Mind games for your clever dog

Mind games for your clever dog

If a dog has nothing to do all day they can find their own entertainment. If they don’t have a job they can become self employed! Here’s where dangers can occur, they may rummage through mouldy food in the bin, dig the garden, chew on furniture or bark for our attention.

 A hungarian viszla wearing a harness is looking happy on some grass.

Having some brain games in your tool kit will help keep your dog happy and fulfilled. It helps you prepare incase they ever had an operation and had limited activity.


Our dogs are lucky, they have a comfy home and vet treatment. However, as they no longer live in the wild they do not have any problems to solve and this pent up energy can turn into boredom and behaviours that aren’t ideal.

Here are some ideas to keep your dog’s big brain active and stimulated.





How to do it


Crumble up some treats into little morsels and place them in the long grass and allow your dog to sniff them out. This will engage their incredible nose and give them a fun activity to do. Food in a bowl takes a few moments to eat whereas here they are working for their food. While their nose is down start repeating the words “find it” so they associate the action with the words. You can then do it on walks too!


What about wet food?

You could place their wet food on licky mats and place them around the house for them to find and track. This can be fun! You can do this with Kongs too. You can even freeze Kongs to make the experience last longer. Kongs can be filled with chicken, some dog friendly peanut butter, liver paste, your dog’s food and more.


What if I have more than one dog?


You don’t want your dogs to fight over food so you could do the activity separately.

 A golden retriever puppy jumps in the air



It can be a fun trick and bust boredom.




What do I need?

· Some toys – 3 different ones. But you will only use one to start with.

· Some treats – very tasty treats such as chicken.


How do I do it?

1. Introduce the toy to your dog and make it fun – play with them with it and build up a positive association with it.

2. Present the toy to your dog (allow them to look at it) and then give them a treat – this way they are building up a positive association with it.

3. Repeat step 2 20 times.

4. Then say the name of the object ie “duck” then give them a treat.

5. Repeat step 4 20 times.


Marking and moving

Now you want your dog to pay interest to the toy that is on the ground.

1. Put the toy down a little distance.

2. Say the toys name i.e “duck”

3. Then if your dog goes over to it say your marker word/use your clicker then give them a treat. If they don’t go over then reduce the distance.

Repeat steps 1-3, 20 times.

Adding in other toys

Have your other toy to hand.

Hold both toys up.

Say “get duck”

If your dog looks at it then say “yes” and give them a treat.

Repeat 10 times.

Then swap the toy location – swap the one that was in your left hand to your right hand.

Say “get duck”

Wait for your dog to choose the right toy then say “yes” and give them a treat.


Making it harder

Switch the toys back again to the original hand locations as before.


Add in 3 toys

1. Place 2 toys down then place the original toy (the one you have been practicing with) down last.

2. Then say get “duck”

3. Then if the dog goes for it then mark and reward.

4. Then pick it up and repeat steps 1-3 (but keep the other toys down)

You can gradually make it harder for your dog by mixing up the location of the toys.




St Paws Training Academy

Lisa Sinnott




Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (ongoing)

Professional Development Programme in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Canine Coaching Diploma

Student Member of FAB Clinicians

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