Every dog has an innate intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to collect knowledge and apply it. Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the sense." and cognitive abilities varies in every dog based on their exposure and intelligence. Self-confidence plays an important role in intelligence. Confidence is the basic belief within the dog that it can do what is needed to produce the desired outcome.
Intelligence, Cognition and Confidence are well intertwined. Providing cognitive games not only helps develop intelligence, but supports rehabilitating several behaviour problems
Your dog loves these games because it builds up their own self-awareness, allows them to stretch their mind, and provides a sense of overall well-being.
What happens when a dog is unable to use his intelligence or lacks the confidence to believe he can do something? There are several problems that can be manifested. Some severe, like over-excitement (jumping, barking, destructiveness), and at the least, boredom (apathy, depression).
What are Cognitive Games?
Dogs like puzzles they can solve. Since each dog is unique they will like different types of puzzles and activities. Cognitive games types for Dogs include:
1. Key Skills – Learning and applying a new skill to achieve a goal e.g. Rally Trials (Obedience Obstacle Course) or Treat Kong’s
2. Pathway – Figuring out a physical path to achieve a goal e.g. Agility Training, or a game of Hide-and-Go-Seek
3. Cunning - Using/building skill to achieve a goal by evasion e.g. Toy Chase
4. Sequential Games – Developing body memory to carry out a series of actions to achieve a goal.
5. Nose Games – Using the dog’s ability to smell to achieve a goal e.g. Scent Training, Snuffle Mat, Shell Game
6. Coordination Games – Similar to 'Key Skills' above, Coordination games focus on specific body parts working together to reach a goal e.g. Stacking of Rings
7. Vocabulary Games – Building your dog’s vocabulary beyond cues to include colors, objects, context and even emotions. Games would ask the dog to determine differences.
There are many types of cognitive games and this is not the entire list. What is important is that your dog will be good at some games and not so good at others. We want games that your dog both enjoys and that builds confidence. If your dog is not good at a game, we simply end on a good note and move on.
Practical Workshops for students of the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour (theISCP.com) and members of the Muskoka Dog Social Club are available to learn how to set up cognitive games, create your own and to enrich your dog's life.
'Sparky' Smith is a Canine Behaviorist and Practioner, educated through the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, earning her ISCP.DIP.CANINE.PRAC.