DIY brain games for your dog you can make at home

With all the worry about the current Coronavirus pandemic, I got to thinking what would I do with my pup if I had to self-isolate? As any dog owner knows, every dog needs his exercise or you end up with a small hurricane charging round the house. We’re lucky to have a reasonable sized garden we can at least chuck a ball around outside for him, but what about those days when its raining sideways or if you don’t have a garden. One thing that defiantly wears out our rambunctious pup is brain games, so I thought I’d write a list of some games you can do at home with things you’d have lying around.

· The muffin tray game

What you’ll need: A metal fairy cake/muffin tray, some treats or dry food, 6 tennis balls (see below for our alternative).

This popular game requires you to place some of your dogs treats in a few of the holes and then cover them with tennis balls which have been cut in half. Now this didn’t strike us as being particularly green, especially if like us your tennis balls are still going strong after numerous outings, also what if you don't use tennis balls. Secondly, we don’t have 6 spare tennis balls lying around and this is supposed to be about using what you already have, we thought we’d try a greener alternative.

We opted for paper cupcake cases (I admit I had to buy these specially as I wasn’t about to risk my silicone cases against the pups teeth). I hid some of the pups favourite treats under the pink paper cake cases, then covered the empty spaces.

This actually went better than I expected, as I fully expected the pup to just rip up the paper cases as soon as he caught sight of them. However, by doing a bit of training practise he managed to leave them alone long enough for me to get a photo.

He seemed to have a great time, though he definitely knocked the cases off rather than lifting them off, as I've seen some dogs do with the tennis ball version. The cases seem to last quite well as well, even when the pup decided to try and run off with one of them, and I was even able to save them for anther day. I'll definitely be doing this one again, even thought it didn't last long, as it was easy to repeat and gave a good chance to practise his sit and leave it commands, and test his scent work.

· The cardboard box

What you’ll need: A good sized cardboard box (needs to be big enough for your dog to fit in, at least partially), some newspaper and some treats/dried food.

This game came in particularly useful for us when we were attempting to move house whilst the pup was only a few months old.

He constantly wanted to play with the boxes and tape, so we filled one box with screwed up sheets of packing paper and put a few of his biscuits in. We then put him in the box, and watched as chaos ensued as he dug and burrowed around inside the box. In the beginning I think he would have had as good a time without the biscuits, as he was so excited to be able to chew and play with the newspaper. Eventually, he knocked the box onto its side, but he was still able to dig around and nose out the biscuits.

The only downside to this game is that after playing with the newspaper he then discovered the box, and attempted to destroy it. He still loves a cardboard box nearly 8 months later, and will destroy one as soon as he gets near it.

There are a couple of variations on this. One is to fill a toilet roll tube with paper, but leave some sticking out the end. We used the paper wrapping from our rolls and he happily rolled it around destroying it. Again, the downside to this is the resulting mess and that he still sees toilet roll tubes as a great chew toy! The other is take an old egg box and put a few treats inside, then close the box and give to your pooch. Ours loves this one, and its so simple the quick to do that it’s a great standby for those times when you need them to burn a bit of energy

· The plastic bottle

What you’ll need: A plastic bottle with a lid and the label removed.

This one is the most basic on the list and all you need do is give your dog the bottle and watch them chase it around the floor while trying to grab it. The stronger the bottle the better as it’ll last longer. It’s particularly important with this one that you watch your dog whilst they play as their sharp teeth will eventually break through the plastic, at which point it must be removed. Also watch that the lid stays on, if they manage to chew it off, remove the toy.

I’ve seen various versions of this game where people have put things inside, such as biscuits, so the bottle makes a noise, or have put it inside clothing such as a sock.

· Basic training:

At the end of the day the simplest thing to do with your dog to test their brain, whilst also helping their behaviour, is to do basic training. It doesn’t need to be anything you’d expect to see on Crufts, just simple commands such as sit, stay and leave it. Just a few minutes practise a few times a day is enough to give your pup a good brain workout, with the added advantage that you’ll hopefully be able to stop them eating that questionable thing they’ve put their nose in, when you can take them back outside for a walk.

I hope these ideas have been useful, I came across so many amazing ideas when I was researching this, ranging from simple hide and seek style games to others which require better DIY skills than I have. Please let me know if you’ve tried any of these ideas or about any others you’ve tried, you can never have enough tricks up your sleeve when it comes to entertaining our four-legged friends.

Thanks for reading



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