5 Puzzle and Brain Games to Make Your Puppy Smarter

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Are you looking for a fun game that’ll mentally stimulate your puppy or make them smarter? If so, look no further than puzzle and brain games! Puzzle and brain training games are activities that are designed to exercise your puppy’s brain so that they can solve problems faster. Like physical games, brain games help alleviate […]

Are you looking for a fun game that’ll mentally stimulate your puppy or make them smarter? If so, look no further than puzzle and brain games! Puzzle and brain training games are activities that are designed to exercise your puppy’s brain so that they can solve problems faster. Like physical games, brain games help alleviate boredom, preventing your furry friend from getting into mischief. 

It’s important to keep your puppy occupied with a brain training activity—not just because you want to stop them from getting into trouble. According to WebMD, dogs in the wild often perform scavenging hunts, combining physical strength and mental stimulation in the act. An enriching puzzle or brain training game will enrich your fur-baby’s life, keeping them happy and healthy. 

Here are 5 games that get your puppy’s brain juices flowing (and keep them away from your furniture)!

The Cup Game

A puppy plays a fun cup game with its owner.

Also called “the shell game,” you’ve probably played this game a few times growing up. It’s a simple game that forces you to watch a cup with an object, such as a shell or paperclip, placed under it as it is moved around with other cups. Once all the cups are moved several times, you need to pick which cup has the object. With dogs, you can use a doggy treat or a small toy as an object. To play the game, follow these steps:

  1. Use two or three cups and place a doggy treat under it. Make sure your puppy sniffs the treat and watches you place it under the cup.
  2. For a few tries, let your furry friend get the treat without moving the cups. This helps them understand that the reward of this game is the treat.
  3. Start to switch the cups around once or twice.
  4. Let your puppy pick the cup they think the treat is in. If they choose the right one, let your furry friend have the treat. If they choose wrong, lift the cup and show them the treat.
  5. Place the treat back under the cup for another round. 

Once your puppy knows the rules of the game, you can make the game harder by adding more cups and changing the positions of the cups.

Toy Name Game

A cute Jack Russell Terrier carries a toy through a grassy field.

Did you know that dogs can learn an average of 165 words? Most dogs learn new words and names through repetition and consistent training. If you want your puppy to learn new names and words for different objects, you can play a game using their toys. To begin the game, follow these steps:

  1. Give your puppy’s toy a name that you like.
  2. Hold the toy and say its name a few times in front of your puppy. 
  3. Allow your puppy to grab the toy and give them a treat.
  4. Repeat this process at least 20 times. You can do this throughout the day so that your puppy learns the name of its toy.
  5. Then, place your toy next to another toy. 
  6. Call out the name of their toy. If they grab their toy, give them a treat. If not, do not give them the treat and try again. 

When your puppy learns to associate their toy with a name, pick another toy and repeat the same process again. We recommend playing this game until your puppy learns the name of all their toys!

Hide and Seek

Two puppies hiding under a blanket sheet while playing hide and seek.

Hide and seek is a classic game that tests your puppy’s physical and mental skills. Playing hide and seek with your furry friend is just as fun as it is with people. If your puppy is still learning how to stay or sit, make sure you have a friend or family member distract them while you hide. Otherwise, you can play the game in the following ways:

  1. Have your puppy sit or stay.
  2. Hide in a spot that’s easy for your puppy to find and reach. 
  3. Call your puppy’s name.
  4. Don’t make a sound if they’re looking for you. When they find you, praise them and provide a yummy treat.

Hide and seek is a great exercise for your puppy’s mind. It lets them use their natural instincts and tracking abilities in a safe, fun way. 

Dog Puzzles

A cute Pomeranian puppy plays with a puzzle toy for dogs.

What’s the best way to stimulate your puppy’s brain? Puzzles! Dog puzzles come in different varieties, but to win, your furry friend must learn how to get their reward (usually a treat). These types of games help relieve your pup’s boredom by providing them with lots of mental stimulation.

Some examples of dog puzzles include Kong toys, which come in different shapes and sizes. Others are very challenging and can keep your little buddy busy for a few hours. Most of these toys are available online and in pet stores. All you need to do is fill the toy with a yummy doggy treat so that your puppy paws at it. 

Scavenger Hunt

Two adorable puppies run across a field holding a squeaky chew toy for dogs.

If your puppy isn’t impressed with toys or games that involve hiding, challenge your puppy with a scavenger hunt. As with hide-and-seek, a scavenger hunt encourages your puppy to use its natural sniffing and tracking skills. To initiate a scavenger hunt, do the following:

  1. Place some treats in front of your puppy. Make sure they sit or stay.
  2. Grab the treat and hide it in a location that’s easy to reach, like their doggy bed.
  3. Practice this a few times.
  4. Start placing the treats in locations that are harder to find like under a chair or rug.
  5. Repeat this process several times, placing the treats in challenging places.

Although puppies have a heightened sense of smell, your puppy may not use it right away. That’s why it’s essential to practice the first 2 steps a few times so that your puppy gets the gist of the game. As they learn the rules, you should make the game harder to further challenge their mind. With enough practice, your little fur-baby will learn how to use their scent to the fullest potential. 

Brain games aren’t just a distraction; they provide good lessons that your puppy may need as an adult. It can also be a great way to increase your puppy’s confidence. After all, who wouldn’t be thrilled to find their favorite treats after hard work? Challenge your puppy gradually so they can enjoy a fun afternoon of games with you!

Check out our other ideas for fun games to play with your puppy by checking out our blog, 10 Fun Games to Play With Your Puppy.