Recently, I was gifted some dog supplies by a family friend. She included some dog puzzle toys, which I had never tried with my dogs before, and I decided to see what the dogs thought of them. Turns out, the dogs LOVED them! They have had a great time rolling their new treat dispensing ball around the house and working on a puzzle box to figure out which pocket has the treats in it. Enrichment toys are a really great way to keep your dog’s brain engaged and to keep them active. Here are some of my recommendations!
First, my dogs love food, so I often get them the rubber hollowed toys that have a hole in them so you can stick peanut butter in, and then they have to work overtime to get out. My dog Cherry has intestinal issues, so I use her canned prescription diet instead of peanut butter. She doesn’t actually know the difference, and she’s so excited to get a treat when she has to go in her crate before I leave. To make it harder, I freeze the toys first so that whatever snack is inside is harder to get out. Giving your dog something fun to do can really help with crate training and separation anxiety. If they get something special every time they go in the crate or you have to leave, they aren’t as bothered by being in the crate as if you had just stuck them in there and had to leave.
My male dog, Teddy, I sometimes say is kind of lazy. If given the opportunity, he would always choose to be snuggling with me on the couch or laying at my feet under my desk. While Cherry is normally roughhousing with my other dog, Sansa, Teddy is likely to be curled up somewhere napping. Since I’ve started giving Teddy this treat dispensing ball, he has been chasing it around the house. I know that all this activity is great for him! To keep him from gaining any excess weight, the “treats” in the ball are really his regular kibble. He certainly doesn’t realize it!
We know that enrichment is important for all animals. Zoos frequently try to give their animals novel activities to keep them healthy and happy. Things like puzzles and toys that encourage dogs to problem solve are things that we as veterinary professionals can easily advocate for in our patients. And for most dog owners, if they knew these toys existed they would be all over them. It is super fun to watch your dog work through a challenge and have fun doing it!