Training your dog should be fun and include skill building and relationship building, in addition to teaching basic obedience commands. There are many educational, but also entertaining games that you can play with your dogs to enhance their “IQ” potential. Here are three fun ones that work on attention, communication and reasoning from the AKC GoodDog! Helpline.
Teach your dog to give you eye contact. Hold a treat to your forehead or by your eye and ask your dog to look at you. Gradually fade the food to use a hand signal and a verbal command to ask your dog to look at you. Not only does this basic behavior help you get your dog’s attention when he is distracted, but eye contact also triggers a release of oxytocin in both you and your dog. Oxytocin is the hormone for attachment between parent and child. Scientists call these “eye hugs.”
The "Hot & Cold" game uses verbal communication and vocal tone to help your dog find a hidden treat or toy. Hide a treat when your dog is not looking. Use a calm tone for colder if your dog moves away from the hidden treat. Use a more excited tone for “hotter” as your dog gets closer to the hidden treat. This game increases listening skills. It also helps build the special “language” shared by you and your dog.
Treat On A String
Let your dog figure out how to pull a string to get a treat. Tie a ribbon or small rope to a treat and hide it under a small platform or piece of furniture, far enough back he cannot reach the treat with his mouth or paw. Encourage your dog to investigate and see how long it takes for him to tug on the string to retrieve the treat. Reasoning skills are essential for developing puppies and older dogs alike. Successful problem solving is also a big confidence booster.
Nesting Bowls Of Treats
Use plastic storage bowls that nest inside each other, either ones that are the same size or ones that go from large to smaller. Place a treat in the bottom container, then place the second container on top. Continue layering treats and containers. Include one treat in the top, open container to get your dog started. Be sure to do this under supervision so your dog does not try to eat the plastic containers. You can work up in level to make this more difficult, by adding more containers as your dog figures out each level.
For this game, use plastic soda bottles, a metal rod, and a wooden base to create treats-in-a-bottle. Put three soda bottles through the metal rod and secure in the wooden base. Put treats in two of the bottles and watch your dog try to get the treats from the bottles
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for a well-rounded dog. These games and others strengthen not only your dog’s mind, but your bond with your canine companion. For more game ideas and to develop an individualized training plan for your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers.