We humans don’t have the option of spending every moment actively playing with our dogs. There are plenty of fantastic toys available which help to provide your dog with constructive activities for his alone time.
Many “enrichment toys” focus on innovative methods of dispensing food. Your dog’s brain is built for problem-solving. Working for his food requires your dog to use that ability, which helps to fulfill his need for mental stimulation and to tire him out.
Toys such as Kongs, many toys in Premier’s Busy Buddy line, and sterilized (uncooked) bones can be filled with all kinds of yummy things. You can even use a little bit of yogurt or low-fat peanut butter in some and freeze the toy. It will take many dogs a good amount of time to work the food out of these toys, making this a great option for crate- or alone- training. Just take care to choose the right chew toy for your dog; Kongs come in varying strengths for dogs with varying levels of enthusiasm for chewing.
Many treat dispensing toys, such as Premier’s Kibble Nibble, Tug-a-Jug, and Linkables, have a large enough capacity to hold your dog’s entire meal. Rather than simply plopping down a bowl of kibble, having your dog work it out of one of these toys gives him some mental stimulation and you a bit more quiet time. Premier’s Magic Mushroom is a slightly more challenging option.
A great non-food-related option is Kyjen’s Puzzle Plush line. These stuffed toys give dogs a chance to work their problem-solving muscles and are also a great outlet for terriers and dogs who like to pull toys apart. If your dog is a particularly good problem solver and requires even more mental stimulation, you might look into puzzle toys like those made by Nina Ottensen.
If you know what to look for, it’s easy to find toys that will help keep your dog busy when you need to do your thing. Bring home a puzzle for your dog; you’ll both be happier for it!
Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.