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Animals | June 25, 2022

5 Brain Games for Your Dog

According to canine research shared by the American Psychological Association, the average dog can understand more than 150 words. That puts them on par with a human toddler. Like dogs, human 2-year-olds spend a lot of their time sleeping and eating. But, they also do a lot of learning and using their brain. Tera Dschaak-James, certified professional dog trainer and co-owner of Training Spot (, shared several trips to mentally stimulate your dog to improve their quality of life.

Why is Mental Stimulation Good for Dogs?

If you’ve ever tried to tire your dog out with long walks or a day of errands, you know it doesn’t always work. Some canines can go all day and still have enough energy to play fetch for an hour. Sadly, a lack of mental stimulation can lead to abandonment when a dog continually exhibits hyperactive and anxious behavior. But that can all change when you incorporate mental stimulation.

According to Tera, brain games for dogs can help with anxiety and depression, as well as alleviate destructive behaviors and make dogs happier and healthier.

Food Puzzles

Mental stimulation is almost as good as physical stimulation to tire a dog, Tera explained when asked about some of her favorite brain games for dogs. “One of the best ways to mentally stimulate them is by incorporating all meals with food puzzle mats and bowls,” she added.

As the dog works to eat their meal, they’ll be confronted by simple puzzles and obstacles to get the food out.

Want to try this tip without buying a special mat or bowl? Household items work just fine.
“You can simply put their food into a muffin tin and cover each opening with a tennis ball,” Tera said. “They’ll have to remove the tennis balls to get to the food.”

Looking for a quick and easy food puzzle to occupy your pooch for a bit? Throw their meal into the lawn and let them work at finding every morsel.

Coastal tip: do you have an anxious dog? Look for licking mats and bowls to help calm their mind. Add their favorite wet food or baby food to the surface and allow them to lick their way to a tired brain.

Take Them on a “Snifari”

Dogs have amazing noses. As Tera explains, allowing your dog to do all the sniffing they want can and will tire them out.

“Sniffing for a dog is like our favorite social media,” Tera said with a laugh. “It’s everything they love. As they sniff, they’re getting all of the day’s gossip. You don’t even have to go on that long of a walk to tire them out. A 10-minute snifari in your front yard can make a huge difference.”

Do Five-Minutes of Training

Everything from hide-and-seek to fetch, sit, stay, lay down, and more can mentally stimulate a dog. Plus, it helps work on their obedience training. This can include agility training, with ramps and jumps in the park or your own backyard.

Guess-the-Hand and Go-Find-it

Put your dog’s favorite treat in one hand and then present both hands to the dog. Tell them to choose a hand and open the one they touch with their nose or paw. Allow them to guess until they get the treat.

The game of go-find-it is as simple as putting the dog in a room (behind a closed door) and hiding treats throughout the house. Then open the door and tell them to “go find it.”

Pre-box Recycling

Before you recycle your delivery boxes, use them to mentally stimulate your dog. As Tera explains, you tuck some food into the boxes while Scrappy isn’t looking, and then allow them to dive into the boxes to get the treats. This can be a fun activity for cats as well.

Coastal Loves Pets

Stop by your West Coast-owned and operated Coastal and pick up all the necessities you’ll need for a weekend of camping or simply hanging around the homestead. That includes food, clothing, backpacks, beds, and treats for your favorite four-legged family member.


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