Puppy mental stimulation exercises from Puppy Play&Stay experts.

One of the best things about having a dog is getting to play with them. A dog’s joy is infectious and an active dog makes any home about a million times better (mathematically speaking, of course). But sometimes, even when you make sure to give your pup plenty of exercises, they still act out. Digging in the yard, chewing up slippers or furniture—these are signs that your dog needs more mental stimulation to complement the physical exercise you’re already giving them.

Dogs are smart. They need to exercise their intelligence just as much as they need to work out their bodies. Fortunately, there are lots of dog toys oriented toward mental stimulation and even more puppy mental stimulation exercises that you can use to make sure your dog stays mentally sharp, as well as physically fit.

dog mental stimulation games

Sniff Out New Stimulation

One of the simplest things you can do for your doggo is to give them the freedom to sniff around a bit. When going for a walk, let them sniff around at new smells. Our senses can’t pick up all the changes that can take place around us every day, but your dog’s nose sure can. Factor in some time to let them sniff around if something grabs their attention either along your route or in your yard.

Scent Games at Home

Another way to make sure your dog’s sniffer is up to snuff is to play scent games at home. There are lots of ways to do this. You can take a treat with a nice big smell for your dog and place it in an easy to find a spot before telling them to go get it. As your dog gets better at this, you can increase the difficulty by placing the treat in a different room or hiding it in a more tricky spot.

dog mental stimulation games

If You Hide, Your Dog Will Seek

Another variation of this scent game is playing hide and seek. Have someone get your dog to sit while you get to a simple hiding spot and then have your friend give the command to find you. When your pup finds you, they’ll truly feel like they’ve earned all the treats and belly rubs that you’re sure to shower them with endlessly. 

Toy Time

In addition to those puppy mental stimulation exercises, there are some great toys designed for mental stimulation and you can also use toys you already have in new ways. For example, you can put a treat under a tennis ball in a muffin tin and let your dog figure out how to get to it. 

Puppy Puzzles

There are all kinds of toys on the market that encourage your pupper to figure out how to get a treat out of them. Some are as simple as treat-dispensing chew toys. Some are a bit more high-tech. Toys like the iFetch shoot out a ball for your dog to grab, but they have to figure out the right place to return the ball for a treat to be dispensed. Remember, when a dog spends time chewing on a bone, it’s the equivalent of a human doing a puzzle in engagement and processing. Let them chew… as long as it’s not your shoes! 

Game Recognizes Game

If your dog already has a bunch of toys, one way to make sure they get the mental stimulation they need is to learn to recognize those toys. Similar to the scent games we mentioned earlier, this is a game you can build up pretty simply. The first step is making sure your pup knows their toys. You can set busy bee in front of them and say “get the busy bee.” Then move the busy bee farther away before giving the command. Soon you can move it into another room before giving the command and then into a line with other toys. Eventually, you can train your dog to be able to run into another room to grab whatever toy you tell them to get. 

mental stimulation for dogs

It’s Not Tricky

No matter what cliches you’ve heard, you can teach your dog a new trick. Whether working on reinforcing ideas your dog already knows like rewarding sitting (even when there’s a delicious ice cube on the floor right in front of them) or teaching your dog to weave in between your legs (a flashy maneuver that’s easier to teach than you might think), there’s always something new to teach your doggo. You can even build a makeshift obstacle course to combine physical and mental exercises. 

It will pay immediate dividends, no matter how you decide to increase your dog’s mental activity. The bonds between you and your dog will be strengthened, you’ll notice less unauthorized digging and chewing if that’s been an issue, and you’ll have less of an issue with your dog getting rowdy late at night even though you’ve made every effort to wear them out physically. 

Most importantly, your dog will be as happy as can be. And who can have a bad day when the unconditional love of a truly happy dog is right there waiting for you?