How to Mentally Challenge Your Dog

How to Mentally Challenge Your Dog

Pet Psychology

Every dog owner knows that their dogs need to get enough exercise to be happy, healthy and fit, but one thing that is often overlooked is providing enough mental stimulation for dogs as well. A twice-daily walk around the block or to the same areas every day is unlikely to really fulfil your dog’s need for mental entertainment, and it is important to think about ways in which you can challenge their minds too. This is not only important in order to keep them occupied and keep them from becoming destructive, but because exposing your dog to new stimulus and making their brains work also helps to support healthy brain activity well into old age.

Mental stimulation is particularly important for intelligent dog breeds that become easily bored, such as the German Shepherd, Jack Russell, and Border Collie.

So, how can you mentally challenge your dog? Read on for some suggestions!

Work for treats!

All dogs like suitable food treats, so you can use their love of food to motivate them to work for a reward! Dog-safe toy puzzles that decant a treat when your dog susses it out are a great idea, as is hiding treats around the house and encouraging your dog to seek them out.

If your dog is particularly clever, try hiding treats under plastic cups and toys, and encourage him to find them!

Learn some new words!

Dogs cannot speak in human-language, but they can certainly recognise familiar words; such as their name, and more importantly, “walkies!”

Give some of your dog’s favourite toys and objects names that are clear, short and distinctive from each other, and work to teach your dog which is which. You should then find that you can train your dog to search for a particular toy by name, or select the right toy from the available options by singling out its name. You might be surprised to learn just how many different words and names your dog can pick up over a reasonably short period of time!

New tricks

One proverb that is 100% inaccurate is that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. While puppies and younger dogs tend to learn at a faster rate than older animals, dogs of any age can learn new skills to keep both themselves and you entertained!

If your dog already shakes hands, try “gimme five” or “gimme ten,” or teach your dog retrieving games, such as catching a ball of paper and putting it in the bin. The sky is the limit, really, and you can teach your dog all sorts of things, from spinning on the spot to barking on command.

Go somewhere new

Take the opportunity during the summer months to take your dog out to new places and explore new things. Dogs can find entertainment and stimulation in all sorts of places, and taking them out into the countryside with all of its assorted sights and smells will be highly beneficial to your dog. Visits to the beach, new places, and different environments will all help to keep your dog on his toes and entertained too.

Make new friends

Dogs are social animals, and most dogs are delighted to meet new friends, be they canine or human. Does your dog have a best canine buddy? If so, look for opportunities to let them play together, and see if you can find new dog parks and pals for your dog to meet when you go out too.

If your dog is a real people pleaser, how about taking them to visit your friends with you, or going to busy areas where other dog lovers can get to know your dog and say hi to them? Also, if there are other trustworthy, reliable dog lovers in your local area, might they like the idea of taking your dog out for a walk with them, for a change for your dog and a rest for you? Ask around!


Not all dog breeds are capable of swimming well, and even among dogs that can, not all of them love the water! However, many breeds of dog find swimming, splashing around and playing in water highly entertaining, so see what you can do to enable this. Dog-safe streams and ponds can provide opportunities for swimming, while trips to the beach will provide a whole range of stimulus for your dog as well as the chance to swim.

Even a paddling pool in the garden during the summer months can be fun for dogs, as well as giving them a welcome opportunity to cool down! Hosepipes and sprinkler systems can be the source of many amusing canine games during the summer months too. You can even book a hydrotherapy session for your dog at a local doggy swimming pool if your dog is really keen to get their feet wet!

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