Activities For Smart Dogs

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Introduction

Smarts dogs can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand you can certainly teach them a lot more, as their mental capacity allows them to learn more, and more complex commands at that, leaving no end to the amount of things they can do. On the other hand, smart dogs also tend to be stubborn, and worse yet, more thorough troublemakers, as they can easily get into things dogs with less awareness may be able to. But if you choose to see it as a blessing, as we advise you to do since there's nothing you can do about it, take advantage of their abilities by getting them into some brain-stimulating activities, as it may not only help them grow and entertain you, but save you a headache in the process. But remember, some dogs are much stronger in certain categories, so just because they fail in one doesn't mean they can't excel in others!

String Test

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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
5 min
Items needed
String or Shoelace
Treats
Activity description
While the Towel Test undoubtedly tested your dog's ability to problem solve, it didn't really introduce any new objects used to obtain the treat. Chances are, they most likely just used their paws and nose to get to the treat and eat it. But some dogs can certainly reason beyond that, which is where the String Test comes in. It introduces another object not normally associated with treats, let alone any reason to operate it without any other stimulus. It's cheap, or free if you already have the basic materials, generally works best inside because flatter surfaces are more ideal, and takes only a few minutes to do.
Step
1
Set up the string test
Once you've procured your two main materials, tie the string around the treat, preferably something bone-shaped so it doesn't slip off either end. With your dog watching, slide the treat underneath a piece of furniture that they can't get their head under, and far enough back that they can't reach it with a paw alone, but leave around half the string sticking out.
Step
2
Show them the way
Encourage your dog to pull the string, but if they don't at first, pull it for them to show them it eventually produces the treat. Repeat this step multiple times until they get the idea, but don't let them eat the treat or their motivation may diminish. Make sure they see the treat when it gets slid under and make sure you emphasize the string as the means of getting it.
Step
3
Let them explore
After they've got a decent grasp of what the string can do, let them experiment and see if they learn to pull the treat out on their own. Give them some time to try it, but if they do little, ignore the string or just give up, repeat the first two steps until they seem to grasp it. It should be noted that they may never figure it out. Strings are rarely an item of interest to dogs inherently, which is why it is so perfect for this experiment. It is a novel object at first, but if they figure it out, it may help connect the dots that they can use other objects to obtain what they desire.
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Cup Test

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
5 min
Items needed
Three Plastic Cups
Treats
Activity description
Like the Towel Test, the Cup Test is a great way to test your dog's brain. But unlike the Towel Test, which measures your dog's problem-solving skills, the Cup Test relies on their memory. It can be done outside or inside, but the latter is generally preferred, as flat, even surfaces are much easier to work with. It's also relatively inexpensive if you already have treats and three identical cups, which should ideally be colored or at least opaque so they can't cheat by looking for the treat instead of remembering where it is. It doesn't take much time at all and if they don't quite get it at first, you may help improve their memory the more you do it, giving you one more activity that will enrich your time together.
Step
1
Cup test setup
It takes little to get this test going, as all you need to do is pick your space, get your dog and get them to sit calmly while you set things up. Hint: start a few feet away so they're not tempted to lean in and steal the treat while you're placing it. Place the three identical cups on the floor next to each other, spaced an inch or two apart. Get their attention with the treat and show them that you are placing it under a certain cup.
Step
2
Give them the OK
Once they've stayed still long enough to see where you've placed the treat and a little extra, give them a releasing command so they can come and look for the treat. If they head straight for the right cup, chances are they already have a pretty good memory. Feel free to score them based on the results as well, giving them three points for getting the first cup right, then subtract a point for each incorrect cup they guess.
Step
3
Mix it up
Feel free to stretch the bounds of their memory once they get the hang of the basics. Try mixing in more cups, multiple treats, and distractions like walking them completely out of the room before bringing them back in to look for whatever you have placed. You can also introduce a stopwatch to see if they do successively better or take notes to see where they begin to struggle or if their memory seems to improve.
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Towel Testing

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 15 min
Items needed
Stopwatch
Towel
Treat
Activity description
The Towel Test is actually a series of three different tests that help to measure your canine's cognitive abilities (or rather, "dognition" as it were). It works both inside and outside since all you need is a towel, a stopwatch and some treats, so you can take your liberties with where you choose to do it. We recommend a place with minimal distraction so the results are more accurate. Conducting this activity inside also lends easier materials for the third test, but it can easily be done with found objects and things already in place outside as well. The general idea is to see how quickly your dog achieves the end goal of each of the three activities. It's cheap and can take a short time or long time depending on how many times you do it, so it should be easy enough for just about everyone to do.
Step
1
Towel face test
After you've gathered your supplies, get your dog to sit down and stay. Try to get the towel cleanly on their head without it half falling off or folding up (hint: it might take some practice on a couch arm or chair first, and it's usually better if they don't see it coming). As soon as it lands, start your stopwatch and see how long it takes them to get the towel off. If they are able to do it in less than 15 seconds, award them five points (or treats if you're feeling generous). If it takes up to 30 seconds, award them 4 points; 31 to 60 seconds equals 3 points, 61 to 120 equals 2 points; after two minutes, award 1 point. If they don't try at all, see how long they're willing to sit there (kidding!). Take the towel off and award them no points.
Step
2
Towel treat test
Once they've settled from the first experiment, get them to sit patiently again. Get their attention with a treat but make sure they stay in place. Place the treat down on the floor while they remain still, place the towel over the top of it, then give them the go ahead and see how long it takes them to unearth it. Use the same time scale to award them points.
Step
3
Towel-treat-object test
For the third test, the setup is very similar to the second, but this time, there needs to be an object in the way, one that they can't fit their head or body under or into, but can reach with at least a paw. In your house, try placing it under the coffee table or couch, depending on clearance. Outside, try under a lawn chair or something of the sort. As soon as you give the go-ahead, start the stopwatch and use the same grading system. If they score 13 to 15, they've got a top notch brain; 10 to 12 is above-average, 7 t0 9 is average, 4 to 6 is below average. If they score 3 or under, well, at least they're probably still great companions and playmates.
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More Fun Ideas...

Spot Shuffle

Most dogs have a favorite place or two in each room. When you decide to rearrange your furniture, make sure they're not in it when you do so, then encourage them to go in and lay down. If they go right to their spot, whether it's under a window or a certain dog bed, it's further proof that they are both good with basic reasoning and memory!

Room to Room

Here's another great, simple test you can use to test your dog's understanding of spacial layouts. Have them watch you place a treat in a room with multiple entrances. Walk them out of one, towards the other, and see if they'll re-enter the room and head back to where you placed the treat.

Hide and Treat

For further memory-testing fun, have your dog watch you place a treat in a room with a considerable amount of objects or furniture, then make them walk out of the room and wait a minute before re-entering. See if they go right to the spot they saw you place it or if they resort to sniffing around to find it again.

Conclusion

Completing mentally-stimulating games with your dog can be great for a lot of reasons. It gives you both something to do, increases your bond by helping you spend structured time together and it makes you both work to find out more about each other. Brain games can not only be a great way to figure out how smart your dog is, but exercise them enough mentally that it could improve their cognitive abilities overall. If nothing else, at least it should help to tire them out if it doesn't tire you out first!