The Power of Mental Stimulation

March 2016//Exercise and Training



If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your dog entertained, the search command is your new best friend. Dogs love having a job to do, something to keep their minds busy. With the search command you’re using their natural talent in a constructive way to keep them mentally stimulated. The “find it” or “seek” command can be one of the most versatile and fun games you can teach you dog. Teaching your dog to use their natural talent of smell not only keeps them happy and entertained, it gives them a feeling of purpose. Remember a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Keeping them mentally and physically fit is your responsibility.

Teaching the “find it” command: Have your dog stay at a given location, while watching you go place a bit of food or his favorite toy at the other end of the room. When you give the cue to release your dog tell him to “find it.” After a few repetitions he’ll know what you’re expecting him to do. Once your dog seems to know “find it” you can step it up a notch. While your dog is in the stay position put the treat or toy out of his line of sight. The idea with this search activity is to gradually build up to new distances and areas. When first starting out keep the game centered in one or two rooms. If you’re confident that your dog knows the “find it” command it’s time to move onto the next step, hiding things.

Which Hand: One of the first games you can teach your dog is the which hand game; it’s the simplest method to get your dog used to using his nose rather than eyes. Use a piece of food or small toy and place in inside one of your closed fists. Present your dog with both hands and ask him “which hand?” If your dog doesn’t have great manners to begin with you’ll want to work on some self-control. Praise him when he lightly nudges, puts his nose on your hand, or paws at the correct hand – whichever behavior you prefer. If your dog chooses the wrong hand open them up to show him where the treat is. Don’t give him the treat just close your hand and try again. When he gets it right give him a lot of praise and also reward him with the treat. Eventually with simple games like this your dog will begin to start using his natural talent, his nose, rather then relying on visuals.

Hiding things: Even though dogs have a sense of smell 2000 times greater than ours they tend to use their eyes a lot. Nose work games helps them focus on smells. To teach your dog to use his nose instead of visuals you’ll want to start with an object that’s really smelly. Have your dog in his stay position. Place the treat around the corner and just slightly hidden so he’s not just spotting it with his eyes. Your dog might get a little frustrated at first if he’s not able to find the treat immediately. You can encourage and praise him when he’s close, you can even point it out to him if he’s having trouble. You’re aiming to make it fun and exciting for him, make sure to praise him when he finds it. You can make it easier for them to find the treat by dragging, or tapping the scent on the floor making a scent trail, making it easy to track. As your dog becomes more adept at sniffing things out you can up the challenge. Have fun and get creative with it by placing objects under chairs, rugs, window sills, kitchen cupboards… anywhere they are not going to see right away. The better they get, the more creative and challenging you can make it.



Training classes: by asking your dog to learn and obey commands, while behaving nicely in a social environment, you are fatiguing him mentally as well as physically. An hour’s class usually tires a dog as much as a long walk. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to progress to competition levels, these classes provide quality time for you and your pooch. Check with your local training facility for obedience, trick-training, loose-lead walking, recall, agility, fly ball, nose work or any other form of dog training.

Thinking games: Whether your dog responds best to treats, toys or your touch, there are many thinking games which will entertain them both indoors and outside. Food-oriented dogs will go mad for a scavenger hunt, toys can be similarly hidden and retrieved, while affectionate dogs can be asked to do things for a bit of a fuss. All it takes is a bit of imagination and time.

Tricks: The possibilities here are endless, but the key is that your dog doesn’t know it’s a trick – all they know is you’re asking them to do something, which you deem to be worthy of a treat if they get it right. Whether that’s a paw high-five, balancing a biscuit on the nose or rolling over, the point is that you are making them think about what you’re asking and praising when they succeed. If you want to take these games to a new level, check with your local training facility as many hold classes on trick training, or, there are many great books on tricks.

Treat dispensers: There are a number of ways in which you can either treat or feed your dog by making him think first. You can stuff part of his daily allowance of food in a Kong and make him work for his supper, whether that’s kibble, wet or even raw food. Just be careful that you don’t overfeed your dog and cut back on their normal daily allowance if you are regularly loading a Kong for him.


Books on Amazon

The Canine Kingdom of Scent: Fun Activities Using Your Dogs natural Instincts

101 Dog Tricks: Activities to Engage, Challenge and Bond with Your Dog

Brain Games for Dogs


Scientifically-proven methods and learning theory. Step-by-step in these pages, how to create a happy, confident dog who is ready and motivated to work in a short amount of time. Use positive, reward-based techniques that are fun for both the dog and trainer. Foundation skills like basic obedience, following directional signs, jumps and balancing, memory strengthening, and overcoming fears and obstacles are covered in detail.  Order Here


51 Puppy Tricks gives puppy owners the tools they need to teach behaviors and tricks to their puppy through step-by-step instructions and photographs. Most other puppy training books focus on curbing bad behavior. Some have training, but only the most basic tricks. Young puppies have so few skills that everyone benefits from a technique called “shaping” which breaks a behavior into minute steps for easier learning.  Order Here

IQ Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy

  • Fill with your dog’s favorite treats, promoting active and healthy feeding
  • Adjustable feeding difficulty levels continue to challenge your dog as they learn
  • As your dog plays and the rolls the ball, treats will fall out to reward them for being active
  • Twists apart for easy cleaning
  • Ideal for small to medium sized dogs (colors may vary)
    Order Here