From treat dispensers to agility games to intricate puzzles, there’s something for every type of dog.
Once upon a time, there were very few toy choices for dogs. Most owners relied on a basic ball dogs could catch, a stick they could retrieve, and for the very lucky dogs, perhaps a pair of old shoes. But “the times they are a changin’” and these days we have as many toy choices for dogs as we do for children.
Puzzle toys make up a large part of the market. They are designed to help mentally stimulate dogs, challenge their boredom, improve behavior and even slow down their eating. Here are a few of my favorites and how they can help your pets.
Outward Hound has a series of plush puzzles for the dogs who love to take things apart and prefer toys for their softer mouths. Hide-A-Bee and Hide-A-Squirrel all have a large base that is filled with smaller plush toys that the dogs can take out from the stump or hive. These are fun, durable toys that are perfect for dogs who love plush toys and haven’t quite mastered the more difficult feeding puzzles. Choose a size, the number of “filler” toys and set them up a different way each time so your dogs never get bored.
The new Buster ActivityMat from Kruuse is geared specifically toward those dogs who aren’t truly challenged by feeder puzzles. This mat features dozens of toy combinations built on one place. The mat features 35 evenly spaced studs, which enables you to attach a variety of interactive tasks (with varying degrees of difficulty). This challenges your dog to complete each task in order to receive a reward. If you have a highly intelligent dog who thrives on complex challenges, this is the toy you should check out.
You’ve probably seen the videos of dogs whipping around an arena at breakneck speed as they launch over teeter-totters, around poles and through tunnels to reach the end of an impressive course in the least amount of time.
This is an activity that challenges your dog because he has to distinguish between his natural problem solving skills and his owner’s commands.
If you’ve looked into agility trainers or facilities, you know that is an expensive sport. Now you can see if it’s something your dog might enjoy before spending a lot of money. Outward Hound offers affordable agility equipment that you can set up in your backyard. These kits are fun, affordable and help exercise your dog’s mind and body.
Puzzle feeders are perhaps one of the best inventions of the 21st century. Simply place your pet’s food inside and let your pup puzzle out how to access it. If you have a dog who wolfs his food or is gaining weight, these are great ways to make them slow down naturally. Your dog will be quite motivated to solve these puzzles.
There are now hundreds of different types of puzzle feeders available for pets. When starting with puzzle toys, go for something basic and let your dogs move into the puzzle-solving phase gradually. Kong toys make a great introduction to this world (you can even pick up a specifically designed filling to make it easy).
When you feel like your dog is getting the hang of problem solving, consider moving them up a level or two with the variety of toy levels available from Nina Ottosson.
No matter what type of dog you have, there is a puzzle toy available that will help your dog exercise and improve his mental acuity. Start slow, show them how to work it, then plan to upgrade to the next level of challenges.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is a fulltime freelance writer, bestselling author and founder of PetsWeekly.com. She resides in the deserts of the Southwest with a few dogs, several cats and a very understanding husband.