3 fun brain games to play with your dog

Being stuck inside due to inclement weather can be a drag – for you and your fur baby. Here’s a few fun brain games to keep you busy until you can get back outdoors!

There are some days when bad weather makes it impossible to spend much time outdoors with your pup. In these cases, brain games are a great tool for keeping your dog mentally occupied! Not only that, brain games are a great way to reduce stress and ward of cognitive decline in your dog while helping to build a stronger bond. Here are a few fun ones to try!

It’s a treasure hunt

Perfect for dogs with a high search and retrieve instinct, you can play this game in the house or yard.

Start by collecting and then hiding various dog toys around the home or garden. Place a high value treat (e.g. a piece of cheese) next to it.

Once setup is complete, take the high value treat and allow your dog to sniff it. Then encourage him to seek by throwing the treat in the direction of the first toy and firmly saying the word “hunt”. When he finds the toy, offer praise.

Repeat this with several toys. The more you repeat, the more he’ll learn what he needs to do and will eventually scent out the toys based on your “hunt” command alone.

Name that toy!

Introduce one toy and encourage Fido to pick it up. Label the toy and call it by its name. “Ball”, for example.

Repeat the label every time he goes to that toy.

Eventually, throw some other toys into the area and say “ball”. Every time he picks up the right toy, praise him.

Label the rest of his toys in the same manner. Eventually, he’ll be able to retrieve the right toy on command!

Water bobbing retrieval

This game is perfect for dogs who love water, and is perfect for cold days when swimming is out of the question. It’s also a great way to cool him down on a hot day!

Head to the bathtub with Fido and a few of his favorite sinkable toys. Toss the first one into the water and encourage him to hop in. Be sure you have a rubber mat at the bottom of the tub so that he doesn’t slip. If he seems reluctant, this game might not be for him.

Once he gets the hang of it, throw in other toys or sinkable treats – think of it like apple bobbing for dogs.

This game is best played after “name that toy” and can double as bathtime for dirty canines!

Brain games are a great tool for strengthening the bond between human and dog. They encourage creative thinking and are a brilliant resource for stressed, bored or house-bound dogs. We hope these three ideas offer a good starting point!


John lives on a six-acre farm with his two rescue dogs Jeff and James. He has two degrees, is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America and is the lead editor for All Things Dog.