11 Free Impulse Control & Brain Training Games for Dogs

Learn to teach your dog impulse control skills by playing dog training games like leave it, dealer’s choice, fifty sense, and finders keepers.

When you exercise their brain while making learning fun, you’ll be able to how enjoyable the games are for both you and your loveable best friend.

If your dog has lots of energy, is super reactive, and gets easily distracted, then your life is probably very difficult and frustrating right now. What you need is some good impulse control games, which will help retain your dog’s brain, and help them to calm down, focus, and listen to you.

Top Brain Games & Impulse Training Exercises

Here are some of the best brain training exercises to play with your dog to combat impulse control issues. Below each game title, we have added the good behavior traits that it will help your dog master.

  1. Walk it or Leave it
  2. Dealer’s Choice
  3. A Day at The Spa
  4. Fifty Sense
  5. A Treated Exchange
  6. Red Light, Green Light
  7. One, Two, Three O’clock Walk
  8. Finders Keepers
  9. A Treaty Affair
  10. Ready, Set, Drop
  11. Nosy Barker

Walk It or Leave It

Best for ignoring distractions

This is a common and great game for teaching your dog to learn how to ignore distractions when they are walking.

  1. To try this game, have your dog on a leash and toss them a treat that is out of their reach.
  2. Then wait for them to stop trying to get to the treat by pulling and straining the leash.
  3. Once they stop and are directly looking at you, give them a treat.
  4. Afterward, you can walk to the treat you tossed on the ground.
    1. Repeat this often till they learn how to focus.

Dealer’s Choice

Best for stopping food theft

This game will teach your dog to ignore any food that is dropped on the floor in the house. If you keep saying It’s Yer Choice enough times, your dog will eventually learn to always wait to be given permission to take the food.

  1. You should put some treats on your hands when starting the training, and put the hand near your dog.
  2. Keep your hand closed at all times, as the dog sniffs and nibbles at the treats.
  3. Open your hand when the dog sits down and waits.
  4. Close it immediately if you notice them diving back to get the treats.
  5. When they stay back again, give them a treat.
  6. Gradually keep increasing the time between opening your palm and giving them a treat.

A Day at The Spa

Best for calming your dog

This is a relaxation Mat Training game that teaches your dog to calm down.

  1. Put a blanket or mat and place it on the ground in front of your dog.
  2. Reward the dog if they show any interest in the mat, such as moving towards it, looking at it, pawing at it, or even sniffing it. 
  3. Keep giving them treats the longer they stay on the mat.
  4. Now, change the treats criteria, and only give them a treat when they lie down on the mat.
  5. Repeat this as many times as possible.

Fifty Sense

Best for increasing obediance

Also known as Smart X 50, this game was invented to teach a dog some manners and life skills around the house.

  1. Put 50 treats or your dog’s food in a treat pouch or jar.
  2. Pay close attention to your dog, while you prepare for your day, relaxing in the living room in the evening, or while preparing dinner.
  3. If they do things like lying down, sitting, or looking at you, tell them ‘good puppy’ and toss one treat from the jar to them.
  4. Keep repeating this until all of the treats are gone.

A Treated Exchange

Best for teaching drop it

This game of Look at That teaches your dog how to share. If your puppy has trouble sharing, it’s advisable that you play this game with the help of a professional trainer.

  1. Give your dog a toy they like.
  2. Approach the puppy and click when they start to look at you. Toss some treats afterward. The dog is supposed to drop the toy and get the treat.
  3. If they do not drop the toy, then look for a better treat and a less interesting toy.
  4. Pick up the toy as they are enjoying the treat.
  5. Give it back to them.
  6. Keep repeating till the starts to get more excited about the treats than the toy.

Red Light, Green Light

Best for leash pulling

This helps to teach your dog polite walking skills with a leash without giving them treats. Treats are good, and they make training easier, but on this one, there shall be no treats.

  1. Put your dog on a leash, and start your normal walks while your dog is on a harness.
  2. Walk forward, when your dog hits the end of its leash and starts to pull, stop immediately and wait for them. Do not tug on the leash at all.
  3. Wait for the ‘J’ to appear on the leash, and mark this with a ‘good’ or a ‘yes’ for the dog. This often works with dogs.
  4. Start walking again.
  5. Keep repeating this, till they learn not to pull on the leash.

One, Two, Three O’clock Walk

Best for teaching distraction management

This is a great game to help your dog understand their environment and learn how to handle distractions.

  1. Put some treats in a treat pouch or your pocket, and do not lure your dog to the treats.
  2. Then count out very loudly, “ONE, TWO, THREE.”
  3. When you say “three,” give them a treat.
  4. Keep doing it over and over again, and deliver the treats into your puppy’s mouth, till they understand that a treat will come when you say the number “three.”

Finders Keepers

Best for teaching recall

This is a great game and it teaches your dog how to find a specific toy. It is especially perfect for dogs to learn simple commands.

  1. Start out with just one toy, and tell the dog to go find it. Choose a phrase to represent the toy, and stick to it at all times. You must be consistent.
  2. When they find the toy, reward them and take the toy away from them like you are playing. Throw the toy, then say the phrase you used for the toy in an excited tone, and have the dog find it again.
  3. After some time, stop pointing at the toy and just give a verbal cue for the dog to go fetch. Keep rewarding the dog when they find the toy and keep grabbing it from them.
  4. Introduce a new toy in the game. You may want to introduce a toy that is not as exciting as the previous one and repeat the process above. Only reward the puppy if they give you the second correct toy.
  5. Again, name this second toy as outlined above, as it will be easier for the dog to identify the toys by name.
  6. Keep repeating this game, till the dog is able to alternate between the toys that you ask for.
  7. Gradually keep increasing the number of toys, till the dog knows them all by name and can fetch any that you wish them to fetch for you.

A Treaty Affair

Best for controlling reactions

This is a great game that teaches your dog how to calm down, even after they notice something scary or exciting or anything that can distract them. It is a good game for dogs that are leash reactive and hyper-aggressive dogs.

  1. Take your dog on a walk with some treats.
  2. When you notice them lose focus due to a specific object such as another dog, a cat, a person, or a squirrel, click to them and wait for them to look at you.
  3. When they look at you, give them a treat.
  4. If they do not turn towards you and are fixated on the distracting object, do not give any treats.
  5. Move away from the distracting objects and try again.

Ready, Set, Drop!

Best for teaching obedience

This game is tug-based and will teach your dog to follow cues, such as dropping toys even when the dog is really excited. It is a great way of teaching your puppy to listen to you, even in the midst of distractions.

  1. First, ensure that your dog follows simple cues, one or two. At least they should already know how to play tug, and drop things on cue. They should know one or two things.
  2. Start off by playing a familiar tug game with your dog. Just play the game lightly in the beginning, and don’t get your dog too riled up.
  3. Cue the dog to drop the toy.
  4. Cue them to lie down, sit down, touch, or do exactly what you want. Use the cues they already know well.
  5. Reward the dog for listening and restart the game again.
  6. Whenever your dog drops the toy, keep rewarding them.
  7. You can slowly increase the intensity of the tug game, but if the dog doesn’t stop to listen to you, then reduce the intensity further.

Nosy Barker

Best for reducing boredom

Also known as The Nose Knows, or just Nosework, this game is great when you want to exhaust your dog. It does take lots of work to find treats you have hidden with his nose, but don’t worry, dogs do feel calmer when they are sniffing around.

  1. Hunting for food using their noses is a natural thing for them, and this is a game that will do wonders for your dog’s stress levels.
  2. Use boxes that have treats in them to teach the dog how to look out for treats by sniffing for them using their nose.
  3. You can gradually increase the complexity of the treats in the boxes by putting them in different ways.
  4. Start off by hiding these treats outside of the box and then inside the box.
  5. Try out other new locations and challenge your dog.