Whether you live in an apartment or you can’t get out of the house due to bad weather, it is still important that you keep your dog active and entertained. And there are plenty of games and activities that you can try from the comfort of your own home. After all, making sure that your dog is properly mentally and physically stimulated are two of your most important responsibilities as a pet owner. In this blog post, we are going to give you a few ideas of what you can do to keep your pooch entertained. But first, what are the consequences of not stimulating your dog’s mind.

Golden retriever puppy with the toy

What Are the Signs of a Bored Dog?

If your dog gets bored, you are more likely to seem them engage in a host of problem behaviors. They may start digging around on your carpet or in your yard. You could find that your favorite pair of sneakers suddenly gets chewed to pieces. Otherwise, your pup may engage in attention-seeking behavior such as problem barking or whining. Or you may notice that your dog suddenly starts licking or chewing themselves. Of course, this could be a sign of fleas instead, so check for this. When a dog is properly stimulated, you should notice that it is less likely that they engage in this problem behavior.

Ideas for Brain Games to Play with Your Dog: How to Mentally Stimulate a Dog

There are plenty of brain games for dogs and activities to enjoy with your dog which help to stimulate their mind and often their body too. Here are just a few possibilities for you to try out.

Hide and Seek

Just like kids love a game of hide and seek on a rainy day, the same is true of dogs too. All you have to do is hide some treats around the home and let your dog sniff them out. You can set the difficulty level of the game by choosing where to hide the treat. Start off with obvious places until your dog gets the hang of it before you start setting them some greater challenges.

Teach Your Dog Some New Tricks

One of the best ways of entertaining your dog and yourself is by teaching them some new tricks. This also has the added bonus of improving your dog’s overall behavior, as well as strengthening the bond between the two of you. Of course, teaching your dog new tricks can be a time-consuming process, and you need to display plenty of patience in order to achieve success. If you don’t want to go through all this effort, you could simply refresh your pooch’s knowledge of some of the tricks that they already know how to perform. Just some of the fun tricks you could learn include how to shake you hand, play dead, and roll over.

Set Up a Puppy Play Date

If your dog doesn’t get outside much and you don’t have any other pets at home, they could be starved of canine attention. So, why not get your dog-owning friend to invite their pooches around for a play date. Socialization is especially important for puppies, but adult dogs love the opportunity to play as well. If possible, you should try to find other dogs that are a match for your hound. If you have a little Chihuahua, a Great Dane may not be the ideal companion! Also, you don’t want to risk the safety of your dog by having one over with a known history of aggression. If things don’t go according to plan, you need to be on hand to intervene. Before you toss any toys into the mix, you should make sure that your pooch already has the ‘drop it’ command down.

Owner playing with his dog

Invest in Some Puzzle Toys

The promise of getting a treat at the end of a playing session is just too much to resist for many dogs, and there are all sorts of variations on this type of toy which will engage your pooch for hours on end. For example, you can get rubber balls that are fillable with treats, but the opening is small enough that your dog has to work to get their paws on them. There are other interactive dog feeders that put obstacles in your pooch’s way before they can access the tasty treats. Or there are others which have plush toys hiding in a den for your dog to dig out. If you get together a few of these toys, you can start to rotate them to ensure that your pup doesn’t get bored. Once you dig one out again, it will have the excitement of being brand new all over again!

Related Post: Dog Treats

Play Indoor Fetch

As long as you have enough room indoors, you could try playing a game of fetch with your dog. Ideally, you will have a long, straight hallway with no vases perched on rickety stools along the way! Get a soft ball that is not at risk of causing any damage to anything and roll it rather than throwing it. Most dogs can’t risk chasing after a ball, and it is a good way of getting them to burn off a few calories. If you want to give your pooch a bit more of a workout, you can even throw the ball up and down the stairs. You want them to be tired out without being overly exhausted. Another alternative is to play a game of ‘keep away’ with you can someone else in the house. Throw the ball to one another and let your dog have fun trying to get it. But you need to ensure that you allow your pooch to catch it from time to time to give them a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Related Post: Automatic Fetch Machines

Play Tug of War

Another simple, yet classic brain training for dogs game to play with your canine companion is a tug of war, which helps to exercise your dog’s predatory instincts. All you need is some tough rope that has a winning combination of durability and flexibility. But before you get going, it is a good idea to ensure that you teach the ‘drop it’ command. This will allow you to put a stop to the game when you need to. Sometimes, dogs can get a little too into things and fun can tip over into aggression. It is also important that you choose the right place in your home. You are looking for a place that is free of clutter as you don’t want to trip backwards over anything when you are tugging on the rope. Take some breaks when you feel like they are necessary. 30 seconds or so should be fine. During this time, you can practice a few basic commands such as ‘sit’ to get them calmed down. A bit of growling and tail wagging is normal, but if your dog’s teeth touch your skin, you should stop the game. It is also a good idea that you let your dog win the game as this boost your pup’s confidence. As long as you supervise it properly, two dogs can also play tug of war.

Set Up an Obstacle Course

If you want to put a little more effort into your dog brain teasers, you could even try setting them up an obstacle course. You could simply try using some of the furniture that you have at home, allowing your dog to jump over chairs, dive under tables, and circle around sideboards. Obviously, you need to move anything that is breakable well out of the way. Once your dog has completed the course, make sure to offer them plenty of praise and a treat. When you are able to take them outside again, you can transfer their skills onto a proper agility course.

Related Post: Dog Agility Tunnel

Woman playing with her dog

Teach Your Dog to Use a Treadmill

Dogs can learn how to run on a treadmill as well, but you need to make sure that they have enough practice to do so safely. You can get special dog treadmills that are specially designed for canines. To start off with, you will want to get your pooch used to the machine when it is turned off. When you turn it on for the first time, you should start off slowly. Make sure that you supervise your dog at all times and give them an easy escape when they want to get off.

Related Post: Dog Treadmills

Try the ‘Which Hand’ Game

If your pet is used to scent work, you could try provide more mental stimulation for dogs with the ‘which hand’ game. All you need are some dog treats that they are going to be able to sniff out. Put a treat in one of your hands, close your fists, and put them out in front of your dog. Allow your pooch to choose the hand that they think contains the treat. They should either sniff or paw the right hand. Don’t worry if they choose incorrectly to start off with. It may take a bit of time for them to get the hang of the game. You can add in a ‘touch’ command to get them used to selecting a hand with their paw.

Teach Your Dog to Do Some Chores

What could be more useful than teaching your dog to help you out with some chores around the house? Your pooch will need to know basic obedience commands, as well as the names of some objects around the house. You can teach your dog to bring you things or tidy up after themselves. For the latter, your dog will already need to know the ‘drop it’ command, and they will have to be standing over their toybox. Once they have successfully deposited the toy, you will need to offer them plenty of praise. You are also going to have to teach them the name of all of their toys, so they know which one to grab. Over time, they will get the hang of it and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up after your dog ever again! If this seems a little too complicated, you could start off with the old classic of getting your dog to fetch your newspaper or slippers.

Give Your Dog a Massage

While everything else that we have talked about so far has involved your dog being fairly active, this mind game for dogs allows them to lie back and enjoy as you pamper them with a massage. There are plenty of tutorials online which teach you the basics. This is especially beneficial to older dogs who are suffering from arthritis as it will help to soothe their joints. Other benefits to this activity include reducing anxiety, relieving stress, improving circulation, and strengthening the bond between dog and owner. A nice time to give your dog a massage could be at the end of a grooming session. Once you get into a regular habit of grooming your dog, the massage can act as the treat, and they may be more receptive to have the teeth brushed, coats groomed, and ears cleaned!

Relax on the Couch Together

Not everything that you do with your dog indoors has to be an intense workout, and sometimes, there is nothing like cuddling up on the couch. The end of a long day is an especially nice time to curl up in front of some Netflix as it gets them relaxed, calm, and ready for bed. If your dog has been properly mentally and physically stimulated during the course of the day, they shouldn’t find it too difficult to drift off to get their forty winks.

Dog playing with the ball

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of dog brain games that can stimulate your dog without needing to go outdoors. Rather than just relying on one or two, it is a good idea to vary the activities to keep your pooch engaged and interested.

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Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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