What are Brain Games for Dogs?
Dogs expend energy in one of two ways: by being physically active, or by being mentally active. Both types of activities should be provided to dogs in the form of exercise, socialization, and mental exercise.
A brain game is any type of activity that causes a dog to problem solve and learn, as opposed to simply acting on drive or instinct. The benefits of brain games are vast: less boredom, more mental stimulation, fewer bad behaviors, contentment, confidence, a greater bond between dog and owner, and better cognitive health.
Brain Game #1: Muffin Tin Game
Some of the best brain games you can play with your pup involve searching for food. This type of game engages your dog’s natural drive as a hunter/gatherer, while also providing instant gratification for a job well-done.
In the Muffin Tin Game, dogs use their noses and brains to find hidden treats. To begin, gather a muffin tin, a handful of treats, and 6 – 12 tennis balls or rolled up socks.
First, place a treat in one of the wells of the muffin tin and show it to your dog, allowing him or her to take the treat from the tray.
Next, allow your dog to watch you place a treat in the muffin tin, then cover the treat with a tennis ball or balled-up sock. Encourage your dog to remove the tennis ball or sock to reveal the treat.
Once your dog has gotten the hang of this game, increase the difficulty level. Without your dog watching, place one treat in a well, and then cover all the wells with tennis balls or socks. Place the muffin tin in front of your dog and encourage him or her to find the treat. To make this game even more difficult, replace any balls or socks that are removed from the muffin tin.