5 Great Games for the Canine Brain

If you have a Jack Russell, you have two things: a clever dog and an active dog. Unfortunately, this means that boredom can be a problem. And a bored dog will make boredom your problem.

So what can you do about it?

A lot, it turns out. And it can be fun for you, too.

Boredom Behavior Problems

Boredom is no fun for anyone. And when people aren’t having fun, they sometimes take it out on the people around them. Dogs will often do the same. But because our dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong, they’ll find some other ways to express their dissatisfaction. These may include:

  • Digging
  • Destroying things
  • Barking
  • Tail-chasing
  • Listlessness
  • Nipping at your clothing
  • Whining
  • Getting into things (like the trash, cupboards, etc.)
  • Pacing
  • Licking or chewing at themselves

Boredom may look a bit like anxiety — and they both share one thing: the need to be rid of excess energy. And there are a lot of ways you can help

Train that Canine Brain

With a brainy group like Jack Russell Terriers, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. And there are some excellent brain training games that can entertain your pup, educate them, and keep them happy.

Treasure Hunt

Why not send your doggo on a treasure hunt? There are a couple of ways to do this.

First, if you’re going to be leaving the house, try hiding your dog’s favorite treats in various places. That powerful doggy nose will find those treats, and finding them will encourage your friend to look some more. Just make sure to put them in places that your dog can get to easily without injuring themselves, getting stuck, or causing damage to your property.

The second way to play treasure hunt involves you. And we all know that interactive games are great fun for everyone. This version is easiest if your dog has a bit of basic obedience training under their belt.

To introduce them to the game, start out by hiding a treat in plain sight. Put your dog in a sit-stay, then have them watch you hide it. Next, release them to go find the treat. For extra brain-work, teach them a new command word like “seek,” or “get it.” When they find the treat, heap on the praise.

You can make both versions even more challenging by adding the following steps:

  • Hide the treats in cardboard boxes that your dog will need to turn over or open
  • Put the treats in different rooms
  • Hide the treats in places where other scents will mask their smell (like the laundry room)
  • Set up numerous cardboard boxes, but place the treat only in one or two of them

Hide and Seek

Yes, you can play this children’s favorite with your dog! But you will need one other person to help.

How do you play? Here’s how.

First, one person gives the dog the sit-stay command and distracts them. While this is happening, the second person hides. Then the first person releases the dog to find them. When the dog finds the person hiding, heap on the praise, and maybe even offer a treat

This is another great opportunity to teach a new vocabulary word like “find” or “seek.”

Name Your Toys

Most dogs can learn a few toy names. A clever dog like a JRT can probably learn to name all their toys. The process is simple, and once they learn it, you can build other skills onto it, like fetching certain toys or even putting the toys away.

First, decide on a name for a toy or a small group of toys. You can call a rope toy “rope,” for example, or “ball” for a ball.

Hold the toy in your hand. Say its name, and give it a shake. When your dog goes to grab it, let them have it, and give them a lot of praise. Repeat several times, until your dog can do it reliably. This may take literally dozens of repetitions.

Next, set that toy next to a different toy. Say the toy’s name. When your dog grabs the right toy, praise them. If they grab the other toy, say nothing. Instead, gently take the toy back, set it down beside the named toy, and try again. Once your dog has this step, repeat with another “decoy” toy.

Once your dog can pick the target toy out of a pile of toys, it’s time to teach them the name of another toy…and another…and another.

Put Your Toys Away

Your dog will need a bit of pre-education for this one. I mean, it’s hard enough teaching your kids to put away their toys, right? But you can do it — and your pup can, too. To learn this game, your dog will need to know:

  • Basic clicker training
  • The names of their toys
  • The “drop it” command

First, have your dog pick up a named toy. Hold out the toy basket where you want the toy to end up. Now, call your dog to you. Finally, tell them to “drop it,” while holding the basket under the toy. Once they do it, click and reward. Repeat with another toy.

Once the dog recognizes the basket where the toys go, you can stand near the basket instead of holding it out. When your dog has mastered that, stand away from the basket and work on it that way.

Jump Rope

Jumping rope is great physical as well as mental exercise. And you can teach your dog to do it!

How, you might ask?

Well, first, teach your dog how to jump up in front of you. It helps if your pup is clicker trained, but he or she doesn't have to be.

Next, establish a hand signal for “jump.” You can then use this to teach your dog multiple jumps. Jump along with them. Practice until your dog anticipates the cue, and jumps at the same time as you.

Now it's time to “learn the ropes,” or so to speak. Tie a rope to a piece of furniture, or an outside pole. Using a treat, lure your dog over the rope. Give them the treat. Then teach them to walk back under the rope. Lure and treat until your dog can do this reliably.

Now, hold the rope in both hands. Move it forward along the ground toward your dog until your dog jumps over it. Then move it back, past the dog's rear legs and toward yourself, until your dog jumps over it that way.

Now, put it all together. This video can show you all the steps.

New Tricks Train the Brain

Teaching your dog new tricks and games is a great way to curb boredom — and a fun way to interact with your pup. What are some of your favorite boredom busters?

Featured Image: CC SA 3.0 by Steve 65, via Wikimedia Commons