Your puppy is smarter than any other puppy you’ve ever met. Like a four-legged Einstein, your little buddy knows every command you taught them like the back of their paw. They figure out puzzles faster than you can say “fetch”. And they always use those adorable brown eyes to get what they want from you.
Yep, you know your puppy is smart but did you know that there’s a way to make them even smarter?
Mentally stimulating games like puzzles or scavenger hunts give your puppy the chance to use their little noggin. They also provide a fun distraction for your fur-baby for a few hours.
Because these games alleviate boredom, your four-legged friend won’t be thinking about making your shoes or furniture into their next chew toy.
If you’re looking for ways to get your puppy’s brain juices flowing, try these 5 fun games for dogs.
1. Scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are the perfect game to test your puppy’s knowledge and natural instincts. Basically, it’s a game where your furry friend has to find their favorite treats around your house or backyard. It’s super easy and fun for your puppy (and you!).
Here’s how you start a scavenger hunt with your puppy:
- Gather their favorite treats.
- Command your fur-baby to sit or stay.
- Place a couple of treats in front of your pup. Make sure they can smell the treats.
- Let your puppy eat the treats and praise them.
- Repeat this process 2 more times.
- Place the treats away from your puppy. Try placing them under a rug or near a table.
- Let your puppy find the treats.
- Repeat this process again a few times.
- Place the treats in other challenging locations where your puppy can reach.
Scavenger hunts are a great way to encourage your puppy to rely on their nose rather than their eyes. Your puppy may not understand the game the first few times. That’s okay! Be persistent and your furry friend will learn to use their sense of smell.
2. Kong toys
Kong toys combine two of your puppy’s favorite things: food and a chewy toy! That’s because these toys work as food dispensers—all you do is put a little bit of your puppy’s favorite treats inside and watch your puppy try to get it out.
Kong toys challenge your puppy’s canine instincts. Rather than fetching, Kong toys encourage your little buddy to scavenge their food by using their intelligence. It makes them work their brains a little harder to get what they want.
This reinforces their natural abilities as dogs. In the wild, canines spend their time scavenging and hunting for food using their sense of smell. Since your puppy is domesticated, there’s a chance they don’t use these abilities very often.
Using King toys or other food dispensing toys helps stimulate your puppy and strengthen their mental abilities. There are Kong toys available online and in-store for purchase. You can also make your own type of food dispensing toy using a bottle or a food container.
3. The cup game
A childhood classic, you’ve probably played the cup game at some point in your elementary days. This game can also be played with puppies—and we highly recommend that you do.
The cup game is a fun activity that stimulates your puppy’s brain in the right way! For this game, you’ll need a cup or container and your puppy’s favorite treats. You can also use your hand and your puppy’s favorite toys too.
After you have these items, follow these steps:
- Command your fur-baby to sit or stay.
- Line the cups in front of your puppy.
- Show your puppy their treats (or toy) and let them smell it.
- Place the treats under one of the cups. If you’re using your hand, place the treat on your hand and close it into a fist.
- Say “which cup (or hand)?” while extending the cups or your hand.
- If your puppy touches the right cup (or hand), praise them and let them have the treat.
If your puppy doesn’t get the game the first time, don’t worry! Your furry friend may need a few more tries before they start to get it. Take time to note your puppy’s behavior during these moments.
Is your puppy clawing, pawing, or jumping at you? If so, you may have to train them to control their impulses a little more.
4. Hide and seek
Hide and seek is just as fun with puppies as it is with humans! It is such a great interactive game for your furry friend that also challenges them mentally.
Make sure your puppy knows the “sit” or “stay” commands for this one. You can also get a friend to help you distract your puppy while you hide.
To play hide and seek with your fur-baby,
- Have your puppy sit or stay.
- Look for a hiding spot. This should be a location that’s easy for your puppy to reach or find you.
- Call your puppy’s name.
- Wait for your puppy to look for you.
- Give them a treat when they find you.
If the game becomes too easy for your fur-baby, you can make it more challenging by hiding in harder-to-find spots. Most puppies don’t care if you use the same hiding spots, only if they find you!
Hide and seek is another way to encourage your puppy to use their sense of smell. It also strengthens their tracking abilities as they’re having fun!
5. The cleanup game
Cleaning up after an hour of playtime doesn’t sound exciting, but it can benefit your dog in the long run. Teaching your dog to put their toys away is mentally stimulating. And if you turn it into a game, it can also be fun!
To teach your puppy how to put away their toys, you’ll need to train them to follow the “drop it” command. You can do this by holding out a toy for your puppy to bite into, holding another object they’re interested in with your other hand and saying “drop it” when they bite into the new object.
Be sure to repeat this command several times to ensure they learn it. Once they’ve learned, have them pick up their toy and lead them to their toy basket. Say “drop it” when they stand over the basket.
Praise them when they follow through with this step. Repeat this several times. As soon as the cleanup game is over, make sure to give your cuddly friend lots of treats!
Playing games with your fluffy, adorable little puppy is fun! Using playtime to teach and reinforce natural instincts in your puppy is highly beneficial for their mental development.
Whether you use these games or decide to make up your own, you help your puppy grow into healthy adult dogs. We encourage you to indulge your puppy in brain games as often as possible. Learning is a lifelong process even for dogs, and it doesn’t hurt to spice up their lessons with a fun game!
Want to exercise your dog more often while inside your home? Check out our blog, How To Exercise Your Puppy Indoors for our tips!