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The 10 Best Brain Games For Dogs

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on July 26, 2023
iHeartDogs is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Give your furry Einstein some fun and a mental boost with the best brain games for dogs! These engaging activities provide an excellent avenue for mental stimulation and physical exercise for our canine companions, making them a crucial part of maintaining their overall health and well-being. More than just play, these brain games foster problem-solving skills, relieve boredom, reduce destructive behavior, and even strengthen your bond with your furry friend.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the best dog brain games and provide you with all the information you need to make the right choice for your pup. We’ll also discuss the various factors you should consider when choosing these games, ensuring they’re suitable for your dog’s age, breed, health, and personality. You’ll also find answers to the most frequently asked questions about brain games for dogs, demystifying this exciting area of dog enrichment. So, stay tuned for the essential guide to brain games for dogs, but first, let’s get into the basics of brain training.

brain games for dogs

What is Brain Training for Dogs?

Brain training for dogs is a method of engaging and stimulating a dog’s mind to promote better mental health and enhance their problem-solving skills. This approach involves using games, puzzles, commands, tricks, and other activities designed to challenge the dog mentally and promote cognitive development. The aim is to foster a deeper understanding between owners and their pets, improve the dog’s behavior, reduce boredom, and increase overall satisfaction.

Brain training exercises can vary greatly in complexity, from simple commands like “sit” and “stay” to more intricate tasks such as identifying toys by their names, fetching specific items, or solving puzzle toys for treats. It’s a form of mental enrichment that helps keep the dog’s mind sharp and focused, much like how physical exercise keeps their bodies healthy and strong.

In essence, brain training for dogs is about more than teaching tricks; it’s about providing mental stimulation, reducing destructive behaviors, and strengthening the bond between dogs and their owners. It’s a wonderful tool for encouraging a dog’s natural curiosity and enhancing their quality of life.

Buyer’s Guide: Factors to Consider When Choosing Brain Games for Dogs

When choosing games for brain training dogs, several factors should be taken into account to ensure the game is suitable, safe, and enjoyable for your pup. Check out what you should keep in mind:


Puppies and older dogs may have different physical and mental capabilities. Ensure any chosen game is age-appropriate. Read manufacturer recommendations to ensure a toy matches your dog’s life stage.

Size & Breed

The size of your dog should be taken into account when considering toys for brain games, particularly those that involve chewing or manipulating with their mouths. Small toys can be a choking hazard for larger dogs, while larger toys could hurt little dogs. Also, some breeds have unique characteristics and abilities and are predisposed to enjoy certain types of mental stimulation over others. For example, hound breeds may enjoy scent-based games, while retrievers may prefer fetching games. If you’ve got a super chewer breed, get tough toys that can keep up with their jaws.


Every dog is unique. Some dogs might be highly energetic and need games that help burn off energy, while others may prefer calmer, more focused activities. You know your dog best, so you’ll know what they like.


If your dog has any health issues, consider this when choosing brain games. Avoid games that might exacerbate any physical conditions they might have, like joint issues or breathing problems.

Level of Difficulty

the game should be challenging enough to keep your dog engaged but not so difficult that it frustrates them. It can be helpful to start with easier games and gradually introduce more complex ones as your dog’s problem-solving skills improve.


Safety is paramount. Ensure the game doesn’t include small parts that could be swallowed and cause choking. Also, regularly inspect toys for any wear and tear that could lead to injuries.

Time Needed

Some games may require more human interaction and supervision than others. Choose games that fit into your available time to spend with your dog. And also include toy options that allow your dog solo playtime too.

Dog’s Preferences

Just like humans, dogs have preferences. Try different types of games (puzzle games, hide and seek, fetch games, etc.) and see what your dog seems to enjoy most.

Dietary Restrictions

If the game involves treats or food, consider any dietary restrictions or sensitivities your dog may have.

Remember, the goal of these games is to enrich your dog’s life, stimulate their mind, and strengthen your bond with them. So, it’s important to monitor your dog’s reaction to these games and adjust as needed to ensure they’re having a good time.

The 10 Best Brain Games for Dogs

#1 – Sniff Diggy™Fun Mental Stimulation Nose Work Snuffle Mat

Sniff Diggy™Fun Mental Stimulation Nose Work Snuffle Mat
  • Durable, machine-washable fabric
  • Promotes natural sniffing instincts
  • Slows down feeding time
  • Can reduce destructive behavior
  • Every purchase provides donations to shelter dogs

The Sniff Diggy™Fun Mental Stimulation Nose Work Snuffle Mat encourages dogs to use their natural sniffing instincts, giving them a mentally stimulating and satisfying task to focus on. It aids in curbing destructive behavior by diverting their attention, promoting calmness, and slowing down feeding times, especially for speedy eaters. The durability proves a plus as this snuffle mat can withstand rigorous use and be conveniently machine-washable. Fun, colorful, and packed with their favorite treats, this brain game for dogs will be one of your pup’s favorite activities.


  • Provides mental stimulation and enrichment
  • Suitable for any breed or age, puppies and seniors included
  • Easy to use
  • Can help slow down eating
  • Can reduce anxiety and curb destructive behavior


  • Dogs with a low drive for sniffing might not be engaged

#2 – AgriChew™ – The Accidental, Industrial Strength Dog Toy For Extreme Chewers

AgriChew™ – The Accidental, Industrial Strength Dog Toy For Extreme Chewers
  • ndustrial strength TPU material for durability
  • Unique texture for mental stimulation
  • Suitable for extreme chewers
  • Add their favorite spread for extra fun
  • Every purchase provides donations to shelter dogs

AgriChew™ – The Accidental, Industrial Strength Dog Toy For Extreme Chewers is a fantastic, high-quality product that successfully stimulates and challenges our canine friends. Its superior strength stands up to even the toughest chewers, providing hours of relentless chewing and mental engagement. When you add peanut butter or another dog-friendly spread to the center, your pup will use every trick they can think of to get every last bit! The unique textures of the toy engage dogs’ tactile senses, stimulating their brains and keeping them interested. As an added bonus, the AgriChew™ helps to promote dental health by cleaning teeth and massaging gums. The floatable feature makes it a versatile plaything for both land and water-based activities. Although designed unintentionally as a dog toy, the AgriChew™ proves to be a godsend for dog parents with aggressive chewers.


  • Extremely durable, perfect for heavy chewers
  • Provides mental stimulation and keeps dogs engaged
  • Helps to clean teeth and massage gums
  • Can float, making it great for water play
  • Non-toxic material for safe chewing


  • Not suitable for small dogs or puppies due to its size and hardness
  • May be too hard for dogs with dental issues

#3 – knitly Dog Puzzle Toys for IQ Training & Mental Enrichment

knitly Dog Puzzle Toys for IQ Training & Mental Enrichment
  • 15 holes for investigating
  • Made of human grade PP material
  • No removable parts & dishwasher safe
  • Promotes problem-solving skills
  • Suitable for all breeds & sizes

The knitly Dog Puzzle Toys for IQ Training & Mental Enrichment offers an exciting and engaging way to keep our furry friends intellectually stimulated. By challenging dogs to think and problem-solve, this puzzle toy significantly enhances mental capabilities, resulting in an overall improvement in their thinking abilities. Kitly puzzles come in various levels of difficulty, catering to both beginners and advanced problem-solvers, and this offering is listed as a Level 2. And in addition to more than a dozen holes to dig in, this fun dog brain game has a squeaker!


  • Provides mental stimulation and brain training
  • Eco-friendly and safe for dogs
  • Suitable for dogs of all sizes and breeds
  • Helps reduce destructive behaviors by keeping dogs occupied
  • Offers various difficulty levels for a range of experiences


  • May not withstand heavy chewers
  • Some dogs may need initial guidance to understand how to interact with the puzzles.

#4 – Outward Hound Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle Interactive Dog Treat Puzzle Toy, Expert Level

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle Interactive Dog Treat Puzzle Toy
  • Expert level difficulty
  • 28 hidden treat compartments
  • Works best with small treats or kibble
  • No removable parts for safer play
  • BPA, PVA, & phthalate free

The Outward Hound Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle Interactive Dog Treat Puzzle Toy is designed for expert-level canines, providing a challenging yet engaging way for dogs to reach their treats, stimulating their mental faculties in the process. The multiple compartments and moving parts require a high level of strategy and patience, promoting extended periods of focus. The puzzle’s robust construction ensures it can withstand vigorous use, while the easy-to-clean feature adds a level of convenience. This product also has the added advantage of slowing down fast eaters, contributing to better digestion. Overall, the Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle is an exceptional choice for providing a high-level mental workout for your dog.


  • Provides superior mental stimulation for dogs
  • Durable and robust design, suitable for vigorous use
  • Can slow down fast eaters, promoting better digestion
  • Easy to clean
  • Enhances problem-solving skills in dogs


  • May be too difficult for dogs new to puzzle toys

#5 – Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy

Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy
  • Treat-dispensing mechanism
  • Adjustable difficulty settings
  • Heavy-bottomed, wobble design for unpredictable movement
  • Can act as a slow feeder
  • Available in Small & Large sizes

The Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy offers a unique blend of fun and cognitive stimulation, expertly engaging your dog’s natural instincts to forage and hunt. The adjustable openings add a level of difficulty control, ensuring the toy remains challenging for dogs of various skill levels. Moreover, the heavy-bottomed, wobble design creates unpredictable movement, keeping dogs entertained and engaged for extended periods. The Starmark Bob-a-Lot can also act as a slow feeder, preventing rapid eating and the associated health risks. This stimulating interactive toy is a brilliant addition to any dog’s playtime, merging fun, mental training, and mealtime into one exciting experience.


  • Provides mental stimulation and engagement
  • Adjustable openings allow control of difficulty levels
  • Can hold over a cup of food
  • Suitable for dogs of various sizes and breeds


  • Not suitable for extreme chewers, as they might damage the toy
  • Can be difficult to clean

#6 – ZippyPaws Burrow, Woodland Friends Chipmunks’ n Log – Interactive Dog Toys

ZippyPaws Burrow Interactive Toys
  • Interactive burrow toy with three squeaky chipmunks
  • Promotes natural burrowing & hunting instincts
  • Durable & soft construction
  • Ideal for hide-and-seek play
  • Suitable for small & medium-sized dogs
  • Available in other adorable designs

The ZippyPaws Burrow, Woodland Friends Chipmunks’ n Log – Interactive Dog Toy is an enjoyable and mentally stimulating toy designed to tap into dogs’ natural burrowing instincts and encourage problem-solving as they figure out how to extract the chipmunks from the log. Each chipmunk squeaks, adding to the allure and providing an immediate reward for successful ‘hunting.’ The durable construction ensures the toy can withstand moderate chewing, while the plush material is gentle on dogs’ mouths. This interactive toy is perfect for hide-and-seek play, keeping dogs entertained for hours.


  • Encourages mental stimulation and problem-solving skills
  • Withstands moderate chewing
  • Squeaky chipmunks provide auditory feedback with a fun squeak


  • Not suitable for aggressive chewers as they may destroy the toy

#7 – Letsmeet Squeak Dog Toys Dog Puzzle Toy IQ Training

Letsmeet Squeak Dog Toys Dog Puzzle Toy IQ Training
  • Interactive puzzle toy with squeaky elements
  • Promotes problem-solving skills
  • Durable construction for longevity
  • Provides mental & physical stimulation
  • Suitable for dogs of various sizes & ages

The Letsmeet Squeak Dog Toys Dog Puzzle Toy IQ Training is a wonderful interactive play tool that effectively combines elements of puzzle-solving and squeaky rewards, captivating your dog’s interest while enhancing their cognitive abilities. Dogs are challenged to unroll the toy to get to the squeaky toys, which in turn, offer immediate auditory feedback and satisfaction in the form of squeaky fun. The durable material ensures longevity, even when used by moderate chewers. Aside from mental stimulation, the toy also promotes physical activity, ensuring a well-rounded playtime experience.


  • Offers mental stimulation and enhances problem-solving skills
  • Durable construction withstands moderate chewing
  • Squeaky elements add a ton of fun
  • Promotes physical activity too
  • Super cute design for added silliness


  • Not suitable for aggressive chewers, who might destroy the toy quickly
  • Squeaky elements could potentially be a choking hazard if the toy is torn apart
  • Supervision required during play to ensure safety

#8 – Outward Hound Zip & Zoom Indoor Dog Agility Training Kit for Dogs

Outward Hound Zip & Zoom Indoor Dog Agility Training Kit for Dogs
  • Indoor agility kit with hurdles, tunnel, & pole weave
  • Promotes mental & physical exercise
  • Encourages command-following skills
  • Suitable for dogs of various sizes
  • Enhances bonding & encourages trust

The Outward Hound Zip & Zoom Indoor Dog Agility Training Kit provides a fun and challenging activity for dogs, promoting both mental and physical stimulation. The kit includes hurdles, a tunnel, and a pole weave that offer varied challenges, keeping your dog engaged and mentally sharp while keeping them physically fit. By learning to navigate through these obstacles, dogs are not only physically exercised but also mentally trained to understand and follow commands. This kit is conveniently designed for indoor use, making it an excellent solution for rainy days or limited outdoor space. It also encourages bonding time between dog and parent as it requires interaction and guidance.


  • Provides physical and mental stimulation for dogs
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Suitable for indoor use, great for bad weather days or small spaces
  • Offers varied challenges keeping dogs engaged


  • Not suitable for very large breeds due to size limitations
  • Setup can be time-consuming
  • Requires ample indoor space for proper setup and use

#9 – Outward Hound Tennis Maze Craze Interactive Squeaky Dog Toy

Outward Hound Tennis Maze Craze Interactive Squeaky Dog Toy
  • Maze design with tennis balls for problem-solving
  • Squeaky sound as a reward mechanism
  • Durable construction for extended play
  • Encourages interactive play
  • Easy to clean with soap & warm water

The Outward Hound Tennis Maze Craze Interactive Squeaky Dog Toy offers a compelling combination of physical play and mental exercise with a toy that incorporates a maze design dogs must navigate to release the tennis balls inside, thus effectively stimulating problem-solving skills. Each successful release is rewarded with a squeaky sound, providing immediate feedback and entertainment. Constructed from durable material, this dog brain game can handle the rigors of regular play and moderate chewing.


  • Provides mental stimulation and enhances problem-solving skills
  • Durable construction to withstand moderate chewing
  • Squeaky sounds offer auditory feedback and reward
  • Encourages physical activity and interaction
  • Suitable for dogs of various sizes and breeds


  • Not suitable for aggressive chewers, who might destroy the toy
  • Smaller dogs may struggle with the size of the tennis balls
  • Supervision required during play to ensure safety

#10 – Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set – 4 Piece Set Recordable Buttons for Dogs

Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set - 4 Piece Set Recordable Buttons for Dogs
  • 4 recordable buttons for dogs
  • Each button can be programmed with a different command/phrase
  • Promotes improved communication
  • Durable construction for extended use
  • Clear sound quality for comprehensible messages

The Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set is an innovative and exciting way to stimulate canine brains and build communication between the two of you. Each button can be programmed with a different command or phrase, providing dogs with a unique method to express their needs and feelings. By pressing the buttons, dogs can interact more effectively with their parents, promoting a deeper understanding and bond. The product’s robust construction ensures longevity, and the clear sound quality ensures messages are easily comprehensible. This fun way to train your dog’s brain is not only engaging but also educational, helping them learn new commands and actions.


  • Enhances cognitive abilities and communication skills in dogs
  • A fun and interactive dog toy with cute results
  • Allows for customized commands or phrases
  • Promotes bonding
  • Easy to set up and use


  • Requires time and patience to train dogs to use the buttons effectively
  • Some dogs may not take to the concept, depending on their learning style and temperament
  • Buttons may be too hard to press for smaller or elderly dogs
  • Could be confusing if not consistently used or if too many phrases are introduced at once

dog brain games

FAQs About Brain Games for Dogs

Why are brain games important for dogs?

Brain games are vital for dogs because they provide mental stimulation, which is as crucial as physical exercise in keeping your dog healthy and happy. Just like humans, dogs can become bored and frustrated without sufficient mental challenges. Brain games not only help to alleviate this boredom, but they also stimulate your dog’s natural problem-solving abilities and curiosity. Additionally, brain games can help to prevent destructive behaviors that may stem from boredom or excess energy. They can also boost a dog’s confidence and help strengthen the bond between you and your dog, by increasing interaction and mutual understanding. In elderly dogs, these games can help to slow cognitive decline, keeping their minds sharper for longer.

How often should I play brain games with my dog?

The frequency of brain games depends on your dog’s age, health, and energy levels. In general, incorporating brain games into your dog’s daily routine would be beneficial. This could be a few minutes multiple times a day or a longer session once a day. However, it’s important not to overstimulate your dog mentally, just as it’s important not to overdo physical exercise. Brain games should be a fun, positive experience for your dog, not a source of stress or exhaustion. It’s recommended to observe your dog’s behavior during and after play. If they seem to be getting frustrated, it may be a sign that the game is too difficult or that they need a break. Just like humans, dogs need time to relax and unwind after mental exertion. So, be sure to balance game time with rest time.

Can brain games reduce behavioral problems in dogs?

Yes, brain games can indeed help reduce behavioral problems in dogs. Many undesirable behaviors in dogs, such as excessive barking, chewing, and digging, often stem from boredom, lack of mental stimulation, or excess energy. Brain games challenge a dog’s mind, keeping them engaged and mentally stimulated. This can alleviate boredom and help them burn off energy in a positive and controlled manner.

Additionally, brain games can aid in improving a dog’s focus and impulse control. For example, games that involve waiting for a command or solving a puzzle to get a reward can teach patience and the value of delayed gratification. This can translate into better behavior in other aspects of the dog’s life. Mental games often involve interaction between you and your dog, which strengthens your bond. A strong, positive relationship with a parent can make a dog more responsive to commands and less likely to exhibit disruptive behaviors.

In the case of anxiety-related behaviors, brain games can serve as a distraction and help reduce stress, leading to a calmer, more balanced dog. For instance, a dog suffering from separation anxiety might benefit from a puzzle toy filled with treats when left alone, as it gives them something else to focus on.

However, while brain games can contribute to behavioral improvements, they are not a substitute for proper training, socialization, and veterinary care. Serious behavioral issues should be addressed with the help of a professional dog trainer or a veterinarian, as they could be symptoms of underlying medical issues or severe anxiety.

Are there brain games suitable for puppies?

Absolutely, there are many brain games suitable for puppies. In fact, starting mental stimulation early can be very beneficial for a puppy’s cognitive development. Games that involve basic commands or simple puzzles can help puppies learn problem-solving skills and start to understand the concept of rewards for behavior. Fetching toys, following a trail of treats, or toys that dispense treats when manipulated are all good options. It’s important, however, to ensure these games are safe and appropriate for a puppy’s size and developmental stage. They should also be fun and not too challenging to keep the puppy’s interest high and build their confidence.

Are brain games good for senior dogs?

Yes, brain games are beneficial for senior dogs as well. Just like in humans, mental stimulation can help slow cognitive decline and keep a dog’s mind sharp as they age. Games that are less physically strenuous but still mentally stimulating are perfect for older dogs. Puzzle feeders, scent games, or simple command-based games can be good options. However, always consider the dog’s overall health and physical capabilities, as some senior dogs may have health conditions like arthritis that might limit their mobility. Lastly, always remember to be patient with senior dogs, as they may not learn or react as quickly as they did in their younger years.

How can I make DIY brain games for my dog?

Creating DIY brain games for your dog can be fun, cost-effective, and rewarding. Here are a few simple ideas you can try at home:

  1. Muffin Tin Treat Game: For this game, you’ll need a muffin tin and some tennis balls. Place a treat in each cup of the muffin tin, then cover each cup with a tennis ball. Your dog will need to figure out how to remove the tennis balls to get to the treats. This game is great for promoting problem-solving skills.
  2. Box Puzzle: Gather some cardboard boxes of different sizes. Place treats in some of the boxes and leave some empty. Arrange the boxes so your dog can access them and let them figure out where the treats are hidden. This game can provide both mental and physical stimulation.
  3. Hide and Seek: This classic game can be a great brain exercise for your dog. Start by making sure your dog knows the ‘stay’ command. Then, hide treats around the room (or yourself, if your dog is more toy or person-oriented) and let your dog seek them out.
  4. Treat-Dispensing Toy: You can create a simple treat-dispensing toy using a tennis ball. Make a small slit in the tennis ball and fill it with your dog’s favorite treats. Your dog will have to figure out how to squeeze the ball to get the treats out.

Remember, safety should be your number one priority. Always supervise your dog while they’re playing these games, especially if the games involve small parts that could potentially be a choking hazard.

brain games for dogs

Final Words

In the end, the best brain games for dogs are those that keep them mentally stimulated, physically active, and, most importantly, happy. With the wealth of options available, it’s never been easier to provide your furry friend with enriching activities tailored to their needs. Always remember, the key to successfully implementing these games is understanding your dog’s unique characteristics and ensuring their safety—because a mentally stimulated dog is a happy, well-behaved, and healthier dog.

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