German Shepherds need to exercise both their bodies and brains. This breed is smart and hard-working. They are often chosen to be trained and work in law enforcement and other relating areas.
Sadly, many house German Shepherds are tasked with boring and dull duties, and bored dogs can become destructive ones. One way to keep your German Shepherd mentally stimulated is with “mind games” like interactive games, puzzles, and toys.
Here are some cool mind games to entertain and put your dog’s brain in gear:
1. Dog Puzzle Toys
Dog puzzle games are my favorite! They come in a wide variety of shapes, levels of difficulty, types, and sizes. But they all have one thing in common; your dog has to figure out how to solve the puzzle so they can enjoy their yummy rewards.
You can either make your own DIY dog puzzle toys or buy one online. If you think your dog is up to the challenge, the following toys can be a great option to kickstart your dog’s play.
OurPets IQ Treat Ball Food Dispensing Dog Toy
This IQ Treat Ball toy can be filled with kibble or treats. Once you fill it, your dog has to figure out a way to roll the ball and get the treats to fall out. You can either tighten or loosen the opening to make it easier or harder for your dog.
Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado
As one of the most challenging dog toys around, the Dog Tornado features 12 treat chambers to be filled with your dog’s favorite treats. Your dog then needs to spin each interactive puzzle layer to uncover the treats.
To make it even more challenging, you can hide the treats under the white bricks. Now your buddy has two things to figure out—how to spin the layers and how to remove the blockers.
Trixie Activity Flip Board
The Trixie Activity Flip Board is an excellent puzzle toy for German Shepherd puppies. It requires your puppy to put on his thinking cap and use his nose or paws to shift various pieces (cones, discs, and knobs) to find the hidden treats.
Outward Hound Ottosson Puzzle Brick Dog Toy
This brick-style puzzle toy from Nina Ottosson is another fun puzzle toy that is bound to keep your GSD entertained for hours. It allows you to hide treats under different open-close compartments. To reach the treats inside, your dog needs to flip and slide the different compartments.
Our Top Picks: Best German Shepherd Toys
2. Shell Game
The shell game is one of the simplest mind games to increase your dog’s focus and stimulate his mind. To play this game, you can use opaque plastic cups, bottle caps, walnut shells, or other small cups.
Take two or three small cups and line them up in a straight row. Grab a treat bit and show it to your dog. Hide the treat underneath one of the three cups while your dog watches.
Now, start shuffling the cups around. Stop the shuffle, and let your dog guess where the treat is hidden. If he gets it right, let him have the treat. If not, show him where the treat is, and start the game over again (but don’t let him have the treat).
3. Which Hand Game
The which hand game is a great starter game for German Shepherds who have learned basic obedience skills like sit, down, and shake. All you need to start playing this game is your dog’s favorite treats.
To play this game, first, ask your dog to sit. Then hold a treat in one of your hands. Close both fists and ask your dog, “which hand?” If he picks the right side, give him the treat as a reward.
Some dogs might get too pumped up when playing this game and using his teeth to nibble on your hands. If this happens, you need to teach your dog some impulse control first before playing this game.
4. Treasure Hunt
The treasure hunt is a great game for training your dog’s sense of smell and memory.
To introduce your dog to this game, start with having your dog in the sit position. Cue your dog to stay and show him his favorite treats. Then place the treat behind a chair or sofa while your dog watches. Go back and ask him to find the treasure.
It might take several turns until your dog grasps the concept of the game. But once he understands how to play it, you can amp up the difficulty by stashing the treats in more difficult places—around the house or in the backyard.
5. Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a classic children game that most people played when they were a kid, which is not just fun for children, but for your dog as well.
Dog owners often use this game to teach the sit and recall (or come) exercises in a fun way. You can either play it alone or play with others.
Now you’re ready to play! Start by having your dog sit in a stay position. Then leave and hide in another room. Call out your dog’s name. Praise and give your dog his reward as soon as he finds you.
6. Toy Pickup
Would it be possible for your dog to pick up his toys on his own? Although it might sound too good to be true, with a little bit of patience and training, your dog could do that.
Putting toys away involves three different steps: picking up a toy, walking into a box, and dropping the toy.
7. The Name Game
The name game is good for smart dogs like German Shepherd, who can learn many different words and commands. The game is quite simple.
You assign a name to one of your dog’s favorite toys. Hold the toy out and say its name. And reward your dog when he grabs the toy. Repeat this process several times.
Now, let’s test his skill. Put the toy on the floor next to a different toy. Say its name and tell him to take it. Reward your dog when he selects the right toy. If not, try it again. Keep repeating this process until he consistently picks the right toy.
Once your dog has learned one toy name, you can switch to a different toy.
8. Ring Stackers
Ring stackers are a mentally challenging game that is perfect for working dogs like German Shepherds and Border Collies.
This game is also known to sharpen dogs’ eye-paw (or eye-mouth) coordination. Because it is a fairly complicated game, it might take a while for your dog to master it.
Essentially, this game entails stacking a series of rings, in order, on a pole.