12 Mental Stimulation Activities for Your Golden Retriever

mental stimulation for golden retrievers

Boredom may not be your canine’s best friend.

Even if you take your dog for long walks daily, boredom can still set in if they do not have an opportunity to activate their mind.

In particular, Golden Retrievers need a job to do to keep their brain busy throughout the day. Without this type of interaction with the world, you just might find that your dog develops some behavior problems.

Golden Retrievers need mental stimulation daily to prevent nuisance behaviors like barking or destructive chewing. These games help keep their minds sharp and prevent cognitive decline in old age. You can practice it with puzzle toys, nose work games, and by allowing them to explore the world.

If you think that your Golden Retriever could benefit from some mental stimulation, here is everything you need to know.

Why Golden Retrievers Need Mental Stimulation

Golden Retrievers were bred to be more than couch potatoes. This breed is known for its helpful relationship with its owners. They are known to be excellent at hunting and fieldwork.

Others are highly trained in specialized areas to help act as a sight for the blind or to track down individuals in search and rescue work. Golden Retrievers need a job to do to keep them happy and healthy.

If you spend much time at all with a Golden Retriever, you are likely to notice that their brains and bodies are always busy. A dog who does not get enough activity each day is likely to show some disruptive behaviors like barking or destructive chewing. You must give these dogs a job or they will find one on their own.

Mental stimulation gives your canine a job to do and relieves them from their boredom. As a result, they are less likely to seek out ways to alleviate their boredom on their own. A mentally exhausted dog is often a happier dog.

A Golden Retriever needs a good bit of physical exercise each day to manage their energy levels. Many owners do not realize that mental exercise also plays a role in how tired your dog is at the end of the day.

Mental stimulation can help them to feel more tired than just physical exercise like a walk around the neighborhood. A tired dog is a happy dog.

Read Also: 7 Things Owning a Golden Retriever Says About You

Benefits of Mental Stimulation for Golden Retrievers

Did you know that your dog can show a cognitive decline in its later years? As your Golden Retriever ages, there is a likelihood that they might start to go downhill mentally.

They might have high anxiety, physical fatigue, and a decrease in social interaction. Some may even forget basic commands that do not get used regularly.

Mental stimulation can help to prevent this type of steady decline when it comes to your pup. It activates parts of the brain that have gone dormant when dogs are left to their own devices.

Games and other mentally stimulating activities can keep your dog feeling younger for longer.

However, mental stimulation is good for dogs of all ages. Boredom can cause dogs to misbehave. If they are not given a task, chances are that they will start to look for one on their own. This is when your pup is likely to get into trouble.

They might begin to chew on furniture, bark incessantly at the neighbors, or even have housebreaking accidents. Many of these behaviors are easily avoided if your dog feels that they have a job to do.

Mental stimulation can also help occupy your dog while you are away. Some dogs may suffer from separation anxiety.

However, their experience of this feeling can be lessened if they have something to occupy their attention in your absence. This is why it can be good to leave puzzle toys and simple games for your dog to do while you are away.

12 Mentally Stimulating Activities for Golden Retrievers

Are you ready to give your dog some mental stimulation? Get ready to curb some of those bad behaviors and set your dog up for success with these twelve activities.

1. Teach your Golden Retriever a New Skill

Training your dog to learn a new skill is one way to activate their brain. This can be anything from basic obedience for young puppies to more advanced skills for older dogs.

If your dog already knows a wide variety of skills, you can even start to apply them in new ways. For example, a dog who knows how to retrieve might learn to fetch items from around the home.

For those who are unsure where to start with training, consider signing your pup up for a group obedience class at a local pet store.

A trainer can help you understand the basic concepts of teaching your dog something new. When the class is over, you will have all the tools you need to teach your dog other skills that were not included in the class.

2. Find It

If your dog already has a basic stay command, ask him to do so in one room. Meanwhile, you will go to an adjacent room and hide some delicious snacks.

Make sure to choose something that has a strong smell to it. When you’re done, come back to your pup and tell him to go find it.

Let him use his nose to seek out the treats that you hid. These nose games really activate your Golden Retriever’s brain and keep him sharp.

3. Puzzle Toys

Maybe your Golden Retriever needs some mental stimulation, but you simply do not have time to spend with them today. The good news is that they can still get their brain moving even without you present. Purchase a Kong ball or some puzzle toys that they can play with, in your absence.

Stuff them with high-value rewards that they will look forward to. For example, you can fill a Kong ball with peanut butter and then pop it in the freezer for a few hours. This will keep your dog busy for hours.

Read Next: 10 Stimulating Jobs for your Golden Retriever

4. Exploration on Walks

Walking your dog daily is important to keep them tired and happy. However, you can also use this as an opportunity to exercise their mind.

Once in a while, you can give them free rein to explore as you go. They can sniff and experience the world in a new way instead of just being held in a heel position. Working their mind out this way is important.

However, you may want to teach your dog a command to release them from a heel position and let them know that exploration is okay. Some people like a “go sniff” command so that their dogs know when it is okay to break from a traditional walk.

5. Teach Your Golden Retriever Names

Chances are that your Golden Retriever has a few toys that are his absolute favorite. The question is, does he know them by name?

Teach your dog distinct names for their favorite toys so that they know which ones to retrieve. You might teach them the difference between ball and rope, for example.

If they have lots of toys, you might need to be creative with the simple names you assign to each one. Once they know the names of their toys, you can hide them and ask your dog to find or retrieve them.

6. Agility Courses

Most dog owners associate agility courses with physical exercise, but obstacles also teach your Golden Retriever to use their brain as well. They must figure out how to balance on the seesaw, weave in and out of the poles, and how to go over (or under) a set of hurdles.

Agility courses can easily be made out of common household items or you can set up an elaborate course in your backyard. No matter what, this is one activity that is great for Golden Retrievers in both body and mind.

7. Shell Game

You have probably seen the shell game played on the street before, but have you ever played it with your retriever? Take two or three cups and hide a treat under one of them. Shuffle the cups around and then ask your dog to find the treat.

This forces them to pay attention visually to where the treat goes while you are shuffling. They can even use their sense of smell to find the treat.

8. Assign your Golden Retriever a Job

Golden Retrievers were bred to have a job. You need to give them one if you want to keep their minds active and healthy.

Teach them to hunt, get them involved in a sport like flyball, or take them for long hikes where they have to carry the pack. Anything, where they have some responsibility, can help to stimulate their mind.

9. More Play Time

A lot of dog owners leave their pups to their own devices during the day. However, interactive playtime can be very mentally rewarding for your Golden Retriever.

You should be an active participant in the game you choose whether it is fetch or tug. Playtime is extremely important to your dog’s mental health and to your bond with them.

Read Also: 10 Effective Ways to Bond with your Golden Retriever

10. Take Your Dog on Errands

How often does your dog get out of the house? Besides his daily walks around the neighborhood, your pup does not have many opportunities to explore the world at large.

You can stimulate their mind by taking them with you when you run your errands. Take them along when you go to fill up the tank, head through a car wash, or go to pick up dinner. Your dog will be excited to spend time with you!

11. Buy New Toys for your Golden Retriever

If your dog is already used to puzzle toys, you might have to freshen up their toy box from time to time. Once they learn the trick to securing their snacks, the game becomes a bit stale for them.

Think of it this way: would you want to play with the same three toys over and over?

Even if they happen to be your pup’s favorite, you should consider getting them some new ones to give your Golden Retriever a brand new challenge once in a while.

12. Blow Bubbles

Do you want a creative way to stimulate your Golden Retriever’s mind and play with your kids at the same time? Try blowing bubbles in the backyard for the little ones and the canine companions.

Watch as everyone tries to chase and catch the bubbles. Your dog will love this game because there are endless opportunities to chase the bubbles, but they will never truly get to catch them at the end.

Mentally Stimulating Your Golden Retriever

No matter what game you choose to play with your pup, they will soak up all of your attention. These mentally stimulating games and activities will keep them happy and tired.

After all, a tired dog is oftentimes a well-behaved dog. Because Golden Retrievers were bred for work, it is all the more important to make sure that they are mentally stimulated each and every day.

Related Questions

How much mental stimulation does a Golden Retriever need?

Golden Retrievers should have about twenty to thirty minutes of mental stimulation every day. This is in addition to their daily walks or physical exercise. If you want to combine these tasks, consider teaching your dog games like flyball or agility.

Are Kongs mentally stimulating?

Yes, Kongs can be mentally stimulating for dogs if you pack them full of treats. To extend your dog’s interest in a Kong ball, consider freezing the goodies inside for a few hours before giving them to your pup.

For example, you can pack it full of peanut butter and then freeze it overnight. This will require your dog to work harder to get to those tasty morsels.

How do I know if my dog is mentally stimulated?

Dogs who are mentally stimulated are often better behaved. If your dog is getting into things they shouldn’t, then boredom and lack of mental stimulation could be the culprit.

Dogs who bark, whine, and destroy things often need an outlet to channel their energy. Consider some of the activities on this list to curb some of these destructive behaviors.


Ellis, Nicole. “Games to Play with Your Dog.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 10 Aug. 2018, www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/mentally-stimulated-happy-dog/

Greenberg, Aurora. “Golden Retriever Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/golden-retriever/

Helmer, Jodi. “Brain Games: Mental Stimulation Keeps Dogs’ Minds Sharp.” WebMD, WebMD, 6 Mar. 2019, pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/mental-stimulation-sharpens-dogs-minds


Hi, I'm the owner of Juniper Pets! You can often find me playing fetch with my dogs, working out or cooking up something legendary in the kitchen. Hope you enjoy my blog!

Recent Posts