Mind Games for Dogs Every Dog Loves!

Do you worry that your dog isn’t as mentally enriched as possible? I know I’ve often pondered this question. My dog, Henry doesn’t care for dog toys. Thus, the typical metal stimulation toys don’t pique his interest. Is your dog the same way? Yet, it’s just as important to keep your dog’s mind engaged as it is for you. I’ve discovered and come up with a few that work well for any dog. This includes those dogs that don’t like dog toys. Today, let’s dig in and discover some amazing mind games for dogs that every dog loves. Henry certainly approves of these mealtime brain games and one is his absolute favorite!

Does your dog hate dog toys? In this article, I share how your dog really wants to play.

a dog waits to play mind games for dogs
Budget tip:

A great aspect of dogs is that they don’t need extra things to be engaged. You can create it easily. As such, even if your dog doesn’t like toys, you can still stimulate your dog’s mind daily. I’ve learned how to do it for Henry. Honestly, it’s rather easy and it’s free. That’s a huge win-win for Henry and for my pocketbook! What could be better?

Why is metal stimulation for dogs important? 

It’s like anything, when the brain isn’t fully engaged issues will begin to develop. However, when your dog is mentally stimulated the benefits can unfold and issues be avoided or resolved altogether. 

What are the benefits of using mind games for dogs?

You might be surprised by all the benefits that simple mental stimulation for your dog can provide. They include:

  • Confidence boost
  • Decline in negative behaviors (such as barking, digging, chewing, and jumping)
  • Reduce separation anxiety 
  • Increase cognitive functions, especially important for the senior dog
  • Balance overly energetic dogs
  • Decrease depression
  • Give dogs a job
  • Increases mental stamina (much like aerobic exercise)
  • Helps to provide a healthy calm outlet for growing puppies
  • Decreases boredom, especially when housebound or recovering from surgery
  • Encourages picky eaters to eat

Honestly, Henry often won’t eat without playing a brain game. 

Note: If your dog loves toys you can purchase a mental stimulation dog toy like a dog puzzle toy. 

What kind of mind games for dogs would be easy to implement for my dog?

There are a multitude of dog simulation games available on the market. Additionally, there are various dog mental stimulation toys. However, if your dog is like Henry, and refuses to play with toys, then you need to get a bit clever with your mind games. Personally, I like mealtime games. Thus, the ones I’m sharing today are all focused around mealtime. However, you could easily play them at different times. Here are five great ideas that work very nicely as a mind game at mealtime for your dog. Plus, every dog seems to love them equally well, which is a huge bonus! 

Do you know that overfeeding your dog can cost you a lot of money? In this article, I go through all the details. 

1. Scavenger hunt mealtime mind games for dogs

Admittedly, Henry loves this game. I swear he’s part bloodhound. Honestly, besides a basset hound or beagle, I’ve never seen a dog lead by his nose as much. In short, this game is very easy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dog food (yep, like I said this is mealtime)

Multiple small plates or bowls (optional). Actually, I usually just hide his food without a plate or bowl. I have wood floors and Henry’s pretty quick. But this also depends on the type of food you feed.

How to play:

Hide the food throughout the house (or in one specific room, which is what I generally do). Remember under and behind chairs and tables is great to challenge your dog. 

Remember, don’t let your dog see where you hide the goodies. 

Thus, when the food is discovered it becomes a found or hidden treat! 

Finally, let your dog enter the room and have a go at sniffing out the food treats. Henry gets such joy out of finding bits and pieces here and there. It’s almost like a kid at Christmas. 

Bonus: I’ve even placed some food in Henry’s bed, which always thrills him! 

Are you tired of buying dog treats for your pup every few weeks? In this article, I share how you can save a lot of money on dog cookies. 

2. Catch (or get) the food is a great mind game for dogs

Without a doubt, this is Henry’s favorite mealtime brain game. It’s super simple! The best part is Henry gets to be active and search for his food a bit. Besides he loves it when he finds his treasures of food. 

Here’s what you’ll need for this mealtime brain game:

Dog food (simple, right?)

Here’s how to play:

Also, you’ll want to play in a room or space with flooring that can handle food being thrown. Thus, you probably will want to avoid a carpeted room. As I mentioned, my floors are wood and work well for this game. Although, you could go outside if you have a clean patio free of chemicals, ants, and other harmful products and items. 

In short, what I do for Henry is throw a few pieces of food out to him. I try to get the food to places where he’ll have to work to get to it such as under a chair or behind a table. As a result, it makes it extra fun for him and more stimulating and challenging as well. 

Henry enjoying mind games for dogs at mealtime
Henry loves playing mealtime brain games.

Are you wondering if fish oil would be good for your dog? In this article, I share how it can actually save you money. 

3. Which hand also works well for mealtime mind games for dogs

This is kind of a combo of games. Or, at least it is the way I play it with Henry.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dog food (I know, easy, yet effective).

Here’s how to play:

First, have your dog sit or at least get your dog’s attention. 

Then grab some food, place it in one of your hands, and then close both hands. 

Show your dog both hands closed and say “Chose” or “Which hand”.

When your dog touches the hand with the food, give him/ her the food.

Then throw some more food out for an additional brain game engagement activity. Remember to try to get the food to challenging locations such as under tables.

Once the thrown food has been eaten call your dog back and repeat.  

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4. Shell game is great for a mealtime mind game for dogs

This is a fun game that your dog will love and add mental stimulation no matter if your dog is a puppy, an older dog, or anywhere in between. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dog food

At least 3 cups or some cover for the food

Here’s how to play:

To play simply have your dog sit and watch you.

First, show your dog the food and the cups. 

Next, place the food under one cup with at least two others turned over with nothing under them.

Move all three cups slowly around. 

Stop and let your dog discover which cup has the hidden food treats. 

NOTE: If your dog loses interest, then introduce a high-value dog treat. Once your dog is back in the game, then rotate back to dog food. Remember this is a mealtime brain game. 

5. Training can also be an excellent way to play mind games for dogs

Honestly, Henry loves any chance he gets to train or learn a new trick. I’m the same way. We’re both learning nerds.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dog food (optional high-value dog treats if teaching a difficult trick)

Leash

Training aids (optional)

Here’s how to play:

This is a super easy idea. Instead of using dog treats as rewards for training, you use your dog’s food. Thus, this is best done at mealtime. However, keep in mind that your dog may not be able to train for the entire bowl full of food. Therefore, you may want to combine this method with a scavenger hunt or throwing food mind games. Moreover, you could even set up an obstacle course and reward your dog each time he/she accomplishes a new task within the course. An obstacle course provides even more mental exercise for your dog.

Do you worry that you don’t have the time or money for dog training? In this article, I reveal how you can do it on your schedule and for free. 

Can providing my pup with dog mind games cut my overall dog’s expenses? 

In short, yes! I really do love the numbers part. It always brings everything home. As such, consider the following costs:

Separation anxiety$200-1500
Dementia$300-500
Depression$300-800
Dog behaviorist$50-200 (per session)

Related articles:

Summary of mind games for dogs every dog loves!

You might think if your dog refuses to play with toys you can’t stimulate his/her mind. Conversely, it’s actually very easy to provide your dog with “brain exercise”. Heck, we exercise their bodies, so why not their minds? In fact, you can do it for free and in association with mealtime and especially dog training sessions. Henry loves his mealtime dog brain games. It keeps his mind engaged. Additionally, it encourages him to eat his entire meal, which is a bonus. I couldn’t be more thrilled with these stimulating games for my furry friend. Moreover, I think Henry loves them too! 

a beautiful husky dog is anxious to play mind games for dogs

Have you ever played mind games for dogs? Will you try mealtime brain games with your dog now?

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10 thoughts on “Mind Games for Dogs Every Dog Loves!”

  1. I love Henry’s eager face. He looks SO ready for a snack and some games doesn’t he? 🙂

    Mental stimulation is not just a human thing is it? Dogs and cats need it to keep them happy i their homes and lively. I love hide and seek with Henry it made me LOL! I can imagine the fun and games.

    Reply
    • Yes, Henry does LOVE mealtime brain games. I can’t say I’d want to work so hard for my meal. LOL But our furry friends are fun that way in the games they like to play. I’m certain you’d be able to take lots of great action photos of him working for his meals. It is fun to watch and boy he does enjoy it!

      Thank you for your kind comment and continued support! I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  2. Fantastic ideas and since Layla has gone blind it has worried me that is why I bought her different snuffle toys as they keep her busy part of the day and to keep her brain working I take her to different parks as the new smells keeps her active wandering around sniffing and not getting injured

    Reply
    • A snuffle toy is a terrific way to engage Layla’s mind, especially with her being blind. I love that idea! I tried different toys that Henry had to work to get through have a treat and he just wasn’t even vaguely interested. The only thing that has worked for him are interactive mealtime games. He loves those. But when your pup hates toys, you have to get creative.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with brain games with Layla. It sounds like her brain is very active. That’s great! Thanks also for your continued support! I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply
  3. Interesting read. You often hear of mental stimulation for humans but never for animals. It’s nice to know that practicing different types of “brain ” games for dogs has so many cognitive benefits. I’ll definitely pin and share this post for other dog parents to try. Thanks for sharing this insightful post.

    Reply
    • Yes, an inactive brain, regardless in humans, cats, dogs, or anything else, can be harmful. Thus, the essential need to engage the brain with different activities and for Henry that would be a mealtime brain game. I’m glad I discovered these since he really does hate dog toys, even the mental stimulation ones. Sometimes you have to be more clever than your furry friend. LOL

      Thank you for the kind words and your continued support! I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply
  4. Ooooo, we loved mind games here! They were so much fun, and my FiveSibes loved them from puppyhood to their senior days! Shell games was always fun. I always thought I’d fool them. Ha! Silly me! So many hours of great fun with them. I love that you show the budget, too! (I always do!) because as you said, it helps with anxiety and depression. My Wolf had bouts of severe anxiety always, and when he was the “lone wolf” remaining in our pack family, he also had depression, but when I would pull out his fave puzzle, it was like a light switch…he instantly went into fun and hunt mode! (very food-motivated pups!) I even kept one of his favorite hide-n-seek puzzles. <3 Henry looks like he is enjoying himself, too! Just look at that tongue, he is ready for some yummy fun! Sharing this, of course!

    Reply
    • Awe, I bet brain games helped Wolfie. It really is fascinating to watch the light go on and the fun begin. Sounds like you enjoyed playing brain games as much as I do with Henry. I always giggle with Henry. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Wolfie. I love reading it. I’m very grateful for your continued support! Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Icy is 14 now and stopped being interested in toys about 2 years ago, which saddens me. It was so fun. But she really Loves puzzle toys! I have several at various levels and it really works her brain to get the food or treats out of them. She still enjoys Go Find too sometimes.

    Reply
    • That’s interesting that Icy lost her desire to play with toys at age 12. That would’ve sadden me as well. I know she gets to experience a lot of fun adventures that I see she really loves! I’m glad she is enjoying puzzle toys. Those can be very fun. Maybe she has left the toys for Jessie? So curious about her dropping the desire to play as she aged. I just haven’t heard that one much, but I’m certain she has a very good reason. She’s very smart! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I greatly appreciate it!

      Reply

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