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Fun and Games for a Smarter Dog: 50 Great Brain Games to Engage Your Dog

Fun and Games for a Smarter Dog: 50 Great Brain Games to Engage Your Dog

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Fun and Games for a Smarter Dog: 50 Great Brain Games to Engage Your Dog

343 pagine
2 ore
Mar 26, 2018


Mental exercise provides just as many benefits for dogs as physical exercise does. But once you have basic trainingsit, down, come, stayunder your belt, what can you do to build your dog’s brainpower? Take your pup’s repertoire of skills to the next level with an array of games that challenge his body and mind alike. Training your dog in the course of play also allows you and your dog to have fun together while continuing to strengthen that ever-important humancanine bond.

Inside Tricks and Games for Smart Dogs:

A dog’s perception of play and the science behind the success of play-based training

Using treats and good timing to encourage desired behaviors

Step-by-step instructions for fifty brain games that teach new behaviors and increase a dog’s intelligence, including adaptations for different skill levels

Increasing your dog’s physical abilities and mental acuity as he learns

Socialization and how it affects your dog’s attitude toward interacting with other dogs

Introducing your dog to new canine playmates
Mar 26, 2018

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Fun and Games for a Smarter Dog - Sophie Collins




Sophie Collins



Playing Safe

1. Play and Training

Understanding How Dogs Think about Play

2. Basic Games

Using Play to Teach

3. Bonding Games

Building Your Relationship with Play

4. Brain Games

Boosting Your Pet’s Thinking Skills with Play

5. Fitness Games

Games to Build Your Dog’s Fitness and Agility

6. Figuring It Out

Games to Stretch Your Dog

7. Getting Along

Dog-to-Dog Play


Playing for Life


Further Reading



When it comes to teaching your dog, one thing is certain: you won’t be short of advice. Whether you have a new puppy, have just adopted a rescue dog, or have decided that the affable but not-so-obedient family pet that you’ve had for some years needs a behavioral tune-up, there are a lot of dog-training experts around. Many will simply tell you, unasked, on the street or at the park, that you’re doing something wrong, while others will offer alternatives; some will insist that your dog won’t respect you unless you dominate him (in particular, ignore these ones), others will tell you about the perfect pet professional who turned their problem pet around. And, of course, this book, too, is one of many, plenty of which offer conflicting advice. All this can create a lot of confusion. So how can you teach your dog in a way that will build your relationship, make sure you have fun together, and incorporate lessons that will help him to get along in our human-managed society? And can it be done in a way that will keep—or get—you both fit, too, and generally make you both happy?

It’s a lot to ask, but you do have one true expert on hand, and that’s your dog himself. Among all the information people will offer you, something is often overlooked—that we can learn as much, or more, from dogs as they can learn from us. After all, they live in a world that is made for people, following people’s rules. Generally, they manage this successfully; far more so than most people would if the situation were reversed and they were transplanted into a world of dogs.

Domestic dogs are, as a species, extraordinary adaptable and tolerant. They are highly social animals that collect huge amounts of information from us, often learning more from our body language than from what we tell them verbally (more on that later). Their senses are more developed than ours. With noses around a thousand times more sensitive, they naturally rely on smell for a lot of their daily news and make up the balance largely with minute observation of what’s going on around them. True, they can’t talk, but they both watch and listen intently. They’re also remarkably forgiving. Even after you’ve messed up the job of teaching them something simple, confusing your signals, sending conflicting body language, and raising your voice instead of concentrating on what you’re saying, your dog will usually still be hanging in there, looking to you for amended instructions and remaining willing to try to understand, however confusing you’re being.

These are all good reasons for you to take the trouble to learn to teach your dog properly and patiently, with a consciousness of what usually works and what may not, and with an awareness that your dog is a dog, not a small and sympathetic person in a furry coat. The chapters that follow take account of all these factors.

Working with your dog should continue throughout his life as part of your owner/pet relationship. At some point, you will probably feel that he is trained—when he knows what’s considered acceptable, both at home and out and about, and sticks to the rules most of the time. But if you stop there, as many people do, you’ll be missing a trick (sometimes literally). Because a mix of training and playing is fun, and a short session—ten minutes is enough—over and above the walking and playtime that dog owners build into every day will bring rewards out of proportion to how long it takes. Mix things you want him to know with things he loves doing, keep it fresh by interweaving elements of routine with challenges and surprises, and you’ll have a pet who stays young for his years and who’ll always welcome the chance to spend more time with you.

And what about the smarter part of the equation? Can you really train your dog to be smarter? It may not be the case that you can actually raise his canine IQ, but with short, regular, consistent playing-and-training sessions, you can build on his strengths, get rid of most day-to-day difficulties, broaden his horizons, and be sure he’s an all-around good canine citizen with plenty of personality and a healthy respect for the rules. All of which adds up to a smart dog.


There are almost endless possibilities when it comes to games and activities you can play with your dog. Before you start, however, it is essential that you make sure you will be playing safe.


Almost every dog can play some games, learn some tricks, and enjoy doing both. If you’re teaching a particularly young or old dog, however, be careful that you don’t push him too far. Dogs that are still at the growing and developing stage (under a year and up to two years in some breeds) shouldn’t do any jumping and shouldn’t be allowed to overtire themselves, so use your common sense if your dog seems to be wearing himself out—a young dog won’t always know when he’s had enough. At the other end of the age scale, don’t push an elderly dog beyond his comfort zone; the stamina of a ten-year-old probably won’t be as high as that of a dog in his prime of fitness, and older or arthritic pets shouldn’t be overexcited so much that they hurt themselves.

Jumping, standing or walking on their back legs, or turning awkwardly can all cause injuries that may recur or lead to long-term strain or weakness in young, old, overweight, or unfit dogs, so use your common sense when judging what’s suitable for your particular pet. Additionally, brachycephalic breeds (those with flat faces, such as Bulldogs) should not be allowed to overexert themselves. In the following chapters, we’ve included a note in cases where the occasional trick or game isn’t the best choice for a puppy, an older dog, or a less fit dog, plus suggestions on how to modify it, if necessary.


If you’re playing with your own dog, you are probably the person who knows best what he will enjoy, and you can play to his strengths. If you’re with a dog that isn’t yours, check his preferences with his owner and be careful and observant during play. You need to know about a dog’s behavioral tendencies before you start. For example, if a dog tends to get be guarded about favorite toys, it’s best to get him familiar with the idea of leaving (see here) or swapping (see here) before you introduce a toy-based game; dogs who tend to engage in one-upmanship need to be introduced carefully and in a controlled way to competitive games, such as tug. If your pet isn’t enthused by a particular activity, don’t keep pushing it at him—instead, try a different one. There are plenty of choices, and he’ll learn much more easily if you focus on his strengths, whether he turns out to be an athlete, a thinker, or even a clown who loves to play to an audience.


Children and their pets can have great play relationships, but they should always be carefully managed. Never leave a young child alone with a dog. If excitement ramps up too far, the high-pitched shouting of children can agitate dogs, and play can turn snappy. Younger children need to be taught how to play appropriately without manhandling or scaring a dog. Prolonged eye contact—in particular, when it’s at the dog’s own eye level, as a toddler often will be—must be avoided. Dogs aren’t generally comfortable being stared at, and if a child is at face level with a dog, he or she is also at jaw level if the dog feels threatened—this is why children often get bitten. Make sure you supervise play between children of any age and your dog, don’t allow small children to pull him around, and either discourage chase games or police them extremely carefully (a dog is more probable to jump up and nip in excitement when he catches the child). Engage children in teaching exercises from the start. Training your dog through all the stages of an easy exercise with a child’s help is an excellent way for them to learn how to get along together in an enjoyable way.


Problems in dog/person play often arise because one species is misunderstanding the body language of the other. Learn to watch your dog carefully as you teach. Getting into the habit of being observant around him will familiarize you with his norm, and thus make you aware of when a game isn’t as much fun for him as it is for you, as well as of any dislikes or sensitivities that need to be managed.

Remember, too, that every dog is an individual and will have different enthusiasms and limits. An enjoyable game of finding a treat for one dog may overstimulate another; a natural retriever may love games that teach him to carry different items, while another dog may not see the point of carrying things at all. Make informed choices, and your games will be fun for both of you.




Not all species love to play, but both humans and dogs belong in the category that do. If you’ve lived around dogs, you’ll have found that a lot of interaction comes naturally—throwing a ball, playing a game of chase, or coaxing certain behavior using treats are probably all activities you’ve enjoyed with your pet without even thinking about them. However, if you want to use play in a broader way, to train your dog or encourage his initiative, it’s worth learning a little more about how play develops in dogs and how you can take advantage of a dog’s natural behaviors.


Play comes naturally to dogs, and puppies are usually actively exploring their surroundings from the time they are three weeks old, using their paws and mouths and tumbling with their littermates. By four weeks, any time not spent feeding or sleeping will generally be taken up by an indistinguishable mixture of playing and exploration.


Small puppies spend a little time playing with their mother (and the dam will use the games to start teaching them polite canine behavior—for example, holding down with a paw a puppy who nips too hard), but they spend far more time, as they grow, with their siblings. If you watch one-month-old puppies, you’ll see recognizable games. They will play rudimentary chase and rollover games with another puppy, and they will play solo, too, rolling a ball and running after it, and exploring other objects with their teeth.

So far, so familiar: Many playful exercises could have originated as practice for the life of an adult dog in the wild—a dog that has to catch or scavenge for its own food. And to some extent, puppies’ games mirror the behavior seen in plenty of other young mammal species that also enjoy playing when they’re immature but lose their enthusiasm for play as they transition into the serious business of adulthood.


Although not all species take their playfulness beyond adolescence into maturity, both dogs

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