5 Brain Games for Dogs You Need to Try

Playing with your dog is one of the most rewarding parts of being a pet parent! It’s fun, it’s a great way to bond with your dog, and it provides them with the physical and mental stimulation they crave. While some types of activities focus more on getting the heart rate up, there are other games that put your dog’s mind to work.

To give your best friend a physical and mental workout, try these five brain games for dogs!

#1: The Cup Game

Also known as “the shell game,” this fun dog brain game puts your dog’s concentration to the test! All you need are three cups and either a treat or play toy. Here’s how to play:

  • Place the treat or toy under one cup and shuffle the cups around while your pup tries to follow which one holds the reward.
  • Once you’re done shuffling, encourage your dog to choose a cup either with their paw or nose.
  • If chosen correctly, they’ll be rewarded with the treat or toy that was under the cup. If not, be sure to provide lots of love and encouragement to maintain their interest in this mentally stimulating task!

You can also do this without cups: simply show your dog a treat and then pass it from one hand to the other. After a few passes back and forth, challenge your dog to “decide” which hand holds the treat!

#2: The "Come" Game

You often have your dog’s undivided attention, but they’re especially focused on you when something delicious is up for grabs. That’s why this tactic is commonly used to train and teach your furry friend a new trick or command! Dog treats or a handful of kibble will help motivate your best friend to accomplish the task at hand: the “come” command. Here’s how it works:

  • Walk a few paces away from your dog with treats in your hand. You can also use a toy instead of treats!
  • Once you have your dog’s attention, say “come.”
  • Each time they approach you after hearing the “come” command, reward them with a treat or toy!

Through positive reinforcement, your dog will eventually connect the dots and understand the objective. Though, it is important to be patient when teaching a new command. This dog brain game is best to play a few minutes at a time to avoid overwhelming or confusing your furry friend.


RELATED: How to Teach Your Dog to Come When Called


#3: The "Go Find It" Game

This brain game for dogs is a challenging and tasty way to work your dog’s sense of smell...and tap into their innate urge to hunt! A dog’s nose is their strongest tool, so this game may be especially enjoyable for breeds with a background in hunting or police work. Though, no matter your dog's breed, this is a great confidence-boosting activity! The idea is simple...

  • First, hide a treat, a favorite toy, or a toy filled with treats. For an easier challenge, choose a hiding spot in close proximity to your dog. To raise the level of difficulty, hide the item in a different room or underneath another item.
  • When you’re ready, say “go find it” or “go” to encourage your dog to search for their reward. It may take some time depending on where the object is hidden, but your furry friend will love the challenge!

While all dogs have the urge to track scents, this game is particularly fun for working and herding breeds who enjoy activities that make them feel useful.

Siberian Husky chewing on Sneaky Snacker dog treat toy

#4: Treat Toys

Many treat toys keep your dog busy chewing and provide satisfying rewards along the way! There are a range of toy styles to choose from depending on the type of challenge for your dog, such as stuffable cones, dispensing toys, and more.

For a slower treating activity, our Sneaky Snacker™ Treat Toy combines durable chewing ends with a flexible center that has small openings. As your dog chews, bits sneak out through the openings to give your dog a taste of what’s inside. This type of dog brain game keeps your dog occupied as they try to get more and more of the treat!

#5: Hide and Seek

It's a classic! Hide from your dog when they’re not watching or tell them to sit and stay while you find a hiding spot. When you’re ready, tell them to “come.” It may take patience for your dog to find you, but they will enjoy releasing physical and mental energy throughout the process! Once your dog has tracked down your hiding spot by sniffing and listening to the “come” command, offer chew treats as a reward.

Level Up Your Game!

Challenging your dog’s mind is not only a fun way to spend time together, but it helps support their overall well-being, too! From exercising their sense of smell to practicing commands, these dog brain games are sure to be entertaining and educational activities!

For even more options to play with your pup, check out your all-in-one guide to the best types of dog toys!


Instagram Facebook X TikTok YouTube LinkedIn