Dogs love using their noses so make use of it in a constructive fun way with these dog friendly games for mental stimulation:
1- WHICH HAND? This is the simplest of all games. With food or toy in only one hand, show both closed hands to the dog. Ask, “Which one?” you may improve on this game by insisting he touch with a paw or scratch lightly at the correct hand before receiving his treat, or simply have his nose bump your hand. And if he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand but DO NOT GIVE THE TREAT! Just try again. Add some dramatic flair to this, dog’s love a good show.
2- LIGHTS OUT- This one is a whole lot of great fun for the dog. Show your dog a treat (preferably crunchy) or his favorite toy, and then place it out of his sight but easily accessible in a dark room. Tell him to “Find it” and follow him in to listen for his success, which you will praise enthusiastically. He gets a treat or finds his toy plus a very happy you. If you are using a toy, be sure to reward his find with some play before starting again.
Using multiple toys or treats helps build persistence and trust in you. He may find 2 out of 3, but quickly finds that persistence in searching when you say the “find it” command pays off. He learns to believe you – there really is another one out there. Then when you say “that’s it” the command will mean exactly that, there are no other cookies or toys to be found.
Now you can increase the difficulty of this game by hiding the cookies in less accessible places (like in a shoe, or a low shelf.) You can practice this outside as well as inside.
3- HIDE AND SEEK. This is a doggy favorite and is best played at night or in a darkened house initially. Partially closed closets are great, as are shower stalls/tubs with curtain drawn, standing behind an open door, crouching behind a bush, standing very still near a tree or sitting on a picnic table or lying across your car’s trunk or under the bed.
Have someone hold the dog, while you leave. They should be verbally exciting to the dog, asking” Where did she go? What if she gets lost? Can you find her? And release the dog with “FIND” command.
Give the dog a chance to work it out, but if he passes you more than twice, give him a clue by making a noise AFTER he’s passed you the third time. Such as clearing your throat or a short whistle that does not allow the dog to find you by using his ears, but helps to target the general area you are in.
Hope you and your dog enjoy these games!
For even more training and behavior tips, visit The Pee Press!