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9 Mental Stimulation Activities For Australian Shepherds (Brain Games)

Keeping your Australian Shepherd mentally stimulated can make all the difference to their behavior, trainability, health, and overall happiness.

Once you know a handful of different activities and brain games, providing your Aussie with enough stimulation is easy.

I’ll explain each of the 9 activities and games in detail with advice on how to start implementing them into your routine. Let’s get into it!

australian shepherd mental stimulation

9 Ways To Keep Your Australian Shepherd Mentally Stimulated

  1. Nose work games
  2. Improve basic command training
  3. Interactive puzzle toys
  4. Keep toys on rotation
  5. Hide and seek
  6. Have friends over with their dogs
  7. Kong toy with frozen peanut butter
  8. Flirt pole
  9. Increase general interaction and engagement

1. Nose work games

One of my favorite games to play with my dog is a simple “nose-work” game. It’s incredibly stimulating and will put to use your Aussie’s most powerful sense, his smell!

Nose work games are straightforward, entertaining, rewarding, and will help you bond with your Aussie. A simple, yet potent form of mental stimulation.

➡️ How to do it:

Start by hiding a small treat behind a cushion or an object in the room, while your Aussie is watching you, then give him the “go find it” command. This is simply to initiate the game and let him know what’s happening.

After the first try, with the help of a partner, or if you can command your Aussie to sit and stay in another room, hide another treat but in a different location, then give the “go find it” command.

Most Aussies will run straight back to the same spot only to find it isn’t there. Now say it again, “go find it” and the fun begins. Your Aussie will know what the game is, and he’ll absolutely love it.

10-15 minutes per day of this game will go a long way.

2. Improve basic command training

Basic command training like sit, stay, come, down, and paw are quickly forgotten about once demonstrated just a few times. This is a big mistake…

Basic command training should be continuously practiced and improved upon. Gradually making the commands harder as your Aussie gets each one. Sit and stay can be made harder by increasing the time, or moving further and further away.

Basic command training not only keeps your Aussie’s obedience, it stimulates his mind and makes him feel like he’s a valued pack member by carrying out tasks his owner sets him. This kind of daily interaction and engagement will leave your Aussie feeling very satisfied and content.

➡️ How to do it:

Start incorporating basic commands back into his daily routine for at least 30 minutes.

Start with sit & stay, and increase the difficulty as he improves. Always reward him with your praise and a small treat when he successfully completes a command. Positive reinforcement is an essential part of the routine.

Gradually practice different commands like come, down, roll over, and more.

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3. Interactive Puzzle Toys

Interactive toys, if you haven’t heard of them before, are toys that encourage your Aussie to think and solve problems, as opposed to just mindlessly chewing on a piece of rope.

Certain puzzle toys are particularly great for keeping your aussie busy while you’re at work.

Interactive puzzle toys come in all different shapes, sizes, and styles. Some are better suited for when you are there to assist, and others are more like set-and-forget. It’s worth having both styles.

Interactive toys often use treats that are somehow hidden within the toy. Your Aussie then has to figure out how to release the treat, usually by using his muzzle and paws to move the toy in a certain way.

These toys are great at keeping your Aussie occupied, for what can end up being a very long time, depending on the toy.

➡️ How to do it:

Try the StarMark Bob-A-Lot. This toy is a set-and-forget toy that you can put down for your Aussie when you leave the house. Your Aussie will need to roll the ball in the right direction until the treats inside fall out slowly. My dog loves this toy and is usually fixated on it for a solid 45 minutes.

You can also try the Nina Ottoson puzzle toy which in my opinion is better suited for when you are there to assist. This game is slightly more challenging and requires your Aussie to lift different compartments, in different ways, in order to access the treat.

Both toys have their place, and I encourage you to try a few out! Puzzle toys are a classic way of providing mental stimulation for your Aussie.

4. Keep toys on rotation

A really simple way to keep your Aussie excited about his toys and focused on them is to have a selection that you rotate.

Having “new” and exciting toys helps to prevent boredom, frustration, and bad chewing habits.

This is incredibly is to do, so you may as well!

➡️ How to do it:

Have 2 or 3 toys down at the same time, and then next week, swap them for a different set of 2 or 3 toys. Your Aussie will think he’s receiving new toys all the time, and it will genuinely keep him excited about them.

5. Hide and seek

It turns out, that dogs LOVE hide-and-seek just as much as kids do.

If you have a spare 10 minutes, play a few rounds of hide-and-seek with your Aussie. It will send him bonkers with excitement.

➡️ How to do it:

When your Aussie is least expecting it, and is in another room of the house, hide behind a door in another room and call out his name…. he’ll be going bonkers as he tries to find you, but don’t make it too difficult, there’s a fine line between fun and frustration!

The best thing about this game is that you can do it whenever, completely randomly, and it will put a spark into your Aussie’s day.

If you’ve been practicing his sit and stay command, you can take him to another room, and play another round.

6. Have friends over with their dogs

If you have friends or family members that have dogs, be sure to invite them over more often.

Socialization is super important for dogs of all ages, especially during puppyhood. Socialization helps dogs learn how to behave around other dogs, and teaches them “good manners” for when they run into unknown dogs at the dog park.

Socialization also happens to be one of the most powerful forms of mental stimulation. Just 1 hour of sniffing butts, play fighting, chasing, barking, and roaming around together will leave your Aussie feeling extremely satisfied for the remainder of that day.

➡️ How to do it:

Consider who in your family and close friends have dogs and start arranging for regular meetups.

If this isn’t a possibility, then there will be many local doggy meet-up groups you can discover through Facebook or Google.

7. Kong toy with frozen peanut butter

This technically falls under the “interactive toy” section, but this tip is so good, it deserves its own place on the list.

This will keep your Aussie more entertained than anything else on this list. Once you put it down, it’s like nothing else exists for hours. I learned this trick from a friend and it’s freakin’ awesome!

The peanut butter will slowly thaw out, making it last a long time, and the chewy rubber texture of the kong toy in itself proves to be very satisfying for all dogs.

➡️ How to do it:

Take a regular kong toy, stuff it with peanut butter (free from Xylitol and salt) pop it in the freezer until frozen solid.

Peanut butter has been deemed safe for dogs, as long as it does not contain Xylitol or high salt content, always check the label.

Don’t do this every day, peanut butter is a very rich treat and contains a lot of calories. Once per week is ideal.

8. Flirt Pole

Flirt poles are great fun and is an activity that’s perfect for your backyard.

Flirt poles will spice up playtime and make it a little different from a typical game of fetch.

They also encourage your Aussie to jump which will improve his strength and stamina. Just ensure your Aussie is in good health before you start using a flirt pole.

Flirt poles may not be appropriate for very young puppies or seniors, as they need to be more careful with their joints.

Here’s a range of excellent flirt poles (Amazon)

9. Increase general interaction and engagement

Sometimes, you don’t need any fancy toys or spectacular activities to do, your undivided attention is something that all dogs crave from their owners.

General interaction counts as anything, as long as you are actually engaging and paying attention to your Aussie.

Everything from fetch, 20 minutes of brushing (with these brushes) , and even talking to your Aussie counts.

Make your Aussie more of a priority and he’ll be very satisfied.

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