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Fun Brain Games for Your Dog

While you and your dog surely have a few favorite activities, changing up the routine provides diversity in mental and physical stimulation. One-on-one time is scarce and you don’t always have time to be actively engaged with your dog when she is bored, so it is wise to have some activities in your toolkit that your dog can enjoy with minimum supervision.


LECA curriculum incorporates brain games to challenge and engage your dog. Instructors provide help and encouragement so that your dog learns to enjoy overcoming challenges for a satisfying reward.

Brain Games give your dog a mental workout with activities designed to challenge and encourage creativity and improvisation.

If you're interested in enrichment activities, which allow the dog to express her natural instincts, check out our Enrichment Games post.


Spin the bottle

Best For: All dogs benefit from this fun and engaging activity

What You’ll Need

  • PVC or wood for platform. Bottle can also be suspended from string between furniture.

  • Sturdy string to hang bottle on

  • Plastic bottle

  • Sharp blade to cut hole in bottle

  • Optional: snuffle mat or rubber doormat

Spin the bottle is a great homemade food-dispensing game for your dog. This game challenges your dog to figure out her own ways of turning over the bottle and getting the reward. When the food drops out, your dog has another game of finding the pieces on the floor. You can increase the puzzle further by putting a snuffle mat or rubber doormat under the bottle to catch the pieces of food.


Muffin Tin

Best For: This is a great activity for all dogs, especially those who need to slow down eating

What You’ll Need

  • Muffin tin, large or small tins

  • Tennis balls, large or small size

  • Treats or kibble

Muffin tin is a fun game that is very affordable and easy to set up yourself. Just place a few treats in a muffin tin under tennis balls and you’re good to go. Your dog will need to use her nose or paws to maneuver the balls out of the tins so she can get at the treat below. If your dog is very clever she can remember which tins have treats after watching you put them in, or she can use her nose to identify the treats.


Treat Pipe

Best For: Strong chewers and active dogs


What You’ll Need

  • PVC, curved or straight

  • PVC end pieces

  • Drill with bit size to match holes to your dog’s treats or kibble


Food dispensing toys are a go-to for entertaining your dog and slowing down eating when you don’t have time to actively engage with your dog. Kong toys are great, but like all toys, they get old, and Kongs are quite expensive.


You can make a much cheaper durable food dispensing toy out of PVC pipe. PVC offers lots of variations to make feeding time interesting for your pup. Choose from a variety of shapes; the options are nearly endless. If your dog is quick to mater these toys, you can also make it more challenging by putting large balls inside to disrupt the flow of the treats or kibble.


Firehose Cube

Best For: Strong chewers and powerful dogs


What You’ll Need

  • Fire hose

  • Screws and nuts to secure pieces

  • Strong knife

Fire hose is an incredibly durable material that can be used to make all kinds of useful enrichment toys. The cube is throwable and chewable and can be stuffed with treats. By making a hole in it, you can also use it as a food dispensing toy. These cubes are available commercially, or you can make one yourself with a few simple tools. If you are looking for a new kind of food dispensing toy that works well for powerful dogs, this may be a good choice.


Nina Ottosson puzzles

Best For: Clever dogs looking for a mental challenge


What You’ll Need


Nina Ottosson puzzles are innovative toys that encourage your dog to perform a wide range of activities to get to the kibble within. They are great for dogs to engage with by themselves under supervision and also provide opportunities for you to help and instruct your dog, increasing the bond nad trust between you. Offering a range of toys like these encourages your dog to use different muscle groups as well as think creatively, using skills learned in one activity to help her solve another activity. Most toys work for dogs no matter their size.


Frozen Treats and Toys

Best For: Puppies and older dogs that benefit from gum soothing and all dogs on hot days


What You’ll Need

  • Bone or chicken broth

  • Treats, toys, fruits, veggies

  • Freezer safe container

You can freeze almost any food that your dog likes in water mixed with a little salt-free bone or chicken broth. You can also freeze treats in the mix. This is especially good for teething puppies, who find chewing on frozen chew toys very soothing for sore gums. To entice your dog to chew, leave some toys and treats sticking out of the frozen part. This activity can occupy your dog for hours on hot days.


Snuffle mat or plastic mat

Best For: All dogs, but especially great for small dogs, timid dogs, and dogs that need to slow down eating


What You’ll Need

  • Kibble or treats

  • Bath mat, plastic mat, or make one

To make one:

  • Plastic mat with holes or crisscross design

  • Fleece strips or strips of discarded clothing, etc.

Snuffle mats are designed to mimic grass, allowing your dog to sniff out treats or kibble naturally by searching through the fabric “grass”. This activity is great for large and small dogs alike and is a good way to provide a different kind of food enrichment. If you are sick of dog slobber all over from your dog licking up kibble from food dispensing toys, you will appreciate this toy which keeps food neatly contained while your dog looks for it. You can use a plastic mat with holes as well, to encourage your dog to use her nose and slow eating without getting kibble everywhere.


Agility

Best For: Healthy, young, athletic dogs


What You’ll Need

  • Obstacles to jump over that are appropriate to your dog’s height

  • Something to go through or under

  • A platform to jump onto and lie down on

  • Something safe to balance on

Agility is a favorite sport for dog lovers everywhere. This activity challenges your dog’s mind and body with obstacles that require physical prowess as well as discipline. Many private dog parks and training centers have agility courses, but you can easily build your own. Model your obstacles after the professional agility courses, or experiment with your own obstacles catered to your dog’s particular body type.


Conclusion

Your dog has an active mind that is always searching for new ways to explore and engage. Deeply rooted instincts cause your dog to feel powerful impulses that she must often suppress in today’s modern society. Dog enrichment and brain games offer dogs the opportunity to act on their instincts in a safe way, as well as challenging dogs to think in new ways about their environment and find creative solutions to new problems. LECA curriculum provides your dog with lots of enriching activities and games, but why not choose some Enrichment Activities (read our post on enrichment here) and Brain Games that work well for you and your dog at home as well? You’ll be amazed by how happy and satisfied your dog will be.

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