Brain Teasers for your dog! Keep their mind sharp!

Brain Teasers for your dog! Keep their mind sharp!
08 Jul 2015

Many of us enjoy the Sunday crossword puzzle or brain teaser, as these “games” help to keep our minds sharp and fight away boredom. But what about our four-legged companions?  Is it important to keep their mind sharp as well?  Is there such a thing as ‘brain boosting’ for your dog?

Before you start googling puzzles and Sudoku for canines, take a look at what types of brain work you can do with your dog.

Breed all about it!

Certain breeds are more likely to need daily brain stimulation than others. Working dogs, such as Border collies and Australian Shepherds, are very smart and thrive on having ‘something to do.’ If you don’t find something for these breeds to do – they will find something on their own, and it may be destructive or obnoxious!

Just because you have a more laid-back dog or breed, such as a Greyhound (yes!) or a Shih-Tzu doesn’t mean you can’t engage their mind and body. Work their mind by providing a variety of toys and activities to get them off of the sofa.

If you own a hunting dog, such as a Beagle, these breeds like to track prey and dig. Set aside an area of your garden and set up a ‘scavenger hunt’ for your pup. Select treats, chews and small toys for the game. Bury these treasures under a few inches of mulch or sand and let the games begin!  Your dog will be drawn to their scent and will enjoy digging for his reward.  You may want to have the bath ready after this adventure.


Playtime is not just for exercise. Dogs thrive on exercise but running around can become boring.  Have a set of goals in mind when you play with your dog. Incorporate running, obedience and problem-solving for a fun adventure.

Obedience training is not just for military working dogs. Every dog can enjoy the challenge and mental stimulation of obedience. Not sure how to get started? Obedience training engages the mind, body and the palate. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘come’ are just the beginning. You can teach your dog how to crawl, jump, shake hands and even roll over! Your dog will be drooling for the delicious treats that show him it’s a job well done. If you don’t have any treats, just put a baggie of your pup’s own kibble in your pocket for handy rewards.

Play Favorites

Does your dog have a favorite toy or treat? You can incorporate it into a new game with just a few simple materials. If he enjoys chewing and shredding soft stuffed toys, attach one to the end of a string or thin rope. Slowly drag it along the ground in front of him and encourage him to chase it. Run and jump with the toy on a string, and begin to spin it in the air. Your dog will love running and jumping to chase and ‘kill’ his favorite toy.

The Chew

Dogs have a natural need to chew, especially when they are puppies. Put this chewing behavior to good use by purchasing a Kong toy. These hard rubber toys can be filled with kibble and capped with a tablespoon of peanut butter. Toss it in the freezer for a few hours and then hand it over to your pup. He will love licking, chewing and rolling the Kong around to devour the tasty bits inside.

If your dog isn’t into chewing, you can take an empty, clean and dried 2-litre soda bottle and cut a few holes into the sides. Place a few treats or kibble into it and let your dog roll it around until the food falls out. You can also purchase a sturdier plastic treat ball to use for a long time to come.

What else can you enjoy with your dog?  Take a trip to your local Petco and discover all the fun toys that are available, such as:

Just remember that you don’t have to invest in fancy toys to keep your dog happy and healthy. A good old-fashioned tennis ball or stick can be used to play fetch. You can also hide small treats under pillows throughout your house and time how fast your dog can find them. Be creative – you’re bound to have a great time!


Deborah Shores

Deborah Shores, DVM, is an American Veterinarian and a 2008 graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, minor in Chemistry, from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, USA. As a child, she was obsessed with horses and received her very own mare, named Ivy, at the age of 10. She wanted to become a vet at the age of 13, when her beloved horse had to undergo a complicated eye surgery at the University of Georgia. The veterinary surgeons allowed her to watch the procedure in the operating theatre and she was hooked! As a military spouse, she has lived throughout the USA, in Poland and Japan. In the last 6 years, Dr. Shores has worked as a clinical veterinarian for dogs, cats, small mammals and non-human primates (macaque monkeys) and as a freelance writer. She has also taught anatomy and physiology as an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. Her passion is educating animal lovers about pet care and common animal diseases. She currently has two mischievous tabby cats, Hummer and Piper. Both cats are also world travelers and enjoy basking in the warm afternoon sun.

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