How to add more mental stimulation to your dog’s day
In the new COVID-19 world we find ourselves in, keeping your sanity at home is a struggle. Add your dog into the mix, and you might find yourself looking for ways to keep your dog occupied so you can work, or maybe you are looking for ways to get your dog to leave you alone so you can enjoy a glass of wine after a stressful day. This blog post will cover one of the easiest strategies to solve those issues – puzzle toys.
There are a variety of puzzle toys on the market, and I want to break down the various types and how to use them. Before you watch my video, full disclaimer that my cats bombed 75% of it. I’m new to having cats (which will be obvious), and I made the cardinal mistake of opening a can of food in the middle of filming haha. But the video was rolling and I decided to just go with it, so here it is:
So in the video I talked about puzzle toys that served different functions; chewing, interactive/moving around, and stationary/calming. Here is a break down:
Toys for Chewing
These types of toys are typically great outlets for chewing. Dogs will chew on these toys to loosen the food on the inside, and/or use their tongues to get the food out. These are ideal for heavy chewers, and for giving your dog a quiet activity in their crate or other small space (if needed). They work best with sticky food such as peanut butter, canned food, canned pumpkin, re hydrated food, etc and you can also mix in dry food/treats with the mixture to bind it inside the toy.
Classic Kong: https://www.kongcompany.com/dog/play-type/interactive/kong-classic You’ll find that these come in various colors which indicate rubber strength. The black is the hardest rubber and designed for heavier chewers. Also, you can find a great listing of kong recipes here: https://www.kongcompany.com/lets-play/recipes.
Kong Genius: https://www.kongcompany.com/dog/play-type/interactive/genius-mike These can also interlock with other kong toys for an extra challenge.
Toppl: https://www.westpaw.com/dog-toys/puzzle/toppl-treat-toy. These also interconnect with other pieces for added challenge, and can be filled with soft or dry treats.
Interactive Puzzle Toys
These types of toys typically move around and/or require more interaction from your dog. These are great if you have a bit of space for your dog to work on them in – such as a patio or yard. They can knock into furniture and walls so they aren’t always ideal for indoor use – but whatever floats your boat.
Kong Wobbler: https://www.kongcompany.com/dog/play-type/interactive/wobbler A hardy toy, great for dry dog food or treats. It is weighted on the bottom and turns upright when moved.
Kong Tiltz: https://www.kongcompany.com/dog/play-type/interactive/tiltz Great for dry dog food.
Planet Dog Orbee: https://planetdog.com/orbee-tuff-snoop.html A softer toy that is popular with many dogs!
Stationary Puzzle Toys
These types of toys aren’t designed for movement, but they are still great for slow feeding options or to help your dog relax.
Snuffle Mats: https://pams-dog-academy.myshopify.com/products/snuffle-mat-large-24×26 The snuffle mat in the video is from Pams Dog Academy, I like that they can fit a large dog’s meal inside.
Northmate Green Slow Feeder: https://www.chewy.com/northmate-green-interactive-dog/dp/103295 Great for any type of food.
Licki Mat: https://hyper-pet.com/product/feeding-solutions/lickimat-soother/ These aren’t big so you probably can’t fit a whole meal on them, but they are very handy for calming dogs down or redirecting their attention.
Most dogs will have clear preferences for some toys over others. And some of these toys may not be safe for your individual dog depending on how they choose to use it (eating the actual toy vs the food provided). I encourage you to experiment and find what works for you and your dog.
I would also suggest finding ways to use your dog’s regular meals with puzzle toys vs over feeding with excessive food – keeping a healthy weight on your dog is important and also increases their lifespan.
Last, puzzle toys don’t always need to be store bought – look out for my next blog on how to make puzzle toys from things around your house!