Playtime with Your Pup: Games & Toys
Have you met “The Smartest Dog in the World”? In 2014, 60 Minutes introduced the world to Chaser, a border collie with a vocabulary of more than one thousands words. Woah.Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your dog knew the difference between your shoes and boots and could bring them on command? You may not have the time (or patience) to teach your dog a thousand words. That’s okay. There are easy ways to increase your dog’s intelligence and decrease boredom if you’re not home. Before we suggest seven simple ways to make your dog smarter, you must first give your pet a strong base.
Start With a Solid Foundation of Training
You may have taken your young pup to one or two obedience courses when you first got him. Did you stop training after those beginning classes? The old adage you can’t teach an old dog new tricks isn’t as accurate as you may think.
According to research from the University of Milan, the more you train a dog, the smarter they become. Researchers from the university’s psychology department conducted a study of 110 dogs. Half the dogs had minimal obedience training while the other half had much more schooling. The dogs were given a test to find hidden food. Even though their earlier training had nothing to do with hunting food, 60% of dogs with more training discovered the treats. Only 30% of the minimally trained dogs found them. Once you’ve taken your dog to obedience courses, you’re able to increase their intelligence with continued training.
1. Sniff It Out
Time for a little nose work. A snuffle mat is a great way to exercise your pup’s sensory and cognitive skills. Or try a modified version of the shell game. Start with one of your dog’s favorite treats. Once you’ve gotten her attention with the treat, show your pup three different cups. Hide the treat under one cup and switch the cups around until neither you nor the dog knows where the treat is hiding. Your dog probably doesn’t know this common “hustler” trick, so she’ll enjoy sniffing out the reward. Add some real incentive with single ingredient treats – dogs will do practically anything for them!
2. The Puzzler
If you’d rather watch him interact with a toy, consider purchasing a puzzle to engage your dog. Games that are made to teach your dog cause and effect through flipping knobs and sliding disks are great options. Like all dog training, the ultimate goal for your pup is nabbing a treat. By playing with a toy, your pet will use different techniques to get his reward. Consider leaving your dog with the toy when you’re not home to occupy his time.
3. DIY Agility Test
You can use items around your house (think: pillows, cushions, chairs, low tables) to create an agility course for your pooch. Yes, there are physical benefits to these tests, but there are intellectual perks, too. An obstacle course forces your dog to concentrate on the task at hand. He must be obedient to complete the course and earn his reward. Once your dog masters the test, change the course around to continue encouraging his intellectual growth.
4. Increase IQ Through Treats
Another favorite for a pup’s brain development is an “IQ Treat Ball.” The inexpensive treat dispenser combines fetch with food. Your dog will benefit from mental and physical exercise with this toy. Fill the ball with kibble, toss it across the room. As the ball rolls, it will release treats. Your dog will be able to retrieve them from the ball, and you can increase difficulty by making the opening smaller. This is another one to leave with the pup when she’s home alone.
5. Hide and Seek
This game isn’t just for kids, it will also stimulate your dog’s mind. Before you can play, your dog needs to learn the “stay” command. Once she’s got that down, you’re ready to go. The rules are simple. Tell your dog to sit and stay. Find a hiding place. Call for your dog. When your dog finds you, offer her praise and a good ear scratch.
6. Stack the Rings
Another favorite for little humans and canines alike is ring stacking. Your dog may love playing with a ring stacker, too. Like other types of training, you can use a clicker to positively reinforce your pet each time he learns to place a ring on the stack. Of course, treats will encourage your pup along as he adds each ring. It may sound impossible, but check out videos of dogs stacking the rings.
7. Pick Up and Drop Off
Get your dog to help with chores by training them to drop off toys in a basket. Like ring stacking, clicker training helps with this one. If you’ve taught your dog to “drop it”, you can slowly mold the behavior, one click and treat at a time. Start with one toy, and over time you can increase the number of toys they pick up and drop off in the proper location.
Learning isn’t just a lifelong habit for humans. If you want a smarter dog, you must encourage training and obedience throughout their whole life!
About Walk’n Dogs – A Dog Care Company | Winter Springs, FL
Rachel has been working in the Pet Care Industry for the last few years and started her career in a local Canine Health & Fitness Center that also incorporated canine hydrotherapy, dog daycare & boarding. While working at Rocky’s Retreat, under the previous ownership of Sherri Cappabianca and Toby Gass, Rachel became certified in canine hydrotherapy and they taught her everything she knows about canine care, hydrotherapy, health and fitness.
Rachel is currently the owner/founder of Dip’n Dogs Canine Hydrotherapy and Walk’n Dogs – A Dog Walking Service in the Orlando, FL area. Dip’n Dogs provides water therapy for dogs with any orthopedic condition, degenerative disease, injury or obesity. Walk’n Dogs provides in-home visits for dog walking, pet sitting, pet taxi and pet errands. Each service is customized to fit each dog and their needs. Walk’n Dogs caters to Winter Park, Baldwin Park, Maitland, Casselberry, Winter Springs & Oviedo, FL.
Rachel is also the owner and dog mom to her two beagles, Leo and Lola.