How do you entertain your dog after being placed on “exercise restriction” after a surgery or injury? Or maybe it’s a cold and dreary day and you can’t get outside? Will your dog climb the walls or destroy the house without their daily walk? This can be very difficult for most dogs. Even the most active dogs can have their exercise needs met by increasing their mental stimulation.
First, we recommend removing the food dish. Kibble and treats can be dispensed in food puzzles, games, or earned in training activities. If your dog won’t eat plain kibble, you can make it more tempting by crumbling up some freeze dried treats, or using small pieces of high value treats (such as chicken or cheese) to add to the mixture.
Make sure to supervise your dog when using new puzzles, especially aggressive chewers.
WHAT ARE FOOD PUZZLES?
Food puzzles are designed to dispense food to your dog slowly. Here are some of our favorites;
1.”Stuffables”: These hollow toys are designed to be filled with food for your dog. There are a lot of ways to creatively fill a Kong toy. Layer in peanut butter, larger biscuits, canned food, leftover vegetables or chicken. You can also freeze the peanut butter to keep your pet occupied for even longer! These stuffed products can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for quick use.
2. Puzzles: These products are designed to slowly dispense your dog’s food as he works on the puzzle. They work great, but can be costly if you are trying a different variety of options. The Nina Ottoson brand offer the best value because they often provide different levels of challenge.
3. Push Arounds: These are hollow toys with one or more small holes that the dog must roll around until a piece of kibble falls out. Typically they take a long time to empty and are enjoyed by most dogs. Favorites include the Kong Wobbler or Petsafe Twist and Treat.
I DON’T WANT TO BUY ANY NEW DOG TOYS, IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN MAKE?
There are many DIY or low-cost food puzzles you can make at home.
1. Choose a empty plastic water bottle and remove the cap, plastic ring, and label. place some kibble or treats inside and have your pet roll it around to get the treats outs
2. Use a pringles can to make a puzzle. Cut a few holes in it and tape down the lid. Your pet can roll it around or tear it apart to get the treats inside.
3. If a round can is too easy, then use a box. Cut a few holes, tape the lid shut and watch your pet figure it out.
4. Use an old tennis ball by cutting a slit into it and stuffing it with treats or kibble.
5. Use an old towel to roll up treats inside, or a smaller towel to tie into a knot with treats inside. You can also use strips of fabric to make a braid, hiding treats within it. Do not try this puzzle with dogs who may eat non-food items.
6. Fill muffin tin cups with smeared peanut butter or cheese, or just use kibble and place tennis balls over the tin cups. Your dog will have to move the tennis balls to get the treats.
WHAT KIND OF GAMES AND ACTIVITIES CAN I PLAY WITH MY DOG?
1. Take a hand full of treats or kibble and scatter them around the house for your dog to find and eat. You can also try this outside during the warmer months.
2. Fill a box with food safe materials (scrapes of fabric, packing peanuts, socks, balls) and scatter kibbles and treats in the box and let your dog dig through it.
3. Hide treats underneath kids sport cones, plastic cups, or dixie cups. Place treats or kibble underneath all of them, or just a few of them.
You can also use this time to work on training and teach your dog new tricks. Check out www.domorewithyourdog.com