7 Brain Games for Dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome DOG

Caring for a dog with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a challenging thing to do, but there are things you can do to help them function better on their own. CDS is also known as doggy dementia and affects your dog’s memory, awareness, and ability to process information.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it is estimated that up to 60% of dogs that are 11 years or older have or will develop Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. While these brain games are not physically intensive, always be moderate in the amount of exercise any senior dog engages in while playing with them. 

In addition, making sure your dog has a balanced diet for their age is going to be incredibly vital to keeping them as mentally acute as possible.

Here are seven great brain games that are excellent ways to improve your dog’s ability to cope with their diminished cognitive ability.

Dog Puzzles

The term dog puzzle refers to any kind of dog toy that not only gives your dog something fun to do but also provides them a way to stimulate their brain. 

There are many different kinds of dog puzzles on the market, but the ultimate goal of all of them is to reward your dog with a treat by solving the puzzle or puzzles the toy provides.

Dogs with CDS need all the mental stimulation they can get in order to keep their cognitive functions from further diminishing. Fortunately, there are many toys on the market that are excellent ways for keeping your dog amused and using their brain. Here are a few recommendations on a few specific brands of dog puzzles we’d recommend:

The Nina Ottosson Interactive Puzzle Game Dog Toys series by Outward Hound

Nina Ottosson’s dog puzzle series is one of the more popular brands of dog puzzles on the market. These toys come in a variety of difficulty levels, ranging from easy to expert. 

Our recommendation for you and your dog is to start them out with an easy toy and, if it proves too simple for your dog, go ahead and purchase a higher difficulty toy. You can read about our favourite puzzle games here.

Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball

Not only will this ball amuse and stimulate your dog’s brain, but it also comes with the built-in benefit of dispensing treats out intermittently. This will prevent them from eating the treats they earn too fast, which helps with digestion and reduces bloating. 

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With an adjustable difficulty, you can rest assured that your dog will be amused with this ball for a long time to come!

TRIXIE Dogs Puzzles

TRIXIE dog puzzles are another good option for your dog. Like Nina Ottosson, the TRIXIE brand has a range of products that have a variety of difficulties. These toys are also a solid option if you’re looking for a fun and stimulating toy to purchase for your dog.

Snuffle Mats

Snuffle mats, also known as foraging mats, are mats that are made out of materials, usually fleece strips tied to a mat made of rubber, that encourage your dog to use their nose to sniff out and find food hidden deep down in the folds of the fleece on the mat. 

Dogs use their sense of smell to interact with and process the world around them, making it vital that dogs with CDS continue to keep this sense sharp. Here’s my award winning range of snufflemats for you to choose from.

Play Hide and Seek with Treats

Playing hide and seek using treats is a very affordable option for any dog owner. We like to call this the Find It! game and you can read the full instructions here.

As you may have expected, this game involves hiding a handful of treats around your home, the park, or any other area where you will be playing with your dog. Using your dog’s senses, particularly smell, they will need to locate the treats you have hidden. 

This will allow for dogs with CDS to stimulate their senses while also being rewarded for doing so.

Try Guess the Hand. It’s Also Fun for Humans

This game is similar to hide and seek but on a much smaller scale. The rules of this game are very simple: simply hold a treat in one of your two hands and have your dog sniff to determine which hand has the treat. 

If they guess the correct hand, make sure to reward them with the treat. Just like with hide and seek, this game uses your dog’s sense of smell to reward them. This is generally an easier game for dogs to play, so it makes it a good choice for more senior dogs with CDS.

Add an Extra Challenge by Hiding Treats Under Objects

This is just like Guess the Hand, but hiding treats under objects instead of your hands. You can use a variety of objects to conceal the treats, such as plastic cups. If they can sniff the correct object that is hiding the treat, reward them with the treat.

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Outside of just placing the treat under an object, you may also want to consider showing them the treat under the object first and then move the objects around. If they guess the correct one, give them the treat. 

Unlike regular hide and seek, when the treats are completely concealed, dogs have to use their sniffers to find the treats. This helps enhance the senses all around, not just focus on sight. 

Work on Commands with Stop and Go

If your dog is familiar with obedience commands like stay and come, you might want to give this game a go. The rules are simple: tell your dog to stay and come at random intervals, giving them a treat occasionally to reward them.

Dogs with CDS may have difficulty remembering old commands, so this will help them to keep these commands fresh in their mind. It will also help you to be able to better recondition them into obeying your commands.

Teach Your Dog a New Trick

This one may be tough and certainly not for those with little patience, but teaching your dog a new trick may be a great remedy for strengthening their cognitive functions.

The key to this is to keep it simple. Your best bet for teaching them a trick is doing something through the association of a word. For instance, having them learn to go to the bedroom by saying ‘go bedroom’ is something that you can slowly condition them into learning.

When teaching a dog with CDS, it is important to stay patient and keep realistic expectations. It is unrealistic for a dog to immediately learn something that you are trying to teach it, and this is especially true for dogs with CDS.

Here is my list of 100 tricks to teach your pets in which you will find some inspiration for something to try with your dog.

In conclusion

Caring for a dog with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is not an easy task, but it can be done. Your pet may need more help to stay active and healthy as they age, depending on their level of impairment from the condition. We hope these seven great brain games will give you some ideas about how to improve your pup’s cognitive ability! If you have any other questions or concerns about caring for your pet with reduced cognitive function feel free to contact us.