5 Fun Dog Brain Games

Written on May 31, 2019 by John Woods, Guest Writer (All Things Dogs)

We all know how important daily exercise is for our pups; it gives them the chance to sniff, explore, and even burn off some energy before you’re off to the grocery store.

But, keeping your dog’s mind active could also be one of the most important things you do as an owner.

When given the choice, animals will always choose a more complex environment, so we need to keep them stimulated. Not only can it distract from potentially destructive and anxious behaviors, it can also ward off cognitive decline as they age.

We have put together our top five fun brain games to keep your dog’s mind busy!


1) Raggy Knot

This is great for food orientated pooches. It can be a brilliant way to keep them occupied or simply make them work for their dinner!

Note: not for extreme chewers and always supervise while your dog plays.

How to play:

  1. Cut a kitchen towel into three lengths.
  2. Tie them all together at one end and plait the lengths together.
  3. Put treats or kibble into the overlaps of the plait.
  4. Watch him/her have fun! They will have to snuffle and gnaw to get at the food. Just be mindful that they don’t decide to chew through the plait instead!

Dog Food


2) Name That Toy

Great for pups who love their toys and are super-quick at picking up commands.

How to play:

  1. Start with one toy, a ball for example.
  2. Throw the ball across the floor. Your dog will likely automatically retrieve the ball for you.
  3. As they touch the ball with their mouth, label/call it “ball.” Once they have brought you the toy, praise and reward them.
  4. Repeat several times.
  5. Introduce another toy, on its own. Do exactly the same thing to label it.
  6. Now for the test: leave both of the toys out and ask your dog to bring you just the one. They should bring you the correct toy.
  7. Once you are confident they are correctly identifying their toys, you can add more to to the mix and again test them with multiple toys out!

Jamie Running


3) Tidy Up Time

Building on Name That Toy, you can stretch your pup a little bit more and get them to help with cleanup.

How to play:

  1. As your dog retrieves the toys to you, hold your hands over a storage box allocated for their toys.
  2. As they give you the toy, move your hands out of the way so the toy drops into the box. As this happens, say “tidy!”
  3. Repeat several times with praises and rewards.
  4. Eventually, you should get to a point that your dog will tidy their toys away on command. A great one to get the kids involved with!

Jeff Playing in the Apartment


4) Burrito Time

Another great game for those food orientated pooches, and slow down those fast eaters with just some things from the cupboard!

Note: again, not for extreme chewers and always supervise while your dog plays.

How to play:

  1. Find a bath towel and fold it onto itself, folding one way and then the other.
  2. Once it is completely folded, tie the ends together with some string or ribbon.
  3. Place treats or kibble into the folds of the towel.
  4. Watch him/her have fun! Your dog will have to forage their way through the folds to get at the treats or meal.

John with Melissa


5) Muffin Tin Madness

This is a fun game to make your dog work for some treats or their food and keep them busy for a while.

How to play:

  1. Find a muffin tin and a selection of your dog’s toys or balls.
  2. Place treats or kibble into the muffin tin holes.
  3. Place balls or toys over the treats/food, so they sit on the outside edge of the holes.
  4. Give to your dog. Your dog will need to to maneuver around the toys/balls or totally remove them from the tin to get to the treats/food.
  5. If you have a fast eater, you can also turn the muffin tin over and spread kibble around the muffin holes. This will keep them occupied a little bit longer!


Just like exercise should be a regular part of your routine, mental stimulation should be for your four-legged friend too. You will soon find out which games they excel at and truly love! Be creative, they will surely love you for it.

John-Woods-SmallJohn Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, a digital dog publication teaching 40M people about how to care for their dogs. As well as being the senior editor for multiple dog magazines, he is a dog trainer and pet author.

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