4 Brain Games to Keep Your Dog Fit and Entertained

As a dog-parent, once we have trained our dogs basic commands (e.g. sit, stay and down), we often wonder if there are other behaviors or tricks we can teach to our dogs.

Not only does continued training show us how much of a clever boy or girl our dog is, it helps to keep their minds active. Mental stimulation for dogs can help ward off boredom and frustration and aid in stressful situations.

In addition to the many health benefits, playing brain games also helps to create a strong bond between you and your puppy.

Spin The Bottle!

This is a brilliant game for food-orientated dogs.

To start with, you will need a plastic bottle (with the lid removed), a length of doweling and some treats.

Start by piercing holes in the side of the bottle so you can push the length of doweling through the bottle.

Put some treats into the bottle, with some larger treats to slow the flow.

Hold the bottle and doweling in front of your dog. Encourage your dog to nuzzle the bottle and spin it. He needs to move the bottle enough so the treats fall out.

You can make it more difficult by adding multiple bottles to the length of doweling so he has a range to chose from. The bottles can be different sizes to make it easier/harder to spin.

Be mindful that your dog just doesn’t just try to bite through the bottle – if he does, maybe a different game is more suitable.

4 Brain Games to Keep Your Dog Fit and Entertained

Tidy Up Time

Whilst all dogs are very capable of getting their toys out, much like kids, they struggle with the tidying up part.

You’ll need a basket or box where all of your dog’s toys will be stored. Open top boxes are easier.

Start with having all but one toy in his box, which you have already tidied.

Throw one toy across the room and encourage your dog to retrieve.

Place the box in front of you and hold your hands out to receive the toy over the box.

When your dog retrieves his toy, praise him and take it off him.

Eventually, move your hands, so when he retrieves and goes to give it to you, he drops it straight in the box. Repeat.

Label the behavior “tidy” or “tidy up time!”

Repeat with different toys so he learns it applies to all his toys.

Perfect for those toy-orientated dogs. Not so good if they haven’t figured out the retrieve command!

If your dog tries to run off with the toy whilst trying to train, stop and try again another day when he’s less excited.

Party Trick

A firm favorite at parties, is a dog brain game known as shy.

What you’ll need is some post-it notes and treats.

To start with, place a post-it note on Fido’s nose. He should instinctively paw at it to remove it. As he does, treat and praise him.

If he removes it, don’t worry, still praise and treat him.

Label the behavior “shy” or “shy dog!”

Eventually you should just be able to command “shy dog” without the need for the post-it note.

This game generally suits most dogs – providing the post-it note irritates them just enough.

Some dogs may be a little dramatic and roll with their head pushed into the floor; others may just stare at you, waiting for you to remove it… you know your dog and sometimes a game just doesn’t suit them.


Next time you are in the grocery store, try to pick up a yogurt tray (empty of course) – the ones with the holes cut in to safely hold the yogurts.

At home, find some plastic cups that will fit into the yogurt holes.

With your dog watching, place treats into the yogurt holes and then put a plastic cup over the top of the treat to hide it.

Encourage Fido to nuzzle at the cup to move it and find the treat.

At first, include treats under all of the cups to maintain his interest.

You can eventually reduce the treats to only a few cups, and he has to be patient to find those treats.

Another great game for food-orientated pooches. But be mindful, if they have flat-faces, they may just use sheer strength and barge their way through the cups instead.

We hope these games have given you some ideas on how to keep your dog’s mind fit and healthy; be patient and have fun!

Written by John Woods

John is a dog trainer, author and member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He is a parent to two dogs and loves spending his free time hiking the mountains with them.