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Brain Games for Dogs


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What’s It About

Dogs are bred to be active creatures and require plenty of physical and mental stimulation in order to keep them happy and healthy in both body and mind. Physical stimulation takes the form of exercise and typically includes walks or games of fetch and is something that most dog owners are common with. However, mental stimulation is often completely forgotten and, if ignored, can soon lead to behavioural problems resulting from stress and frustration.

In this book, Claire Arrowsmith, principal consultant at The Pet Behaviour Centre and member of the Your Dog magazine expert panel, shows us how to use the creative power of play to stimulate your dog mentally. She uses reward-based methods to teach fun games which also help to strengthen the bond with your dog.

Consisting of a mixture of fun games, tricks and activities suitable for all types and ages of handlers and dogs, Brain Games For Dogs provides a top quality workout for the mind.

Part one looks at preparing your dog for Brain Games. Arrowsmith begins by suggesting some of the reasons why you might want to play brain games with your dog. She explains how they can be used to encourage your dog to be more active, occupy him while you are away, provide new ideas for play, and for topping up your training.

She continues to mention the importance of providing your dog with mental stimulation as well as adding why, due to your dog’s ancestry, he requires you to provide activities to prevent him from becoming stressed and frustrated. Arrowsmith moves on to considering the influence of breeds on games, giving us some examples of how breed characteristics influence play preferences. She looks at the influence of age on play, analysing the difference in styles of play between puppies and older dogs.

Arrowsmith also offers some guidance on health and play, commenting on issues such as obesity, and explains how to know which games to play, and how to include multiple dogs. Finally in this chapter she provides us with  brain games guidelines.

In chapter two Arrowsmith moves on to the basic skills. She discusses the reasons for using positive training methods as well as going over some rules of game play. She continues by looking at using rewards in play, and specifically at using food as a reward, including what treats and reward schedules to use. Arrowsmith then shows us how to find out what motivates our dogs. She discusses where and when to begin brain games, explaining the importance of initially having realistic aims and taking regular breaks. She then adds details of how you can incorporate clicker training into brain games, giving some advice on timing, shaping and how to train without a clicker.

Arrowsmith next looks at brain games involving toys, giving advice on safety considerations and injury risks. She also gives us tips on teaching basic play skills to timid or scared dogs and rescue dogs, as well as hints for avoiding problems and resolving minor issues. Arrowsmith then addresses communication and the use of verbal signals and hand cues, as well as how to cope when training doesn’t go as planned.

In part two, Let the Brain Games Begin, Arrowsmith begins by focusing on puppy play and provides us with detailed instructions for the following games that are appropriate for puppies. These include:

  • Puppy chew chew
  • Puppy retrieve
  • Go to bed
  • Take it and leave it

Chapter four moves on to games at home and Arrowsmith discusses activity toys and boredom busters, including how to make your own. She then explains the following games suitable for playing in the home:

  • Find it
  • The Leg Weave
  • Jump over
  • Limbo dancing
  • Doorbell dash
  • Where are my keys
  • The canine cleaner

Chapter five focuses on games for small areas. Arrowsmith introduces us to targeting tasks, such as:

  • Target marking
  • Transferring the target
  • Foot touch
  • Push the door closed
  • Indoor agility
  • Play box

In Chapter six we are introduced to games for the garden, and are shown how to play the following:

  • Digging for treasure
  • Frozen popsicles
  • Toy bungee
  • Skipping
  • Creating an outdoor obstacle course

Chapter seven looks at games to play while out and about which include:

  • Extendable excitement
  • Skater dog
  • Hide and seek
  • Carry it
  • Nature’s obstacle course
  • Egg and spoon

Chapter eight moves on to verbal brain games and Arrowsmith explains how to teach multi-lingual tricks and a toy identity parade, showing your dog how to identify and pick out a specific toy on request.

In chapter nine Arrowsmith provides us with some travelling games suitable for occupying your dog on the journey and once you arrive at your destination. These include:

  • Catch the treat
  • In car entertainment
  • Poker face

Chapter 10 moves on to water games, great for breeds who enjoy a splash and romp in the shallows! Arrowsmith gives us instructions on how to play bobbing for treats, dunking and diving and the great water race.

Chapter 11 focuses on games for less active dogs, suitable for the elderly or less mobile dog and includes balancing a treat on the paw and on the nose.

In Chapter 12 Arrowsmith focuses on search games and shows us how to play:

  • Fastest canine eye
  • Out of sight but not out of mind
  • Go get

Chapter 13 looks at games that can be played from your armchair, designed with the less agile or immobile owner in mind. These include:

  • Reach out and touch
  • How do you do
  • Hop over
  • Sneeze and retrieve
  • Say your prayers
  • Fetch your bowl
  • Changing channels

In chapter 14 Arrowsmith discusses games for specific breeds and gives us some ideas for games that will appeal specifically to terriers, scent hounds, herding dogs and sight hounds.

Chapter 16 concentrates on party games and gives ideas and instructions on how to teach your dog a cool party trick such as:

  • Shaking a paw
  • Waving hi and goodbye
  • Spinning round and round
  • Rolling rover
  • Playing dead
  • Crawling canine
  • Bedtime
  • Multiple dog party tricks

Finally, Arrowsmith gives us a short description of each of the following competitive games:

  • Agility
  • Flyball
  • Frisbee
  • Obedience
  • Heelwork to music
  • Earthdog trials
  • Lure coursing
  • Dock diving
  • Tracking
  • CaniX
  • Sledding
  • Field trials
  • Herding trials
  • Rally obedience

Arrowsmith provides detailed instructions on how to introduce and teach all the games and activities mentioned. She also provides a useful key to each exercise allowing you to gauge the level of difficulty. This book is full of fabulous ideas that will provide hours of entertainment for both you and your dog and a modest price.


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