The old adage that a tired dog is a happy dog is all too true. And even more to the point, you could say that a mentally stimulated dog is a well-behaved dog. Boredom is often the root cause for a whole bunch of behavioral problems such as chewing things in the home, destroying furniture, digging holes, self-mutilation or even barking constantly. If your dog is exhibiting any of these chronic traits, chances are your dog is bored. And boredom almost always leads to trouble. Here's some ways to help.
To better understand your dog and help to maintain a good temperament, you have to realize that dogs like to work. They also like to play. They like to be involved. They also need a certain amount of physical exercise EVERY day. And they like to do it with you! Dogs, as you well know, are pack animals that crave interaction with other living things. Since your dog no longer has a pack of dog playmates, you and the rest of your family are the defacto pack. It's your responsibility to care for your dog's mental well-being just as much as it is to care for her physical well-being. Putting the dog out in the yard by itself with a sqeaky toy just doesn't cut it.
The point of this article will be to help you identify a class of indoor dog toys that elevates your dog's play to a new level. We all have limited time, right? So if you're going to play with your dog or encourage them to amuse themselves for a bit, the dog toys we'll discuss will help you maximize playtime as well as the mental stimulation your dog receives. These dog toys will improve your dog's indoor playtime beyond simple throw and fetch games or basic tug and play games.
The Hide A Toy Series
The Kygen company makes an adorable set of "hide and seek" dog toys called "Hide a Squirrel", "Hide a Bee" and "Hide a Bird". Each plush dog toy includes three squeaky toys that "hide" in a plush base: tree trunk, hive, or bird house. The object of the game is to get your dog excited about getting the 3 squeaky toys out of their plush base. Dogs that like to dig and gut their plush toys will love this innovative dog toy. Only with this toy, it lives to play another day!. And once the dog succeeds in removing all 3 squeaky toys you can stuff them back in (squeaking them like crazy to get your dog excited) and have them work at it again. I think this is a great dog toy for smaller dogs under 40lbs. Perfect for any type of terrier, for sure. Great toy for all puppies, too. Helps develop a dog's thinking and puzzle-solving skills.
A similar line of seek and destroy dog toys are the Egg Babies. Also made by the Kygen company, these cute plush animals (ducks, fish, turtles, dinosaurs, etc) have a velcro slit up the center of their stomachs with 3 squeaky eggs inside. This is also the perfect activity toy for smaller dogs (under 40lbs) or puppies who enjoy gutting their toys. Except that with these clever dog toys, you can simply reinsert the eggs and press the velcro back together and the fun starts all over again without having to break out the needle and thread.
While Kongs have lead the way as a must-have chew/treat toy in your dog's toy box for years, a couple of lesser known treat toys I like include the Buster Cube and the Havaball. The Buster Cube is a hard plastic cube that comes in two sizes, one for smaller dogs (20lbs and under) and one for larger dogs (20lbs - 80lbs). The cool thing about the Buster Cube is that you can adjust the difficulty level to make it harder or easier for the treats or kibble to come out of the toy. As your dog gets better at getting the treats out, you can increase the difficulty to keep your dog challenged,
The Havaball is a personal favorite because unlike the Buster Cube, the Havaball is a grooved rubber ball that not only dispenses treats but helps to clean your dog's teeth and gums just by playing with it. By biting the slits in the ball, the teeth sink into the grooves helping to clean the teeth and stimulate the dog's gums, all the while dispensing treats. Havaball is also sold under the Kong brand as the Kong Treat ball. Same toy, different licensing. It also comes in four sizes for toy breeds all the way up to extra large dogs and even includes two sizes of black ultra-tough rubber versions for really tough chewers.
All these innovative dog toys can bring an added dimension to your dog's play time. What they each have in common is the ability to reward your dog as the task is completed, whether it's removing certain parts or being able to dispense treats. Participating in this type of mentally stimulating play will help calm your canine by allowing them to divert some of their excess energy to something positive and interesting. Something that gives them positive feedback just by playing with them. And with ALL dog toys, we recommend you supervise your dog's play and discard any broken pieces that may break off over time.
Written by Gene R. Sower
Lucy The Wonder Dog, LLC
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