Regular daily exercise is healthy for dogs. They need both physical and mental stimulation to live a healthy and happy life. So why not get the kids involved with some stimulating brain games they can play together.
Why Brain Games Are Good for Dogs
While physical exercise is necessary for your dog’s health, it is also important to exercise their brain as well. Here are a few great reasons to include mentally stimulating games into your dog’s daily life.
- To prevent boredom. A dog that is not mentally and physically challenged will get bored. This will often lead to destructive behavior as your dog looks for something to entertain itself with. Often ending in excessive barking to get your attention or destroying whatever he can get his paws on.
- Tire your dog out. Wearing your dog out with exercise and games leads to a happier and healthier pup. Without mental and physical exercises during the day, your dog can end up with excess energy that can make them excited and agitated. With adequate exercise, your pup will settle down much better at the end of the day.
- Strengthen bonds. Playing games with your dog will help to strengthen your bond. This helps keep your pup happy and makes him more likely to listen to you during training and obedience lessons. Also, when your pup is happy it makes you happier as well.
Basic Commands Your Dog Should Know
Before you and your kids start playing some of these games with your dog there are a few basic commands they should know first. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’, ‘drop’, ‘come’, and ‘leave it’ are some commands that will be crucial to the success of your games. If your dog can’t yet follow these commands you should start by training those first. Then you can move on to the fun stuff.
Recommended Reading: How to Train Your Dog
Here are some great brain games kids can play with dogs. Always remember to supervise young children and dogs when they are playing together so you can control any issues that may come up. Guide your kids and dog through the games when you first play them until they know what to expect.
It is best to start with some easy games to get them used to playing with each other. Fetch and catch are great games to start with for your kids and your dog. They can start out easy with these games and then move on to the more challenging ones.
Mentally Stimulating Games for Dogs and Kids to Play
- Use a ball or soft toy.
- Tell your dog to stay.
- Throw the ball a short distance away.
- Ask your dog to fetch it.
- Call your dog to you once he has it.
- Ask him to drop it.
- Give him lots of praise.
More challenging – Throw the ball or toy further away as your dog gets the hang of the game.
- Similar to fetch, but throw the ball or toy up in the air and tell your dog to catch it.
- Start with small heights and aim directly above your dog to make it easy.
More challenging – You can throw further and higher as your dog gets better at this.
Frisbee is a more advanced version of fetch and catch.
- Grab a frisbee and throw it towards your dog and tell them to catch it.
- Call them to bring it back to you and throw it again.
More challenging – This is a competitive dog sport so once your dog gets good at it, you could try him in a competition.
4. Treasure Hunt
Hiding food, treats, or your pup’s favorite toy around the house or yard is a great game for the kids to play.
- Get your dog to stay.
- Start by placing the treat where your dog can see it so they get the idea of the game.
- Then tell them to ‘find it’, while pointing to the treat.
- Give lots of praise when he finds it.
- Gradually place the treat further away, hiding it behind or under things, as your dog gets better at the game.
More challenging – Use multiple treats or toys in different rooms or areas outside, and get your dog to find them all in one go.
All kids love a game of hide-and-seek, so what better than have them play it with your dog.
- Give the kids a treat and tell them to hide while you stay with your dog. Start in the same room to make it easy.
- Then tell your dog to find them, using their name.
- When your dog finds them he gets the treat and lots of praise.
More challenging – As your dog gets better at sniffing the kids out they can get more creative with their hiding spots moving to different rooms, inside cupboards, and even outside.
6. Shell Game
Dogs are great at this classic game so it is a great one to teach the kids to play with them.
- Get your dog to sit.
- Grab 3 cups and place a treat under one of them in front of your dog.
- Shuffle the cups around for a bit and ask your dog where the treat is now with ‘find it’.
- Once he indicates which cup the treat is under, if he is right, he gets the treat.
More challenging – Teach your dog to touch the right cup with his paw instead of his nose. You can do this by keeping your hand on the cup until he reaches his paw out, then give lots of praise and release the treat. He will soon catch on that you want him to use his paw instead of his nose.
Setting up some obstacles around the house or yard is a great way to get your dog’s mind working.
- Get the kids involved in setting up a few things for your dog to go over and under. Chairs or boxes work well.
- Guide your dog where you want them to go with a treat and praise them when they get it right.
- As they get better at it, the kids will be able to take them through the course on their own.
More challenging – Add more obstacles or move to a larger space outside. Use jumps, ramps, and tunnels in combination and change it around to challenge your pup. You can even try them out at a dog agility training class to see how they go.
8. Jump Rope
This one may be a bit more challenging for your dog.
- Train them to jump on command first.
- Then practice multiple jumps in a row.
- Add in the rope, but keep it still and on the ground.
- Lift the rope off the ground.
- Then start to swing the rope.
More challenging – Add in a second rope. Or you could train your dog to hold and swing one end of the rope.
9. Muffin Tin Game
This is a fun way to challenge your dog’s brain.
- Grab a muffin tin and place treats in the holes.
- Place tennis balls on top of half of the holes.
- Tell your dog to find the treats.
- He will soon figure out he needs to lift the balls to get the hidden treats.
More challenging – Place balls on all of the holes and only place one or two treats, and get them to move the right balls.
10. Interactive Dog Toys
Your kids can have fun playing with your dog with many of the interactive dog toys that are available to buy. Explain to them how it works and they can teach the dog how to do it. Or, you can make your own toys with things you have lying around the house. DIY interactive food dispensers can be made with a plastic water bottle with a couple of holes and a bit of string. These toys can keep the kids and dogs entertained for hours.
Recommended Reading: The Best Interactive Dog Toys
11. Teaching a Fun Trick
While you do all the hard work with dog training, you can leave the fun stuff for the kids. They can teach your dog to high five, shake hands, roll over, and play dead.
12. Teach them the name of their toys
This can be another mentally stimulating game for dogs. If they have a few favorite toys you can teach them to recognize the name of each toy. Then you can use their toys in a game of hide-and-seek by hiding each one and asking your dog to find each one by name. He only gets praise if he brings you the right one.
More challenging – This game can lead to an extremely well-trained dog that can bring you different items on command, like the paper, your slippers, their food dispensers, or anything you can think of. It can also help you to teach them to pick up their own toys and put them away. Just like the kids do, right?
Recommended Reading: The Best Ways to Exercise Your Dog
Challenge Your Dog’s Mind!
Most dog games you play with your pup can include the kids as well. This helps keep your dog physically and mentally challenged and at the same time will improve the bond between him and your children. He will be more likely to obey them and respond to them during future training sessions as well.