Food for thought

Toys, games and activities for those brainy dogs

Food for thought

As dog owners we’d like to think that our dogs are intelligent, and in all probability they truly are. Dogs have gone through the ages hounding us up the evolutionary tree, always faithfully by our side, for a significant portion of human history. It is therefore not farfetched to believe that some of our evolutionary pressure to develop more complex brains, able to fathom more abstract things, has rubbed off on our dogs too. Dogs and humans have also relied on each other for the development of better, more efficient hunting methods. The incorporation of higher levels of meat protein in our diets is thought to have allowed us to evolve our highly complex brains. Both parties have benefited from this partnership, and it is very reasonable to believe that this inter-species collaboration and scavenging behaviour shown by dogs allowed them to evolve and acquire new mental capabilities when compared to wolves. All these changes have ultimately resulted in domestication.

It is a fact, however, that some dogs are brainier then others. It is not uncommon for intelligent dogs to get involved in all kinds of mischief and tire their owners out. Highly intelligent dogs are also usually high energy ones, and need a lot of activity and stimulation. Having said this, stimulating such dogs shouldn’t solely rely on exerting them to the point of exhaustion but one should also stimulate them mentally through mentally challenging tasks where they must utilize most of their mental capabilities. It is usually easy to get your dog involved in these games and activities by incorporating food in order to keep them concentrated and motivated.

Below are a few examples of toys and activities that can rattle your dog’s marbles.

Dog puzzles

Dog puzzles are a great way to occupy your intelligent dog. These can come in different complexities in order to keep your dog occupied for as long as possible. There are one part puzzles where the dog has to figure out one method how to get the food out; these are usually the easiest of the dog puzzle toys. The brightest dogs figure these out a bit too quickly, solving them within a couple of minutes. For such dogs one can find toys with multiple moving parts, forcing the dog to experiment and do more complex movements in order to solve the puzzle and get to its yummy reward. One can find various puzzles to buy over the internet. Make sure that the puzzles have no choking hazards and that they are made to withstand a dog’s chewing and rough handling.


It is good for intelligent dogs to have a purpose. Highly intelligent working dog breeds have an innate desire to do something productive. It might be a recurrent theme in our blogs but we cannot stress enough that a dog provided with a purpose or the opportunity to do something productive is usually a happy dog. Enroll your dog to obedience training, schutzhund classes or take part in agility training. If your dog is a herding breed it is also possible to take your dog to herding lessons. Hunting dogs can also be taken out in the countryside to fool around doing what they do best, pestering the local wildlife; you can still enjoy this activity even if you are not a hunter. In that case make sure that your dog does not get its mental release by harming other animals and wildlife.

Treasure hunt

This is another game that you can do with your dog if you don’t have the time to take him out for an exhausting activity. Hide treats all over your house and have your dog find them. This game is sure to occupy your dog for the rest of the day if you manage to find some tricky hiding places. Increase the difficulty of the task as your dog starts to become better at it. Do not forget to check the hiding places at the end of the day. Make sure you collect all treats in case these end up attracting some unwanted visitors such as rats.

Hot and cold

Decide on an object that you want your dog to bring you. Start giving your dog treats the closer it gets to the particular object while enthusiastically saying “Hot!” and stop giving treats to the dog the further away it moves from the object while quietly saying “Cold”. It might take some time until your dog gets the hang of the game but it is a sure way to get your dog’s head in a twist. As the dog becomes better at the game you can start teaching the dog names of particular objects and make the dog bring those objects to you.

Bring and drop on command

Using the method mentioned above (or other methods) one can teach a dog the name of particular objects. Give names to your dog’s toys and teach him as many of them as possible. Get the dog to learn the name of all of its toys and teach it to drop them at your feet on command. This activity involves a lot of brain power as it gets your dog to recall and associate a name to a particular object. This is a practical trick to teach your dog, as you can get your dog to bring a particular object when you have no idea where it put it. A different version of this trick is to get your dog to clear up its toys after playtime. How cool is that?!

Dog tricks

If your dog is still running circles around you, engage with your dog by teaching it tricks. If patience is your virtue this can be a very rewarding activity since teaching tricks to your dog often is a very good bonding experience with your pet. You will learn to understand those individual quirks in your dog that make it an individual. Interacting on this level is sure to keep both you and your dog entertained … you might also get to entertain a few friends and relatives in the future.

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