Shelter Dog Meal Donation Count:

Learn More

6 Fun Ways to Stimulate Your Pup’s Mind Through Play

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on August 4, 2017

Dogs never stop playing! From puppyhood straight on through their golden years, they exercise their bodies and strengthen their minds by romping, chewing, leaping and fetching.

Lifelong play ensures that dogs stay fit and healthy while staving off boredom, mischief and premature aging. To keep your best friend fur-ever young at heart – and mind – try these 6 fun toys, puzzles and DIY games!

1. Treat Balls

Treat dispensing balls like the Brain Ball by Project Play available in our store force dogs to work for their snacks. Inside this simple looking rubber ball are multiple teirs that trap the treats. In order to access their prize, pups have to bounce, throw, jiggle and toss the ball about! It’s excellent physical exercise and the reward of a tasty treat provides a great motivator to get the wheels turning in their brains.

Best of all, every time a toy is purchased, Project Play will donate a toy to a shelter dog!


2. Canine Nosework

Image Credit: Flickr | Germanny


Nosework exercises are a great way to bond with your dog and help him build confidence. You don’t have to be a Bloodhound pawrent to enjoy this activity – all dogs love using their sniffers! Start out with a simple DIY exercise you can set up right in your home or yard.

Grab several different boxes of varying sizes and spread them around with treats hidden under a few of them. Encourage your dog to “search” or “find it” and gradually increase the difficulty of your hiding spots as your pup perfects his skills.

Image Credit: Flickr | Tambako the Jaguar


You can also use yourself as the prize by playing a doggy version of hide-and-seek. One family member distracts your pooch while you hide, then releases him to hunt you down. Instead of treats, his reward for a job well done is a big hug and lots of praise from his favorite human!


3. Plush Puzzle Toys

Image Credit: Outward Hound


For dogs that love plushies and squeaky toys or those who live to tear the stuffing free from soft toys, try a plush puzzle toy like the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel. The toy comes with a tree trunk covered in holes and six squeaky squirrels that hide out inside. Dogs will have to use their paws, mouths and brains to maneuver all of the woodland critters out of their hiding spot!


4. Live Action Toys

Toys that mimic the real-life movements of prey animals are extremely exciting for dogs. Project Play’s PAWtomic™ Unpredictable Bouncing Ball is covered in colorful rubber nubs that send the toy shooting off in a different direction with each bounce. Your dog’s body and brain will get a workout as he pounces and pivots in anticipation of where the ball will land next!

High-flying Flexible Natural Rubber Discs stimulate your dog to leap, retrieve and triumphantly deliver his prize to you time and time again. The soft, natural rubber is easy on your dog’s teeth and gums. It’s also non-toxic so it’s safe for pets and our planet!

Flexible Flying Disc by Project Play™


5. Treat Dispensing Puzzle Toys

Image Credit: Nina Ottosson Dog Toys


Puzzle toy designer, Nina Ottosson has been creating safe, fun and challenging treat-dispensing contraptions for dogs since 1990. Her wide range of products offer toys for every age and skill level so you can increase the difficulty as your pup masters each puzzle!

Image Credit: Nina Ottosson Dog Toys


Check out the full range of wood and plastic puzzle sets here!


6. DIY Brain Games

                           Image Credit: Flickr | Terrah

Crafty pet parents will enjoy putting together this DIY brain game for their dog. It’s a simple, inexpensive alternative to commercial puzzle toys – and dogs love it just as much!

All you need is a muffin tin, tennis balls and treats. Smaller dog pawrents may want to seek out a mini-muffin tin and mini tennis balls. Simply place a treat into each muffin compartment – or just a few to make the game more challenging – and cover each space with a tennis ball. Cheer your pooch on as he noses and paws the tennis balls out of the way to snag his prizes!


Featured Image via Flickr | TracyDonald

Recent Articles

Interested in learning even more about all things dogs? Get your paws on more great content from iHeartDogs!

Read the Blog

Leave a Comment