Are you looking for a super fast, easy and cheap mental enrichment game for your dog? Try out the muffin tin game! It really is a super simple and fast to set up brain game for your dog.
The muffin tin game is about as easy as it gets to have a scent game for dogs. The Which Hand game is another easy scent game to play with dogs or puppies.
We play this muffin tin game with our Mini Labradoodle Max. It requires only things we have around the house! It did take him a little while to understand the game as a puppy but he is warming to it!
Why Play Brain Games With Dogs?
Dogs are intelligent animals and require mental exercise as well as physical exercise. Even as a puppy it is important to have games and activities to keep your dogs brain firing.
Boredom and lack of mental enrichment is actually one of the primary causes of problematic behaviors like excessive barking. It also increases the risk of separation anxiety.
Scent and problem solving puzzle games provide the enrichment needed to keep your dog healthy and happy, and hopefully out of trouble.
How to Play the Muffin Tin Game
Brain games for dogs don’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of simple indoor dog games and activities that can entertain your dog and keep it mentally stimulated.
What you will need for the muffin tin game for dogs
- A muffin tin, 12 is best
- Some treats (although kibble works well)
- Enough tennis balls to fill the muffin tin
How to set up the muffin tin game
- Break the treats down into small pieces
- If you use kibble it is easier!
- Place a dog treat in each part of the muffin tin
- Use smelly kibble or treats to make it easier for a puppy to understand
- Carpet is the way to go for the muffin tin game, or a hard wood floor. Expect the muffin tin to slide around as your dog explores!
What You Should Do If Your Dog “Doesn’t Get It”
You can lift up a tennis ball to show the dog what is sitting beneath the surface. Once the dog sees the treat they usually figure out the goal.
Use plenty of treats for the first few times you play any scent game. Make it easy! Of course natural liver treats or something that has a distinct odor that dogs love works really well. The stronger the scent to the dog the quicker they will pick up the game.
If you use small amounts of treats (or eventually switch to low calorie treats, even carrot) you can play the muffin tin game many times over. Dogs master it but still enjoy the puzzle process.
[alert-warning]Always keep an eye on your dog when you use tennis balls. Most dogs will use a tennis ball as a chew thing, and even puppies will destroy the tennis ball. You really don’t want your dog to eat the dangerous plastic that makes up tennis balls. You even need to supervise if the tennis ball is one from a pet store. They tend to be safer, but dogs love to eat everything![/alert-warning]
Advanced Muffin Tin Game for Dogs
Some people can train their dogs to pull the tennis ball away, and place them in a certain place or basket “PUT IT AWAY” command before going for the treat.
If your dog is up to the challenge see if they can pull this expert level trick off!
Another idea is to put treats only under a few of the tennis balls. See how your dog reacts to this change in procedure. Do they identify which balls have the treats more closely? Or do they just pull every tennis ball just in case?
Another thing you can do is put each tennis ball back on the tray every time your dog successfully sniffs out a treat. This makes the game much harder for your dog!
Other Brain Games for Dogs
Try out the scent game Which Hand! It is tremendous fun and a simple trick to keep your dog entertained. It is also impressive to guests. Otherwise check out our list of 35 Indoor Dog Games and activities to keep your dog busy when you are stuck in the house.