FF460: Brain Games - Puzzles for Canines

Instructor: Donna Hill

Course Details

It is always fun to play brain games with our dogs to see just what they can do! Games build our relationship, teach them that we are fun to be around so they eagerly do what we ask of them. Puzzles keep them challenged so life has meaning for them. Doing both drains extra energy that makes them easier to live with-- and makes them smarter too!

Both interactive and independent games help you learn more about your dog's behavior, preferences and abilities of dogs doing sports and tricks. Some of the daily activities take just a few minutes, while others will take several sessions. Some are simple, others are complex. All of them need only a few things that are found commonly in homes. For the keeners in the group, we'll be covering both cognitive and behavioral approaches to learning. 

Choose to spend time on activities that are of interest to you and your dog. By the time you are done with this course, you are going to be absolutely amazed at how well dogs adapt to living with us humans, as well as get a better idea of your dog's specific learning abilities. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and just like learning in humans, we can improve the weaknesses if we want! This class will help you do that.  


  • using human social cues, such as pointing and making eye contact 
  • cooperative problem solving 
  • mapping
  • memory-how long and what kind?
  • applying existing skills in a new context to solve problems
  • playing by the rules
  • deception (cheating) as a way for dogs to get what they want
  • mimicry 
  • language learning-cues and naming objects

Who should take this class:
This class is for anyone who is fascinated by dog behavior and armchair scientists. Anyone who does therapy and trick presentations will love it, as well as dog training instructors who teach advanced classes. There are many ideas you can use with your students! You'll have fun with your dog while learning a little science about them, too. Dogs of any age, skill level and fitness ability can play these games. Ideal for dogs recovering from surgery and senior dogs too.

Each week, I offer some playful brain draining games and puzzles with simple materials. The intent with them is an easy way to entertain our dogs on those days when we don't have the time or energy to do so.

Each week, I will also post some games that have been researched by scientists to give humans a better idea of the breadth of what dogs are capable of. In other words how intelligent are they? My goal is to have you try them with your dog, recording the results (both on video and on computer) and add your data to a class summary. This will give us an idea of how our dogs rate against the dogs being tested in the studies. My bet (or in scientific terminology, my hypothesis) is that we will come to some surprising conclusions about what our dogs are capable of!

This is why I am hoping most people will sign up at silver. Denise has suggested I make it clear that there may be only a few golds to watch, but there will be much fun and thoughtful discussion from the silvers.

I am also offering the option of gold spots since some students may want to follow up on teaching their dog to actually do some of the behaviors that were attempted. I suggest you sign up at silver and upgrade after you've had a chance to look around the class and see how it is run and the topics we are covering. Even if your dog(s) cannot do some of the behaviors, they can be taught incrementally how to do most of the puzzles. In the class, I offer a step by step break down of how to teach the behaviors so you and your dog can better communicate and problem solve together.