Some dogs are content to sleep on the couch all day and snuggle with their owners. Others are higher energy and require plenty of exercise, both physical and mental, to remain happy and healthy. Games and puzzles provide owners with fun ways to bond with their dogs, while simultaneously tiring them out. This is especially important if your dog is a working breed, such as a herding or hunting dog.
Interactive puzzles persuade dogs to use their brains in order to receive treats. This helps tire your dog out mentally, and is fun and rewarding. Higher-energy dogs, such as border collies or sheepdogs, require more mental stimulation than lower-energy breeds, which is why interactive puzzles are so important for working dogs. Pet stores supply numerous types of interactive puzzles. Treat balls conceal treats, and the dog must work out how to get the treat out. Other toys are made of wood and are similar to children’s puzzle games, requiring the dog to use its natural movements and instincts to figure out each puzzle.
Hide and Go Seek
Play hide and go seek with your dog to tap into his doggy senses such as sight, sounds and smell. Before you start this game, it is important for your dog to know basic commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “come.” This game will help reinforce these commands as well as providing an outlet for your pooch’s energy. Put your dog in a “sit stay” and walk away until you’re just out of sight. Call your dog to you and praise her when she comes. As your dog begins to understand the game, try hiding in less obvious places, such as behind the couch or the door. Your dog will have to use his other senses to find you, which will tire him out in no time.
Similar to hide and go seek, a doggy treasure hunt allows your dog to use his senses to find his favorite treat or toy. The first time you play this game, put your dog in a “sit stay” and place a treat or toy a few feet away, still within sight. Walk back to your dog and ask “where’s the treat?” Praise your dog when she goes to the treat or toy, then start moving it further away. Once she gets the idea, place the treat or toy out of sight in another room, in an obvious place such as next to the door. As your dog gets better at the game, you can start being more creative with your hiding places.
Start a game of soccer with your canine companion. Playing soccer together helps you to bond, while helping your pooch burn energy. Kick a soccer ball gently toward your dog. He might try to bite it at first, but he’ll quickly realize it’s too big for his mouth. If your dog starts nosing or pawing at the ball, praise him to encourage him to keep going. As your dog begins to understand the game, encourage him to nose the ball back toward you. Volley the ball back and forth, and get some friends or family members to join in if your dog seems to enjoy himself. If your dog is too small to handle a soccer ball, use a soft rubber ball instead.
Writing since 2009, Catherine Hiles is a British writer currently living Stateside. Her articles appear on websites covering topics in animal health and training, lifestyle and more. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Chester in the United Kingdom.