Mental Stimulation for Dogs- Ideas and Activities

Mental Stimulation for Dogs- Ideas and Activities
ways to tire your dog

To provide mental stimulation for dogs use their nose! With around 300 million olfactory receptors in their amazing noses (compared to a humans 6 million), it is clear to see why dogs love to sniff. It helps them to make sense of the world around them and allows them to use their brain as nature intended.  These scent games for dogs can be used to mentally stimulate and tire your dog (cue yawns), adding enrichment to their life.

Hide and Seek:

mental stimulation for dogs

Hiding a treat, or a favourite toy is a great way of encouraging your dog to think; also using their sit and wait command skills while you do the hiding. Start simple with ground level, quite obvious hiding place (under a cushion with a little poking out), and progress to putting the item underneath things or on different levels. Use an excited “where is it?” as they search and they go wild! Why not take the game outside too?

Food Finding:

scent games for dogs

Kong and other brands of food hiding toys are a big hit with dogs- particularly the food focused like mine! Hide something tasty inside and let your dog work out how to extract it. Pointy Faces have a wonderful range of treat holders, lick mats and strategy games- their ‘Turnaround Strategy Game’ is on my to buy list.

For a homemade option, use an empty water bottle but supervise this carefully as chewing the bottle can result in sharp plastic. Caution- consider those with a sensitive tummy when you fill your treat holder.

Find the Treat:

scent games for dogs

Use down turned plastic cups, a bun tin , or four way drinks holder to hide a treat for your dog in one of the cups or sections. Cover each section with a ball and let them sniff their way to the reward by nudging the cup or moving the ball.

Pick a Hand:

scent games for dogs

Hide a tasty treat in one of your hands and encourage your dog to nudge the correct one. Give lots of praise (and the treat) when they choose the correct hand by nudging or sniffing.


Dogs love chasing bubbles. Dog safe, flavoured bubbles (peanut butter, bacon etc.) are available online.

What’s in the Box?

scent games for dogs

Scrunch up newspaper and put it in a box. Pop some treats or kibble amongst the paper and let your dog find them. My dogs love this activity and it offers an alternative to the unwanted shredding of toilet rolls!

*With all of the food based game, remember to account for the food in the dog’s daily allowance to avoid unwanted weight gain!

Get snuffling:

snuffle mats for dogs

Snuffle mats are easy to make and offer mental stimulation for dogs and lots of fun. You can make your own snuffle mat for under £10. Hide treats (kibble, vegetables , etc.) in the mat and watch the thinking and working to find them.

Sniffy Walks:

scent games for dogs

If the weather is rubbish, or your dog isn’t feeling the walking vibe how about a sniffy walk? Just giving your dog the time and freedom to have a sniff is hugely beneficial and offers great mental stimulation for dogs. This can be used to the owner’s advantage for the reluctant walker, dog on restricted walks, or just as a fun alternative to a standard walk.

Our Other Favourite (non-sniffy) Games:

Tug of war: Dogs love tugging a rope toy with another dog. Just look at this example of willpower!

Good old-fashioned fetch: Your dog will love the interaction of throwing a ball, Frisbee or rope toy and chasing after it. With a sighthound the bringing it back part of the game is less easy! Teach the fetch command with lots of praise or a treat when they bring it back to you.

scent games

Agility Training: Agility is a superb bonding experience for owner and dog. It really stimulates the dog’s mind and challenges the owner too. Look for local agility classes, or perhaps make some agility courses of your own?

games for dogs

Chewing: For lots of recommendations for chewy toys for the most destructive chewers, and information about the psychology behind chewing, including breed information see this article by Your Dog Advisor.

More stimulating games and ideas for dogs with some time on their own here.

We hope that you enjoy trying these mental stimulation for dogs games and activities with your talented noses. Please tell us about your favourites in the comments below-we love learning a new game or two.

More of our dog product recommendations here.

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