Festive fun for four legs: games and activities to train your dog's mind

by Kris Rollo

Keeping your dog physically active is crucial, but engaging their minds is equally important for a stimulated and happy pup. Dogs, with their innate intelligence and curiosity, thrive on mental stimulation.

Whether that is being taught a new trick, playing a new game, taken to explore a new area, or introducing a new toy. We’ll take a look at some ways you can train your dog’s brain over the festive period.

dog gripping a rope with its mouth


Hide and seek

We all know this classic game from when we were young: hide and seek. But this one has a canine twist. Hide and seek engages your dog's sense of smell and sharpens their problem-solving skills.

Start by hiding in an easily discoverable spot and calling your dog. This could be crouched down beside the sofa, or dining room table, but just out of clear view. Over time, gradually increase the difficulty by hiding in more challenging places, such as behind a pulled in door, or down the side of the bed.

Reward them with treats or praise when they find you, and generally make a fuss of them. For an extra challenge, hide your dog's favourite toy or treat and encourage them to locate it.

Why not add a Christmas twist? If you’ve got any large empty boxes, you could hide underneath and see how long it takes for your pooch to find you!


Puzzle toys and feeders

While we’re on the subject of hiding…

Toys that allow you to hide treats or dry food inside, challenge your dog to work out how to get them out in order to enjoy them.

Well known feeders such as Kong Wobbler or the soft toy puzzle Hide-A-Squirrel, are excellent tools for mental enrichment. Fill these toys with treats and watch as your dog gets to work figuring out how to access the rewards. Not only does this engage their cognitive abilities, but it also provides a tasty incentive for their efforts.

If you’ve picked up a puzzle toy and need something to fill it with this Christmas, check out some of our bestselling treats such as Random Rewards dog training treats, Goodchap’s Treat Tin, or Innocent Hound sliced venison treats.

You could even take it a step further by combining mental stimulation with a tasty frozen treat reward. Why not freeze treats in ice cubes or using special frozen treat dispensers. Your dog will need to figure out how to melt or manipulate the ice to access the goodies inside, providing both a cooling activity (maybe one to remember for summer) and a mental challenge!


Tug of war

Another timeless classic, this time we’re talking about tug of war.

Tug of war is a well-known favourite among many dogs, but you can add a mental challenge by introducing rules. Teach your dog to "drop it" or "leave it" during the game. This not only engages their physical strength but also encourages them to think before reacting, promoting self-control and obedience.

And if it’s the first time you’re playing tug with your pup, we’ve got you covered… with this paw-some doggy gift box from Goodchap’s which includes a tug rope and treats. Or if you’ve got more than one dog, take a look at the friendly squid toy from Goodchap’s – you also help the environment with every purchase!


Set up your own obstacle course, like Crufts… but at home!

Set up a mini agility course in your living room, garden, or at the local park. You can use household items like chairs, or hula hoops. Guide your dog through the course, incorporating commands like "jump," "crawl," or "weave." This not only sharpens their obedience skills but also challenges them mentally as they navigate the obstacles.

Who knows, we might see you at Crufts competing for first prize next year!


Teach all dogs new tricks

We don’t believe in that old saying – we reckon you can teach new tricks to all dogs, including scent work.

Tap into your dog's incredible sense of smell with scent work activities. Hide treats or toys in different locations and encourage your dog to find them using their nose. You can gradually increase the difficulty by hiding items in more complex environments or using scent boxes. Scent work not only provides mental stimulation but also taps into your dog's natural instincts.


Clicker training

Clicker training is a powerful method for teaching new behaviours and reinforcing positive actions. Pair the clicker sound with treats, using it to mark the moment your dog performs the desired behaviour. This technique allows for precise communication and can be used to teach a variety of tricks and commands, from basic obedience to advanced skills.


Incorporating games and activities that challenge your dog's mind is a rewarding and enriching experience for both you and your companion. Mental stimulation is vital for their overall well-being, contributing to a happier and healthier life.

Don’t forget to experiment with different activities to discover what resonates most with your dog. Remember that the key is to keep the experience positive and enjoyable.

If you’d like to book your first, or your next, appointment with Doggy Styling visit us today at our Cobham dog grooming salon, our Weybridge dog grooming salon, or our Surbiton dog grooming salon.


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