Challenge your dog with interactive toys (and hidden treats)

Our current favorite is an Orbee ball from Planet Dog. The Orbee material is flexible and practically indestructible. The ball is hollow and has a hole about the size of a nickel. I figured out that if I forced a large, hard dog biscuit through the hole, I could keep Jana entertained for up to an hour. Since even the toughest Kong filling only occupies her for about five minutes, this was a very valuable discovery indeed. What Jana did was lie on her back, put the ball in her mouth, and chomp hard enough on it to squash it and break the biscuit into small pieces, small enough that they’d come out the hole. When she took this next step, I realized that I was in over my head with this dog, in violation of my own primary rule: Never have a dog who is smarter than you are. She lay on her back with the ball between her front paws. She squashed away. Then, I noticed her holding the ball out in front of her face and peering at it. She’d then turn it around with her paws, and look again. I realized she was looking for the hole. When she saw it, she turned the ball so the hole was right over her mouth, opened her mouth, and dumped the cookie pieces in.

Short Orbee Clip

Those of you who, like me, have too-smart dogs, might want to check out this next type of toy: Zoo-Active toys by Nina Ottosson. This is a wonderful line of games that you must play with your dog. They develop dogs’ problem-solving abilities and challenge them to think. You hide treats — each toy uses a different mechanism. We have the Tornado, which is a stack of rotating discs. Each has two or four indentations where a treat can be hidden. The dog has to turn each disc separately to uncover the treats. Another one that we like is the Turbo. This one has sliding pegs that the dog uses to push treats out of little channels. Some dogs use their noses, some use their paws. You can sit back and watch, or try to show the dog what to do — either way, watching your dog learn and figure out the puzzle is very rewarding.

Try out one or more of these toys on your dog — he’ll be glad you did! Most pet dogs badly need more mental challenges and chances to show off their smarts and their problem-solving skills. Let me know how it goes!

Many dogs find themselves with a considerable amount of free time on their paws. Their human family members head off to school or work in the morning, leaving them with several hours to fill. Then, when the folks get home, the dogs are well-rested and ready for some interactive game-playing. Lucky for us humans, there are many toys on the market that can help fill these long empty hours for our dogs. Some are toys that the dog can play with on his own; some require our active participation.

A few weeks ago, I suggested filling Kongs for puppies and adult dogs who are bored. Let’s look at some other options. First of all, there are the toys that you fill with treats — usually just some of your dog’s regular dry dog food (use part of his meal so he doesn’t overeat and gain weight!) or some Charlee Bear treats. An advantage of the Charlee Bears is that they are larger than most kibble so it takes a bit longer for the dog to get them out of the toy. A treat toy that I really like is the Omega Paw Tricky Treat ball. I like that it is made of a soft material that does not make a lot of noise when the dog bats and tosses it around to get the food out. It also stands up well to rough use (believe me, I have tested this thoroughly!).

Another fun one is the Treat Stik. It looks like a flashlight, and there is a hole for the treats to come out. You unscrew the bottom to fill it, like replacing flashlight batteries. The dogs usually roll it around to get the food out, though some dogs might pick it up and drop it. Jana loved her treat stick, but after a couple of days I noticed that she was hard at work trying to enlarge the hole where the treats come out. Telltale bite marks were the giveaway. She gave up on that, but I finally retired the treat stik the day she reverse-engineered it. Yes, Jana figured out how to unscrew the bottom. At this, I gave up on it and gave her a more challenging toy.

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