How smart are dogs? The dogs best known for intelligence are the hunters and herders.
The border collie, standard poodles and German shepherd are largely regarded as the most intelligent of dog breeds.
On the other end of the line we have the Pekingese, bull dog, chow chow and, to the shame of Peanuts fans everywhere, the beagle.
The beagle, like the famous Snoopy character, is not exactly stupid (in fact, may be rather intelligent) but he just wants to do things his way and can get very stubborn.
The Pekingese has a reputation akin to blondes among humans, all looks and nothing more.
Actually, it’s pampering that causes them to act alternately dimwitted and dominating. Bull dogs and chow chows are known for being dumb muscle.
The truth is, they’re just very stubborn, domineering and bred for defense.
Any dog, even the ones with a reputation for being dim, can benefit from mental stimulation. Here are some tips to challenge a dog’s mind.
Top Tips & Tricks To Challenge Your Puppy’s Mind
#1 Basic Commands and Tricks
For a very young or untrained dog, you can start by teaching him some very basic commands.
They are not only mind enriching but they can get your dog to be more well-behaved.
Though some dogs are clever enough to learn hundreds of commands, there are seven basic commands a dog should know.
Your dog should learn sit, down, stay, come, off, leave it and heel. Once you have the basics down, you can teach your dog other tricks.
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#2 Work On A New Trick
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can move on to something else. After all, you don’t stop teaching reading with “The Little Engine That Could”.
You move on to Charlotte’s Web, then Dickens and on to Shakespeare. You may have to stimulate your own mind to come up with a new trick.
The internet and books should give you some ideas. Taking an obedience course will mentally stimulate both of you and help your dog socialize with other dogs.
#3 Dogs Love The Tennis Ball And Muffin Tin Game
You just place a few treats in a muffin tin and cover them up with tennis balls. See how long it takes Fido to figure out how to get his treats.
Unlike with the contestants playing Punch-A-Bunch, let Fido have as many chances as he wants to get to his treats.
Puppies just big enough to pick up tennis balls will love this game, but any dog who likes treats (that’s every dog) is sure to enjoy it.
#4 Play The Shell Game With Your Dog
Here’s a game known as thimblerig, The Old Army Game and three card Monte (when cards are used).
It’s called the shell game game due to use of walnut shells or seashells when played at a nautical themed carnival.
Some people use bottle caps but with dogs you might want to use something bigger like party cups.
Get your dog’s attention and have him watch you put a treat under a cup.
Mix the cups around while your dog watches and see if he can find the cup his treat is hiding under.
#5 Make A Food Puzzle Game For Your Dog
You can sharpen your dog’s problem solving skills and activate his hunting instincts by making puzzles that reward your dog with a treat for solving them.
There are toys on the market that you can fill with a treat and let Fido busy himself trying to get it. Here is something you can make if you’ve got that DIY spirit.
You take some cardboard tubes or small boxes and string them on an old scarf like a beaded necklace.
Hide some treats in the cardboard and see how long it takes your dog to get to all the treats.
You can shake the toy a bit and let Fido think he just saved you from a giant snake.
#6 Play Hide-and-Seek
While your dog is preoccupied with digging and sniffing, go hide somewhere.
Fido will start to wonder where you are and come looking for you.
Bloodhounds, like Trusty from Lady and the Tramp, are not known for being very smart but their keen sense of smell and instinct to find people means they in particular will love this game.
#7 Engage Pup’s Gray Matter With Automation
You might not have the ability to play fetch with your puppy dog every moment of the day, but automated toys can keep him entertained for you.
Fetch is a very good way to enrapture all five of your pooch’s senses senses to keep his mind active.
An automated fetch thrower invites your dog to not only retrieve the ball but return it promptly to the thrower in order to get the next throw.
#8 Run Errands With Your Dog
It’s been said that a change is as good as a rest. A simple change of scenery can be mentally stimulating to your dog.
Take her with you when you check your mail. If you have friends who like dogs, bring Fido when you visit them.
Your dog may like to ride in the car.
Because it is never good to leave a dog in a car, maybe restrict it to trips where you won’t have to leave such as the drive-thru at the bank or the car wash.
#9 Teach Your Dog To Put Their Toys Away
This training exercise is not only mentally stimulating but can keep your house clean as well.
Before you can teach your dog this trick you must teach him “take it” and “drop it”. Get a basket to keep Fido’s toys in and keep it in one place for consistency.
Put the toys next to the basket and sit nearby. Touch a toy and give the “take it” command.
Use a treat to lure his head over to the basket. Then, you give the “drop it” command.
Tell him he’s a good dog and give him a treat. Keep practicing and gradually move the toys further away.
Soon you can add the command word “Toys away”. Eventually, you will be able to do it without verbal commands.
#10 Teach Your Dogs To Help With The Chores
Your dog can exercise his mind by helping out around the house. Bringing in the paper is a rather quaint, old fashioned task.
Nowadays, most people prefer to get their news from the internet, something even the most clever dog would be hard pressed to figure out.
You can teach him to close doors. If you tie a long enough towel to the handle, you can teach him to open doors.
You can use the above trick of putting away toys to throw away trash. You teach your dog to find things, people and other pets.
You can also teach him to wake people up.
#11 Introduce Your Dog To New Faces
Introduce your dog to new faces, whether human or canine by taking him on a trip to the dog park. This means new sights, sounds and smells to process.
Engaging the senses engages the mind. Well socialized dogs are less anxious and listen better.
Let Fido sniff and let him be petted by people who will be gentle with him. He will love the attention.
You can meet with other dog owners and set up playdates with your dogs.
#12 Give Them New Toys And Rotate Out The Old Ones
Here’s a child care tip that works on dogs too.
Have a few toys stowed away somewhere so that when your dog seems to tire of one toy, you can switch it out for another.
After a while, reintroduce the old toy, which will seem new to Fido. Rotate toys out so that the novelty of your dog’s toys never wears thin.
#13 Teach Your Old Dog New Tricks
Despite what an old adage would tell you, this is possible. Do a little research to learn about new tricks your dog can learn.
Your dog should know the basics like sit, come, stay and heel. There are some other tricks that are just fun.
Can your dog wave good-bye? Can he twirl in a circle on command?
Some dogs are clever enough to learn left from right.
What does a dog do on three legs that a man does standing up and a lady sitting down?
That’s right! Shake hands!
Lots of dogs can be taught to shake hands but can you teach yours to give a high five?
#14 Create A Scavenger Hunt In The Backyard Or Inside Your Home
The traditional scavenger hunt with a list of odd items may be a bit much for your dog, who can’t read, of course.
But here’s a twist on the game that your dog may find entertaining. Mealtime can be a bit dull for dogs.
Same food, same time, same quantity. You can do what they do in zoos to keep animals from becoming too bored and listless.
Hide a little bit of Fido’s food throughout the house or backyard. Your dog will love playing this game!
#15 Online Learning For Dogs
The detailed instructions and how-to videos will aid you in recording your dog’s responses.
You can start with a profile report that will give you some clues as to what training techniques may be best for your dog.
#16 Take Your Dog To New Places
Stimulate your dog’s mind with a change of scenery. Change up the routine of your walk.
Take your dog to a dog park. There are some al fresco eateries that are dog friendly, friendly dogs.
If dogs are allowed at a nearby beach, maybe take Fido there for a run in the surf. A lake or pond would be a great place for a dog who likes to swim.
If you have the time and inclination, maybe you can take your dog on a road trip or camping vacation.
#17 Teach Your Dogs The Names Of Their Toys
This is a little advanced but it can be done. Just follow these easy steps.
- Start with your dog’s favorite toy. Put it on the floor and ask your dog to get it, using the name of the toy. (Ball, bone, rope, etc.)
- Praise and treat your dog when he gets the toy. Keep this up until you’re sure your dog has learned the name of the toy.
- Add two odd items net to the toy and ask your dog to get the toy. Reward him if he is successful.
- Do it again, adding another toy. Reward your dog for bringing you the right object.
- Repeat the process with another toy.
- Put the two learned toys together with an odd object. Tell your dog to bring you one of the toys. Reward him when he gets it right.
- Repeat this until your dog knows the names of all of his toys. Some dogs may only be able to learn a few. Some dogs may be able to learn dozens if not nearly a hundred items.
#18 Scent Or Essence Training
This training is used to teach dogs to find contraband. Your dog doesn’t have to be a breed commonly used by police and military.
Any dog with a good sense of smell can learn. Prepare some Q-Tips by applying two drops of birch oil while wearing disposable gloves.
Handle the Q-Tips with tweezers and put them in a scent vessel. (A clean mint tin with a few holes drilled in it should work)
The teaching process should go in the following order.
- Hold a treat in one hand and the scent vessel in the other. Hold them about a foot apart.
- Your dog will of course want to explore the hand with the treat first. Don’t let him have it just yet. When your dog turns his attention to the scent vessel, praise him and give him the treat. Remember to feed him at the source of the smell.
- Do this several times, making it completely random which hand has the scent and which one has the treat.
- When your dog immediately goes for the scent three times in a row, it’s time to move on to the next step.
- Put the scent vessel in a plastic container.
- Repeat the above steps holding the plastic container. Reward your dog for getting it right.
- Do it again, only this time put the container on the floor.
- When you can hide the container in a room and your dog can find it, the scent training is complete.
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Which of these suggestions did you like best? I’ve tried the rest hiding trick.
Perhaps this game is best done with one dog at a time.
Otherwise, a dog not so good at figuring out such puzzles may let the smarter dog figure it out and just snatch the treat away before the one who deserves it can get it.
Which have these have you tried? Which would you like to try?
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Please feel free to recommend any tips you may have.