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Brain Games

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Original post 5 Fun and Easy Brain Games for Dogs by John Woods on Dogster

Exercise your pup’s mind and increase your bond when you play these brain games for dogs.

Looking for some easy ways to keep your dog entertained while increasing the bond you share with your loyal dog? Try these fun and easy brain games for dogs!

Why brain games for dogs?

Playing brain games for dogs can help to alleviate boredom and prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing or excessive barking. Brain games for dogs can also give your dog a sense of purpose and achievement and help to form an even closer bond between the two of you.

All of these games are easy to play and will keep your dog’s brain engaged and active. Have a go at playing these five brain games for dogs, and your four-legged friend will thank you.

1. Which Hand Game - Have your dog find which hand has a treat in it!

This is one of the easiest brain games for dogs — you won’t even need to get up from the sofa.

Use your furry friend’s favorite toy, or a treat, and hide it in one of your hands. Have your dog sniff both your hands, and guess which hand the treat is hiding in. Whichever hand they place their nose on first is your dog’s guess.

If she gets it correct, turn over your hand and release the treat or toy. Your dog will soon be conditioned into playing this game easily.

2. Treasure Hunt

This is one of those brain games for dogs that you can play over as little or as large of an area as you like. For the first few times, try it just in one room. As your dog gets more adept at this hunting, you can span the whole house!

Hide a few treats around the room and watch as your dog has fun trying to sniff them out. If you don’t want to use treats, you can use anything that has a strong scent, for example a toy or some of your clothes.

As your dog finds each toy, label the behavior as “hunt.” Say “hunt” just as your dog finds each treat.

To increase the challenge, hide treats all around the house in separate rooms, once you’ve hidden the treats, ask your dog to hunt.

Tip: If you do this outside, you’ll have to set it up directly before playing the game or you’ll end up losing the treats to other animals!

3. Toy Tidy Up

We love when brain games for dogs help you out, too! To be able to play this game, your dog must know the name of her favorite toys and the “fetch” command.

If there is ever a point where there are a few different toys out around the room, try training her to fetch them. Underneath your hands, place a basket, as your dog fetches each item let it pass by your hands into a basket.

For example, ask her to pick the ball up and fetch it.

Once your dog has mastered this, you will be able to train her to bring certain items to you, such as your shoes, or her leash.

4. Hot or Cold

Hide a treat, or a ball, somewhere around the room. For the first attempt, you can put it somewhere in plain sight, until your dog understands the rules.

Each time your dog moves in the right direction, say hot and give her a small treat. If she’s not going in the right direction, say cold and don’t hand out a treat.

Your dog will soon start to associate the word hot with moving closer toward whatever you’ve hidden, and you’ll be able to choose harder hiding places, such as behind the curtain or even under a box. This command can also be used during the treasure hunt game.

5. The Shell Game (or the Cup Game)

Try playing the shell game with your pup.

This is one of the brain games for dogs that we’ve all heard of.

Get three identical cups from your kitchen, line them up in a row and hide a treat under one of them. Let your dog watch you put the treat underneath a cup so she can see there will be a reward to guessing correctly.

Then mix the cups up — the more challenging you want to make it, the more quickly you move the cups.

Let your dog select the right cup with her nose or paw and lift the cup up. If she is right, she wins the treat!

If she’s not right, mix the cups up and try again. To start with, place treats under all three cups before reducing this down to two and then one. For an extra challenge, don’t lift the cup up. Let your dog figure out how to knock it over to get the treat.

Read more about dog games and playing with your dog on

About the author

John Woods has two degrees, is a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and is an accredited author by the Dog Writers Association of America. He is the senior editor of All Things Dogs.


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