creative, be safe and above all, have fun.