You know all too well about your puppy needing physical exercise but how about exercising their minds?

Puppy brain games are not only fun but help to mentally stimulate your puppy. They can even be used to slow down mealtimes for the guzzle gut pups out there. Puppy mind games provide enrichment and are a great bonding experience.

Have you wondered what kind of puppy stimulation games might suit your puppy? Well, of course, here at Zigzag, we always do our best to help.

Yep, that’s right, in this article, we’ll be telling you:

  • Why puppy brain games are important
  • Which puppy mind games might be best for your puppy
  • When you should play puppy brain games
  • At what age can you start playing puppy brain games with your puppy?

Exercising your pup’s mind is vital for their development. You can do this by playing puppy brain games and also through positive reinforcement-based training. Download a Zigzag puppy training app trial and start your puppy’s training journey today!

puppy playing with ball on a beach
Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash

Why playing puppy brain games is important

Puppy brain games are important for your puppy’s mental development. In fact, there are several reasons why playing intelligence games and mind games with your puppy – (not on them, by the way, we’re not doing any kind of Derren Brown mind control stuff here) is so beneficial.

In general, playing is a good thing to do with your puppy. Looking for puppy toy inspiration? Check out some of Zigzag HQs favourite puppy toys.

Puppy brain games help with problem solving

We don’t imagine your dogs will be Sherlock Bones. Still, puppy brain games and solving puzzles activate parts of the brain used when a dog is hunting and is very pleasurable for them.

Puppy brain games relieve frustration

Sometimes puppy brain games are challenging and your puppy may feel some frustration which they then learn to work through.

Working through frustration and learning to cope with that feeling is good for your puppy’s development.

Don’t make the games too hard too quickly. Feeling frustrated from the start won’t make them want to play the game much. Start off with easy games, so they get some quick wins first, then you can gradually make things a bit trickier.

Puppy brain games can help with fast or reluctant eaters

Does your puppy eat their food too quickly? Popping the food in a puzzle game might be your answer here if your dog’s nickname is Dyson! As a bonus, there’s a concept called contra freeloading. When an animal is offered a choice between freely available food or food that requires effort to obtain, it prefers the food that requires effort.

Dogs are natural foragers and would often rather eat food from a puzzle than be given it freely. This can sometimes make even the pickiest eater more interested in their food if they have to work for it.

Puppy brain games can be an activity you can do together

Getting on the floor and being involved with your puppy and the brain game toy is a great bonding experience and can help to strengthen your relationship. It can also help puppies who might not be so confident with the new toy or item to be braver (fear of novelty can be pretty common in pups). Your puppy knows that you’re there for them, and it feels a safe thing to do.

Puppy brain games are great for alleviating boredom.

Puppies need a lot of stimulation, and brain games help them not go self-employed and get up to their own mischief when at home and bored.

Puppy brain games stimulate natural foraging behaviour

Dogs are scavengers and have lived for thousands of years, foraging through unmentionable places looking for food. Given the opportunity, it’s something they still love to do today! Let’s keep the foraging on our terms and give them a nice brain game to enjoy – don’t let them go foraging in the cat litter tray. Yuk!

puppy playing with toy on grass
Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

Which puppy mind games are best?

The best puppy mind games and puppy simulation games for your puppy will depend on a few factors, such as

  • Your puppy’s personality
  • Your puppy’s previous experience with learning games
  • Whether your puppy does things with their snout or if they use their paws more
  • How rough your puppy is with brain games and puzzle toys

When thinking about what to look for in a good puppy brain game, I tend to go through a bit of a checklist of:

  • Can it be washed – puppies and dogs are pretty drooly, after all. I like West Paw brain games, as they go in the dishwasher!
  • Will my puppy get hurt if they chew it? The early brain games were wood which can splinter if your puppy is a chewer. Fortunately, the newer ones by Nina Ottosson are easy to clean.
  • Does it seem durable – will my puppy break it in a couple of goes?
  • Is it the right shape for my dog? Flat-faced dogs such as Frenchie and Pugs can feel uncomfortable trying to get treats out of small wells. Lickimats often go down well with them.
  • Can it be connected with other brain games? Puppy brain games like K9 Connectables are great for this!
  • Are the materials safe? I don’t want my dog to get hurt playing the game or ingesting plastics that might be toxic.
puppy cuddling a toy
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

When to play puppy brain games?

You can start playing puppy brain games with puppies from a young age

Keep the games really easy at first, loosely fill toys and don’t pack them tight as it will be too difficult for your puppy, and they will give up.

Don’t make every meal your puppy eats be from a brain game

You’d get fed up if every meal had to be worked for, so while ditching the bowl is suitable for some meals, don’t make eating from a puzzle toy the only way your puppy can access food.

Be careful not to create a monster!

What do I mean? Well, suppose you have a young puppy that you’re turning into a super sleuth. In that case, you will need to keep up this level or even increase this level of enrichment and stimulation games as they get older. It can be pretty exhausting to think of more challenging ways to exercise their brains, and puppies can turn into dopamine addicts!

Use puppy brain games at times of day you want your puppy to be busy or occupied.

If you know there is a particular time of day your puppy gets the zoomies and is unbearable, then playing a puppy brain game is a good idea. It can be a great way to encourage them to do a focussed but calming activity like foraging in a digging pit or snuffle mat.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about puppy brain games. If you’re looking to learn more, we have over 50 training games for you here, and even more in our Zigzag puppy training app, so you’ll never run out of ideas for puppy brain games.

Not sure what brain games you can play with your puppy? Ask one of our puppy coaches. They’re available to you in-app at the touch of a button and will be happy to help you. Download a trial of Zigzag today and get started on your puppy training journey.