Brain Games and Fun Interactive Toys for Your Dog

Using games, interactive dog toys and puzzles can help you with a variety of unwanted dog behaviors. And your dog will love them! Often dogs who chew up your shoes, make a mountain of fluff out of your mattress, or destroy other things around the house are bored and need something to do. Owners of dogs with lots of energy might find it hard to provide their dog with enough physical exercise; adding brain games to their routine is a great way to tire them out. For dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, things like treat-stuffed toys and puzzles can help distract them when they are alone and be used as part of counter conditioning treatment.

Six Fun Toys, Games & Puzzles for Dogs

The Classic stuffed Kong: This dog toy is a staple in many homes and is known for its durability and simplicity. Stuffing a Kong is easy and there are lots of “recipes” you can try to mix it up for your dog. Variety is the spice of life!

“Find Your Treats” Game: A fun brain game for your dog is putting their nose to work to find treats that you’ve hidden around your home. You can set up this game for your dog when you’re at home or when you leave them alone. Foraging for food is a great way to burn excess energy and keep your dog’s brain engaged for a longer amount of time. Start easy when you first introduce this game:

– Put your dog in a sit-stay and place treats around them.
– Say “find your treats” and encourage them to get all the treats.
– Gradually increase the difficulty of where you hide the treats — you might need to help them with harder hiding spots at first, but they’ll catch on quickly and will start looking when they hear the cue “find your treats.”

Watch this video to see this game in action.

When setting up this game as a scavenger hunt for when your dog is home alone, hide the treats when your dog is in a separate room or outside in the yard and can’t see you. Make some hiding spots easy so your dog stays motivated to search. As you leave, give them their cue to “find your treats!”. You can use a variety of treats in this game, from their regular kibble to training treats to stuffed Kongs.

Watch this video to learn how to make a snuffle mat for your dog.

Dog Puzzles: Puzzles provide great mental enrichment for your dog and strengthens your dog’s problem-solving skills. You can purchase dog puzzles or easily create your own DIY dog puzzles. Start with the easiest level and help your dog if they start to get frustrated. Once they get the hang of it, you can switch out different puzzles and vary the difficulty levels.

The Lumoleaf Treat Ball is a fun interactive toy that has different difficulty levels your dog can work through. The Slow Feeder Spinning Treat Puzzle or the JW Amaze-a-Ball is a great way to feed your dog their regular meals and exercise their brain at the same time. Dogs who have to work for their meal out of a puzzle will often need a nap afterwards because of all the hard work they’ve done.

Does your dog just love to de-stuff toys? An easy way to make a fun puzzle for these dogs is stuffing a Hol-ee Roller Ball with different kinds of “filling,” from fleece strips wrapped around treats to tissue paper that you’re okay with your dog ripping up. Watch this video to see how. *Make sure you are there to supervise when giving your dog a puzzle like this. Here are some videos that show you ways to use things you most likely have around the house to make some fun DIY dog puzzles:

Two Dog Puzzles using PVC

Spin the Bottle Puzzle

Bully Stick Puzzle and Egg Carton Puzzle

Paper Roll Tubes Puzzle

The Two-Minute Training Game: Training is the quintessential brain game for your dog!  You don’t have to set aside a large amount of time to train either. Take two minutes a few times throughout the day to focus on training a fun trick like Roll Over or Play Dead. Some great times for a quick training break are right before mealtimes (you can use a few pieces of their kibble as their reward), outside after they’ve taken a potty break, or during television commercial breaks. Not only is this good brain work, but it also makes training easier as dogs have short attention spans and absorb new information better if they get multiple short sessions throughout the day.

Hide-and-Seek: Playing hide-and-seek is a perfect game for rainy days when you just can’t bring yourself to want to take a longer walk. Similar to the “Find Your Treats” game described above, but instead of treats your dog has to use their nose to find you! Wait until your dog is not paying much attention to you or in another room. The first time you play this game, hide somewhere easy (around the corner or behind an open door). Call their name, just once, and wait. If you don’t hear them starting to search for you, encourage them with some enticing noises or by shuffling your feet around. When they find you have a big party with lots of praise and petting, even treats or toys if you want. As you practice this game with your dog, you can start hiding in harder-to-find places.

Snuffle Mats: Snuffle mats are a fun way for your dog to forage for their kibble or treats. By spreading the food throughout the mat, the dog has to sniff around and push the fabric out of the way to get to the treats. It’s also a great way to slow down your dog’s eating if they tend to inhale their food. You can purchase pre-made snuffle mats like one from AWOOF or make your own!