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Exercise Your Dog's Mind: 6 Enrichment Ideas You Need to Know

Do you have a reactive dog and can't go on walks? Is it constantly raining or cold and you need ideas of what to do inside with your dog? What if we just wanted to add more mental stimulation to their day-to-day life?

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical movement for dogs. Incorporating brain work in your pup's everyday routine will not only prevent unwanted behaviors but can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and channel that energy into positive outlets.

Here are 6 ways to provide our pups with brain games.

1.) Scatter Feed

Scatter feeding not only keeps your pups busy but taps into their natural behavior of scavenging and foraging which encourages them to use their nose more.

Here are a few ways to scatter feed.

  • Roll a towel up and sprinkle dog food in between the rolls of the towel.

  • If you have a yard, scatter meals in the grass and let them have a sniff party.

  • Use a snuffle mat. A snuffle mat is a great item to hide treats/kibble in for the dogs to sniff through.

  • Scatter feed kibble/treats in a toy bin, kiddie pool filled with toys, or a ball pit.

2.) Puzzle Toys

There are hundreds of different puzzle toy options out in the market. Most of these are great options but you may need to try out a few different ones to find which ones work for you and your pup.

  • Compartment/ maze toys - Outward Hound is a popular brand that makes a variety of puzzle toys that involve sliding, flipping, and pulling different tabs for the pups to get the treat. Starting at an easier level will help build the dog's confidence and will help them not get frustrated so easily. Once they figure out different levels, increasing to the next step will help make it more challenging.

  • Stuffed Puzzles - One of my favorite food stuffed products is the WestPaw Toppl since it is easy to stuff, durable, and easy to clean, The Kong is another great option as well. Adding kibble, using a food smear to cover the holes, and freezing them are long-lasting ways to keep your pup busy. Licki mats are also a great option to smear food and freeze.

  • Ball Puzzle Toys - Using your pup's kibble and filling these puzzle toy balls is a great way to feed meals. The Pet IQ ball, Starmark's' Bob-A-Lot, and the Kong Wobbler are a few great examples.

3.) Training

Short training sessions are a fantastic way of providing mental stimulation and building a better bond with your pup. Teaching new fun tricks such as paw, roll over, and spin are easy fun ways or practicing commands they may already know Remember to make the sessions positive, fun, and short.

4.) DIY

Between Facebook groups, Instagram feeds, and everything else on Google, there are many ways to create DIY enrichment games. Also, keep in mind how your dog handles different items. If your pup eats cardboard boxes or soft fabric then using cardboard boxes or wash clothes may not be the best idea for you.

Muffin Tin Game - The Muffin Tin Game is a fun way to watch them work their brains. All you need is a muffin tin and balls that fit each compartment. Start by placing treats/dog food in each section and put a ball over it. Once everything is set, place it on the ground and watch your dogs work.

Household Items - Boxes, empty paper towel rolls, and egg cartons are a few of my favorite items to hide dog food/treats in and watch the pups shred or figure out how to get the items inside.

5.) Hide and Seek

Believe it or not, hide and seek is a great game for dogs. If your pups can do a really good stay, have them practice a stay, while you hide, and them finding you. If not, you can toss a treat in a different room and quickly hide somewhere and watch them search you out.

6.) Dog Sports

At-home agility courses are an option you can make yourself or buy on Amazon to have them jump over hurdles or run through a tunnel, etc.

Nose work is also a fun sport for dogs you can do at home as well. There are lots of online sniff work courses and you can buy a kit to get started at home.

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