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Some dogs need to always be doing something. It's not your job to keep your dog entertained throughout the day constantly, but there are some days when you know he needs to be engaged. But engaging your pup doesn't always mean physical activity. What happens on days when it's chilly and cold or there's rain pouring from the sky and you can't get outside for physical playtime? You can keep your pup engaged with simple games such as memory. These fun games engage your dog's mind and also keep him a bit active on days when he can't get out and play. This is perfect for puppies who are stuck inside and for dogs who are healing from injuries or surgery but have excess energy. A memory game is also a great game to teach your dog just to show off his amazing talent.
You don't have to think of a memory game as a board game with a bunch of cards and asking your dog to memorize pairs. Though you can teach your little guy this sort of memory game, you can also teach him something as simple as ‘Where's the treat?’ Training your dog to know where something is based on his memory will require an understanding of basic obedience commands first. He will need to understand not only the commands themselves but also how training with you works. So, if he's been through basic obedience training with you already he'll understand what it feels like to be in a training session where he can learn and succeed at a command and then be rewarded. Puppies are great at memory games as long as they've had some training under their belts. Adult dogs can also learn memory games as long as they want to engage and learn. This training will be about repetition and rewards.
To train a memory game to your dog you're going to need a few things. You should decide how you're going to hide something from your dog so he can find it. This may require treats and cups where you can play 'find the treat' or you can use small buckets or flower pots. You can also train your little guy to play memory the old-fashioned way as you did as a child with cards or paper and pictures. Once you have these items gathered, be sure to schedule some short training sessions in a place free of distractions. Though you might use treats as part of your game, be sure to also have extra treats on hand for rewards too.
The Find the Treat Method
Use two small buckets or cups to hide one high-value treat. Consider using two buckets or cups that look different at first so your pup has an easy time distinguishing them from one another.
Place the two buckets or cups in front of your dog. Let him sniff them while they are empty.
Show your dog the treat he can earn.
Put the treat in one of the cups. Let your dog see which cup you put it in but do not let him have it.
Ask your dog to ‘find it.’ This is a command you can teach your pup for various items whether playing a game of hide and seek or to help you find something such as your keys. If he knows this command already, he shouldn’t have trouble knowing what to find. If not, you may have to help him by touching the cups to draw his attention.
Once your dog can find the treat hidden in the cup you placed it in, start mixing the cups. Go slow so he can watch. Once they have been mixed up, ask him to find it again. He should go for the cup with the treat.
You can challenge your dog to remember where the treat is with multiple cups or buckets. Just be sure he sees where you place the treat before you mix them up.
The Get the Treat Method
Use three or more opaque cups to start this training. Be prepared with lots of treats as well.
Line up cups
Place all the cups in a row with space between them and let your dog watch you do this.
Hold up a treat and let your pup get a good sniff.
Hide and seek
Place the treat under one of the cups. Ask your dog to get the treat. He should know exactly where you put it after watching.
Sniff or tip
Lean back and wait as your pup chooses what his move will be. He might be looking for your permission to tip the cup over or he may simply sniff the cup. Once he finds the treat, give it to him.
Increase the challenge by placing the treat under a different cup and letting your dog watch as you move the cup around. If he can find the treat, then he is remembering which cup you placed it under and not only the space where the cup was.
Practice this often increasing the challenge the more your dog gets used to this memory game.
The Where Is It Method
Mark two pieces of paper with a different symbol. For instance, draw a square on one and a circle on the other. Though your dog won’t know his shapes just yet, he can tell the two shapes differ from one another.
Papers on floor
Place the two pieces of paper on the floor and name them. Point to one and call it a name like ‘square.’ Point to the other and call it a name like ‘circle.’ Repeat this several times with your dog.
Once he’s heard the names several times, start using the names for the papers and when you say the name, hold a treat on the paper with that name. If your dog brings his nose down to the paper or paws at the paper, give him the treat.
Ask your dog to target the paper by name. When you ask where the circle is, he should touch it with his paw or his nose. If you say ‘circle,’ he should paw or nudge with his nose the circle paper. When he does, give him the treat.
Move the papers around and mix those two with additional blank pages.
Where is it?
Ask your dog to remember which is the circle or which is the square paper. He should still nudge and paw at the correct paper even with the extras. Be sure to give him a treat when he succeeds.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 04/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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