Monday, January 3, 2011

Training With Puzzle Toys

As a kick-off for National Train Your Dog Month, I thought it would be appropriate to present a topic that is fitting for the season. At a time when outdoor exercise is difficult and weather is unpredictable, it's important to pick up the slack with some productive indoor activities, otherwise you may find that your dog becomes *self-employed* with some behaviours that are not quite as desirable for owners.

One such activity is teaching your dog about puzzle toys and appropriate chew training. Using puzzle toys serves many functions - keeping your dog's mind exercised when physical exercise is limited, teaching your dog to behave appropriately indoors, and gives your dog an acceptable outlet for chewing and food seeking. It can be a blessing when you have company over or need to attend to a child. The uses are endless.

Feeding dogs their food in bowls is a convenience for the human end of the leash; it serves little benefit for dogs. Usually the dog either eats its meal in 30 seconds (or less!) and is then left still looking for something to do, or it is free fed, developing into a picky eater and wasting a great opportunity to use a valuable reward for your dog's benefit.

Teaching your dogs to use puzzle toys is easy, and can be quite entertaining as well. There are many puzzle toys on the market now, for all life stages. I'll share some of my favorites, but this is not a complete list by any means.

A good starter toy is the age-old Kong - a red or black rubber toy with a big hole in one end and a small hole in the other. It can easily be stuffed with your dog's normal food to teach him to roll it around to get the food to fall out. As he gets used to how it works, you can make it harder by wetting and freezing it, or by putting in some food that won't just fall out. In no time your dog will become good at cleaning it out! A toy similar to the Kong is the Premier Squirrel Dude, also a lot of fun!

Another easy one to start with is the Premier Busy Buddy Twist n' Treat (no picture - sorry!). It basically has two halves that twist together and can be made easier or harder depending on how tightly closed you twist it.

A bit harder, but generally more fun is the Tricky Treat Ball. This bright ball will leads to hours of fub as your dog rolls it around to try to get the food out.


If your dog becomes a pro, like many are apt to do, there are some fun and engaging toys out there that are sure to challenge your dog. My favorites, as tested by the Schnauzer Quality Control, are:

The Kong Wobbler

The Premier Tug-a-Jug

And the Kong Genius (two separate pieces that are linkable for varying difficulties!

To make life more interesting for your dog, and more relaxing for yourself, get your dog a puzzle toy or two and stop feeding out of a dish for every meal. You'll see the positive effects that they wil bring!

1 comment:

  1. My dog loves puzzle toys - I just wish they took up more of his time.
    Here he is with a link of 3 Kong Genius toys