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15 Super-Easy Games to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog (Even Puppies)

If your Dog could talk he’d tell you how bored he is and how he needs mental stimulation right away.

But, he can’t talk.


He chews up your expensive shoes, digs holes all over the backyard, and eats your favorite couch cushions.

That’s why mental stimulation for a Dog is so essential… especially for puppies!

Keeping a high-energy dog’s brain engaged is one of the most important ingredients that’ll go a long way to keep them calm, relaxed, and well-balanced.

And when you know the best Dog mental stimulation games, both you and your dog are happy!

Dog Mental Stimulation

Dog mental stimulation games have so many benefits for your daily life.

We’ve all heard that Dogs require plenty of physical exercises and must start obedience training at home from day one. 

But what about mental stimulation for Dogs?

What exactly is that?

Mental stimulation for Dogs are activities that engage their minds, keep them entertained using their senses, and are challenging and fun. In essence, it’s brain games and brain training.

There are plenty of ways to mentally stimulate your dog, and these brain games only take a few minutes each day. So, stimulating your Dog’s mind is easy to fit into your busy schedule.

There’s even a handy schedule for you, found below the list of ideas, to help get you started! ✅

Do German shepherds need mental stimulation?

Not stimulating your Dog’s mind could result in problematic consequences!

Yes, Dogs need mental stimulation to develop life skills essential to their training. Your Dog is a willing and responsive learner with high intelligence and needs mental stimulation to help to reach and mold this intelligence into productive channels. Engaging your Dog in mental stimulation helps to avoid frustrating behaviors, such as excessive barking and chewing. Mentally stimulating your Dog provides a positive way to bond while offering new and interesting games to take a break from following the same old routines.

Without mental exercises to stretch your Dog’s brain, simple obedience tasks and behaviors will be more difficult to achieve. Your dog could even become destructive, bored, or worse — depressed and withdrawn (source). 

How much mental exercise does a Dog need?

There are different types of exercise for a Dog — physical movement, mind games, and even job activities.

Dogs need at least 2 hours of both physical and mental exercise per day, ideally more. This time ideally includes essential daily walks (45-60 minutes), purposeful engaging activity (45-60 minutes), and mental stimulation (30-45 minutes). Look to start including mental exercise for your dog in small bouts of a few minutes, working up to longer, more engaging mind exercises strewn throughout the day.

Mental stimulation and mind exercises for your dog or puppy have numerous benefits. Engaging your dog’s mind can tire out a puppy or adult dog just as much as physical exercise and can keep them from developing inappropriate behaviors.

How to Start Mental Stimulation Games

Start in small bouts when beginning mental games. Increase slowly, making sure your dog enjoys their brain training.

Start with a shorter time of 5 minutes of mental exercise for Dog puppies and dogs new to brain games. Work on increasing the difficulty of the games over a few weeks to help introduce your dog to new challenges. A total goal time to work towards is 30 to 45 minutes of mental exercises, including a variety of challenges and activities.

This time can be split throughout the day with smaller sessions of a few minutes or longer, ideally. For puppies, even just a few minutes of mental stimulation can have a great impact on their development and learning.

Include mental stimulation a few times a week, with the goal of including mental exercise and brain games daily for the best results.

And, don’t just stop with these fun mental stimulation games for your Dog pup.

Do yourself and your dog a favor…

Focus on strengthening your early bonding by learning how enrichment for a Dog can improve your life with your dog.

How do you mentally stimulate a Dog?

There’s plenty of fun ways to mentally stimulate a Dog.

In the wild, the ancestors of the Dog would have had to use their natural abilities to track down prey (scenting), listen for hazards (hearing), and roam for miles to find fresh hunting grounds and water. They would have spent an enormous amount of energy physically moving about and using their minds.

But in this modern world mental stimulation helps to appease these natural urges that your Dog still maintains and helps focus your dog’s instincts into productive activities. 

You can mentally stimulate a Dog puppy or dog by:

  • Teaching them new training tricks
  • Exposing them to different objects, people, and places
  • Training them to play brain games
  • Giving them mental exercise to sniff, track, and hunt
  • Providing them opportunities to use all their natural instincts positively

Most importantly, try a few of the ideas listed below to mentally stimulate a Dog and explore the games and activities your dog prefers. 

How do I stimulate my Dog puppy?

Puppies need brain training to help them develop and mature.

Even a Dog puppy can enjoy mental stimulation. All of these mental exercises are age-appropriate for a young dog.

Dog puppies stimulation ideas:

  • Games and fun
  • Brain training and mind activities
  • New adventures
  • Novel toys with different sounds and textures

Don’t neglect mental stimulation for your puppy!

In fact, the earlier you begin mentally stimulating your Dog puppy the easier they’ll be to train and live with later on. Many owners look to physical exercise when trying to tire out their energetic puppy (source). 

But, over-exercising your Dog puppy and the wrong types of exercise could do more harm than good! Focus on age-appropriate fun Dog puppy exercises that’ll keep your puppy healthy and happy. 🎉

When should you give a Dog mental stimulation?

Don’t wait until your Dog has behavior issues or is destructive in your house to give them mental stimulation. Your Dog should have mental stimulation daily, starting from when they are 8 weeks old and continuing into their senior years.

One of the best benefits of mental stimulation is your ability to adjust the mental exercise and activities to your dog’s personality, likes and dislikes, and age. 

Give stimulation to your Dog:

  • Starting early as a puppy
  • Using positive training and encouragement
  • Continuing into their adult and senior years
  • BEFORE they act out or have behavior issues

Let’s get down to business with exciting and fun mental stimulation games you can play with your dog right now.

15 Proven Dog Mental Stimulation Games to Play Right Now

Mental exercise for a Dog is a MUST for this intelligent dog.

Looking to stimulate your Dog puppy?

These super-easy mind game ideas are not only easy to play, but they also keep your puppy out of trouble and focused on the right things. Don’t forget that a stimulated puppy is less likely to destroy things, chew, and develop behavioral issues. 

So, get started right away.

Game on! 🏐

Mental Exercises for Dogs

Mental GameStimulation Benefits
Find the treatNose game for scenting and to prevent boredom
Mental exercise with puzzle toysBrain game for their mental health and mind growth
Bubble chase and popEnvironment game that’s visually fun and burns energy
Nature obstacle courseExercise game, new ways to move, outdoor time
Train a new commandMind training, bonding with you, better behavior
Social enrichmentStimulation with their own kind, learning social skills
Try a new exercisePhysical and mental stimulation to avoid monotony
Create an enrichment boxSurprises around every box boost brain stimulation
Provide chew toysChewing decreases anxiety and stimulates their mind
Flirt pole gameHones their chasing behavior in a positive way
Give them a jobFocuses their working breed energy and intelligence
Scavenger huntBrain game that uses their nose and mind
Teach them to weaveBegin agility training to give them a job and a purpose
Enjoy a balancing actUse balance boards to stimulate their brains and bodies
Buried treasureFor puppies and adults – allows them to dig appropriately and satisfy their natural digging urges
All of these mentally stimulating activities are excellent brain games for your Dog.

1. Find the Treat

Put your dog’s super-smelling scent skills to work in this game.

Grab a handful of treats for your Dog and have your dog in another area where they can’t watch you. 

Hide the treats in various locations for your dog to search and find. Remember to start out easy. 

You may need to place a few treats in obvious areas, like right in the open. 

Release your dog and say “Find the treat!” Take them through the room and help them search for the treats. 

After a few rounds of play, your Dog will use their nose to race ahead of you and find those little hidden treasures! 

Here’s the deal if you’re worried about too many treats…

To keep your dog’s weight in check, choose from this list of the best treats for Dogs (Yes, even puppies!) 🐾

2. Mental Exercise with Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are great stimulation for puppies and seniors!

Puzzle toys are an excellent way to stimulate your dog’s brain using interactive movements that give them the opportunity to challenge their mind to earn a reward. 

There’s plenty of puzzle toys for dogs that your Dog has to paw and nudge to reveal the hidden treats inside. 

But wait…

Here’s the thing…

With so many fun puzzle games on the market, how will you choose the right ones? 

Luckily, my Dog went through vigorous (and fun!) testing to bring you the best puzzle game toys for Dogs that’ll blow their minds!

3. Bubble Chase and Pop

These bubbles are for eating!

Do you have an energetic Dog and a kid?

Because both kids and dogs love this game!

Have your kids (or yourself) blow bubbles for your dog to chase and pop while they burn off their pent-up energy outside! 

Don’t use the regular store-bought bubbles though, since the soap in the formula could make your dog sick.


Treat your pup to these dog-safe peanut butter-flavored bubbles!

4. Use Nature as an Obstacle Course

Get creative outdoors.

What better way to keep your Dog active, fit, and mentally happy than by strapping on a small backpack and taking them to a new place to hike and explore?

There are endless interesting scents your dog will smell and the varying terrain provides your Dog a way to tap into their skills and increase their mental stimulation.

Mother nature provides all you need for this obstacle course.

Large fallen log? Have your dog walk or hop over it!

Big puddle? Splash right in!

Pile of leaves? Get ready to rumble!

To really hone in on their working breed background, why not try a comfortable and adjustable doggie backpack loaded with no more than 10% of their weight? 

If you have a puppy, it’s safer on their joints to not load any weight in the backpack, but you can get them comfortable wearing the backpack for future hikes. And, they still will enjoy the new hike with you!

5. Teach Them A New Command

Focus on your Dog’s intelligence by teaching them new commands.

Do you think your Dog knows every command possible?

Well, think again! 

Dogs are very intelligent and eager to please their owners. This makes them prime candidates for even more mentally stimulating training. 

There are endless commands and tricks to teach your Dog who will enjoy every minute of these challenging mental exercises with you. 

Sounds good, right? 

Catch up on all your obedience using the Ultimate List of Dog Commands and watch your dog’s brain love the mental stimulation of learning a new skill.

6. Stimulating Social Enrichment

Don’t forget social stimulation for your Dog.

While socialization is a crucial part of your Dog puppy’s development, it’s also important for adult dogs.

Provide your puppy the opportunity to play with other vaccinated puppies and dogs that you know are happy and safe around other dogs. Don’t venture into encounters with unknown dogs to avoid any negative feelings about socialization.

And don’t force your dog or puppy into playing or meeting a dog they shy away from.

I suggest simply sitting on a bench in an area that allows you and your Dog to observe from a distance the world passing you by… literally.

When they look back to you after watching another dog or object, give them a tasty treat for behaving nicely. If your Dog is lunging or barking they’re too mentally stimulated, so back away from the new things they don’t like until they’re calmer.

7. Enjoy a New Exercise Together

Are you and your Dog tired of the same, boring walks? Spice it up, then!

Are you and your dog stuck in the same exercise rut? 

Why not switch it up and enjoy a different exorcise together?

Dogs generally love to swim, jog, and run with their owners.

Especially those that are high drive and stuck indoors most of the day. Take advantage of your breed’s athletic abilities and put their stamina to use.

New Exercise Ideas

If your Dog is an adult and has the vet’s OK, think about registering for your first 5k together. Use a training program like Couch to 5k to start off easy with your dog and work up to longer distances. If your dog is under 18 months of age, don’t force them to run with you or you could damage their joints.

Only run or jog when heat isn’t an issue, such as early morning times, and carry water for both you and your companion. Try to run on softer surfaces mostly (stay away from concrete and asphalt) to avoid any bone and joint damage.

Too hot outside to run and jog? 

Do a search for ponds, creeks, or lakes nearby where you can take your dog for a walk in the evenings as the sun goes down. Always, always watch your dog around water, especially puppies since many overestimate their swimming abilities and could get hurt.

Even changing up your dog’s current walk can easily increase their mental stimulation opportunities.

Why not try one of these exercises for your Dog to brighten up their day?

8. Create a Dog Enrichment Box

Brain training your Dog can be as easy as opening a few empty boxes.

To make this mentally stimulating enrichment box, find a larger cardboard box, some smaller boxes of various sizes, empty toilet rolls, and old newspaper or brown packing paper. 

Place a few treats in the toilet rolls, inside the smaller boxes, or wrap them in the newspaper and brown packing paper. Now, fill up the big box with these treat treasures! 

Look: You may have a mess of shredded paper and chewed boxes to clean up.

Good News…

It’s great mental stimulation and enrichment for your Dog puppy that builds confidence, too! 

9. Provide the Right Chew Toys

Have you heard of yak milk chews? They’re Long-lasting and great for mental stimulation!

Chewing is a totally natural behavior for your dog and even has many benefits. 

When your dog chews for an extended period of time it has a calming effect on the brain. Stress levels are lowered and your dog experiences a sense of calmness. While your dog chews it releases special endorphins which give its brain a relaxing feeling.

Chewing on the right toys redirects your dog from destructive chewing of your household items and can even help improve their dental health.

Looking for a tasty chew treat that takes your Dog hours of chewing and naturally cleans off tartar and plaque buildup?

Give your dog a Himalayan Yak Milk Dog Chew to help them release those feel-good endorphins while supporting their dental health and engaging in mental exercise.

10. Flirt Pole Game

Want to burn a lot of your Dog’s energy? Try a flirt pole to entice their minds and bodies to move!

Do you have an energetic Dog but not a lot of space to let them run free?

Enter the tail-teaser flirt pole! 

The flirt pole is basically like one of those cat toys where you move the stick around with a fish on the end of it for them to chase, except…

It’s for high-drive dogs and way sturdier!

Simply move the attached toy around the ground for your dog to chase and catch. You can work on your release/drop commands at the same time, so it’s great for your Dog’s mental stimulation and training. 

Don’t make your dog jump high or twist wildly to get the toy since this can injure their paws or hips. 

Instead, move the fluffy toy along the ground like a rabbit for them to hunt and chase. 

News Flash:

You can even change out the toy on the end to their favorite toy when you get a model like this sturdy flirt pole for Dogs that’ll keep them stimulated! 🎣

11. Give Them a Job

Your Dog needs a purpose in life. Why not give them a job?

Why not teach your Dog a job they can do at home to help you out and give them some needed mental stimulation?

If your dog knows the basic training commands, then step it up a notch and give them a dog job at home. 

You could:

  • Teach them to close doors
  • Carry your mail inside
  • Put their toys away
  • And so much more!
  • Use these ideas for jobs for Dogs at home 🏠

Your imagination and patience are the only limits!

Put your dog’s brain training to work for you and let them help around the house.

12. Doggie Scavenger Hunt

Even puppies enjoy this stimulating mind game.

A doggie scavenger hunt keeps your Dog’s mind stimulated by playing a game similar to hide and seek. But, instead of finding people hiding, your dog finds things with their nose. 

Here’s how to play this stimulating game:

  • Begin this brain game by starting with one of their favorite toys. 
  • First, place the toy in an easy-to-find spot in plain sight. 
  • Now, ask your Dog to “Find” the toy.
  • If the toy has a name, say “Find” and then add the toy’s name. 
  • When your Dog finds the toy, reward them with exciting praise and engage them in play with their toy and you. 

Finally, repeat the same steps above.

But now, hide the toy a little bit harder every time you play. Work up to hiding the toy in another room while your dog waits patiently. For an even bigger challenge, work on naming your toys and hiding different toys around the home while telling your dog to find a specific toy.

This type of brain game works your Dog’s mental stimulation and challenges their mind to focus while their nose tracks the scent of the object.

13. Teach Them to Weave

Dogs love to learn agility games.

Did you know that your Dog is naturally designed to weave in and out?

And you can start by teaching your Dog dog or puppy to weave around your legs for a quick dose of mental exercise. 

This mental exercise can be trained anywhere you can stand while your Dog moves around you (even during commercial breaks for your nightly television program). 

Here’s how to begin this physically and mentally stimulating brain game:

  • Stand with your legs wide enough apart for your dog to go through them. 
  • Hold a treat in each of your hands and lure your dog through your legs from the front to the back using the right hand with the treat.
  • As he follows your hand through your legs, lure him around the outside of your right leg to the front and then offer him the treat.
  • Continue the pattern by bringing your left hand behind your left leg and lure him back through your legs and around the outside of your right leg to the front. Now offer him the treat.
  • Keep repeating the pattern until your dog finally seems to weave with ease. Now, name the behavior, something like “weave” should be said once your dog moves comfortably through your legs.

Once your Dog learns this new trick, you’re prepared to give them another boost in their brain by using weave poles, like these, to begin agility training!

14. Balancing Act

Indoor activities are a must for rainy days.

Learning to balance is not only a mentally stimulating trick for your Dog, but it helps them to avoid future injuries.

In order to stay balanced your dog must learn to control their body movements, which requires great physical and mental skill. 

As they gain confidence in these skills you can encourage them to try more challenging balances. 

And, you’d be right if you were thinking this is a great brain game to play on a rainy or snowy day!

How to Perform the Balancing Act:

  • First, begin small by asking your Dog to place one paw on the balancing board.
  • Next, have them place two paws.
  • Keep working on how long they can hold their positions before moving on to having them step entirely onto the board. 

By teaching your Dog to have more control over their bodies, fine-tunes their muscular system, and helps prevent future injuries.

And the best part? 

It’s easier than you think to get started with this mental and physical stimulation by using an inexpensive dog balancing disc made especially for large dogs

Teaching your dog to balance has long-term benefits not only for their mental health but for keeping aging bones flexible and less prone to injury. And, puppies love to use their energy learning a new physical skill!

15. Buried Treasure

If you have an old towel and some tasty treats, you’ve got a brain game!

Make no doubt about it, every Dog owner should let their Dog express their natural instincts of digging and foraging. 

But wait…

I don’t mean digging holes in your furniture for fun! 

And you’d be right to want to discourage that type of unwanted behavior in your puppy. 

Instead, offer them an old blanket or comforter with their toys or food treats wrapped and buried in the folds of the material. 

Not only is this a totally free activity, but it’s a useful outlet for dogs that love to dig and burrow to get their energy out!

Let your puppy watch you hide their toys or treats in the folds of the old blanket the first few times so they understand the game. Then, encourage them to “Find” their surprise! 

As you continue your brain game, tuck the toy or treats further inside the folded material. This really mentally entices your dog and their brain!

Buried Treasure Outdoors

But what about adult Dogs who are too powerful to play this game inside?

If your Dog digs frantically, then why not get them their own sandpit outdoors?

Instead of fighting this natural urge, redirect their digging to an area that you can control.

Simply fill a kid’s plastic pool with clean play sand and let them dig in an approved area, instead of tearing up your roses. 

Sounds silly?

It’s not. 

It’s a tip that’ll save not only your pretty plants but your relationship with your Dog!

Below, you’ll even find a Dog mental stimulation schedule as an example for you to get started with brain exercises for your Dog. 

Easy Schedule for a Dog’s Mental Stimulation

Dog’s EnergyMorningAfternoonEvening
Highest Energy DogBrain game puzzle, learning new obedience commandOutdoor obstacle course, chew toyFlirt pole game, balancing activity
High Energy DogObstacle course outdoors, teach them a job around the houseFlirt pole activity, brain game training puzzleSocial enrichment time, learning to pole weave
Medium Energy DogBubble chase and popTraining a new commandBalancing act game, chew toy activity
Low Energy DogChew toy exerciseBrain game puzzleDog enrichment box
Use the mental stimulation schedule to include brain training into your Dog’s daily routine.

This is just an EXAMPLE schedule to help you get started with brain training for your Dog. Please choose activities your dog loves and adjust to their personality and energy level.

Not all dogs will enjoy all of the suggested brain games. Feel free to drop what doesn’t work, and try new games with your dog.

To Round Up – Mental Stimulation for Dogs and Puppies

Your Dog puppy’s mind thrives on mental games and brain training.

Remember, just like you, Dogs crave mental stimulation to keep them interested and happy in their lives! 

But here’s the problem…

It all boils down to this…

You think you don’t know what to do or have the time to invest in learning how to give your dog the mental stimulation he needs and wants. 

Would you rather come home to a house that looks like it’s been torn up with furniture broken and stuffing from your lounge chair all over the place? 

Or, will you take 5 or 10 minutes to engage your Dog in mentally stimulating exercises and brain games that keep them out of trouble?

It’s your responsibility to focus their intelligence and energy on the right types of mental stimulation to ensure they are stable and satisfied in life (source).

Brain Training Your Dog

But, don’t worry.

There’s a solution to keep you on track with your Dog’s mental stimulation and brain exercises.

It’s called Brain Training for Dogs and is a scientifically-based online dog training program. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of help to enjoy a well-behaved and well-mannered Dog through a program that keeps you on track. 💡

Yes, there’s an online dog obedience program that focuses on mental stimulation and brain training.

So take the next step and get started right away.

Enjoy these brain training games for your Dog! 💗

If I can brain train my Dog you can too!


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