My favorite dog toys for canine enrichment!
As you may have heard me say before (in the What Is Dog Podcast - Click here to listen!), a tired dog does NOT necessarily mean a happy dog. In addition to physical exercise, it is important to ensure your dog has the opportunity to exercise his/her brain. There are many ways to do this through obedience training, agility training, scent training, playing the "sit and wait" game, as well as using enrichment toys. You may be familiar with different puzzle toys on the market, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites!
I highly recommend feeding your dog his/her meals during training (using food instead of treats) or using different types of toys. Generally, I discourage free-feeding a.k.a. grazing for multiple reasons including accidentally developing an entitled behavior with resources (i.e. food), less monitoring of calorie intake, and less chance you will notice if your dog is eating in a different way than usual.
Here are a few of my absolute favorite dog enrichment toys that can be used with food or treats:
These wobble toys allow your dog to work for their food by pawing and pushing a the toy to let food come out of a small hole in the side. It helps slow down any "gobblers" who might cough or throw-up after eating too quickly. They are very durable and last for a long time.
Pro Tip: Once the dog gets the hang of the wobbler toy, they will be able to empty it out quickly! My two dogs, Nola and Memphis, just swat the toy across the room so that the food will fly out. You can increase the difficulty of the toy at this stage by stuffing a piece of crinkled paper towel in side the toy before filling it. This will make it harder for the pieces to fall out and creates a greater challenge!
I recommend getting one size up from your dog so you can fit their meal in the toy at once. A small dog could use a medium, and medium dog could use a large.
2. SNUFFLE MAT
A snuffle mat is also great for feeding a dog who eats quickly. The mats require the dog to use their nose to find treats inside of the mat. They are usually made out of felt (imagine a giant shag rug) and can be simple with long pieces of felt sticking out, or they can be complicated with envelopes, pockets, and many types of textures and hiding places for food/treats. There are also many DIY snuffle mats on Pinterest. I have made one myself but found that the cost of materials plus the time it took to complete wasn't really worth it. I would personally recommend buying one already completed unless you like to do projects like that! Additionally, finding one that is machine washable is best as they get kind of funky from all the dog drool and food.
Full-disclosure: Some dogs might pick up the mat and shake it around, but you could avoid this by velcroing the mat to a me firm surface such as plywood/plexiglass if you wanted. I have not encountered this problem yet.
PJDH Dog Food Mat Snuffle (Fancy)
Please take a moment to enjoy this pupper being a good boi/gurl.
Thank you. Please continue.
3. JW Pet Hol-ee Stuffable Toys
I LIVE FOR THESE TOYS! They are bouncy, soft rubbery toys that are GREAT for stuffing with larger cookies/chew bones/dental sticks. You can also roll small treats or pieces of food in strips of felt (or a torn up old t-shirt) and stuff them inside so the dog has to pull them out and unwrap the treat. Please only do that if you are supervising and your dog doesn't eat entire pieces of clothing like one of my clients, Otis the Black Lab (he loves to eat whole socks...).
I prefer the football shaped "Hol-ee Football" because I can get crunchy bones to sit in there without falling out. I usually buy the medium size of these just because the size of the holes is great for long chew treats like Greenies.
The "Hol-ee Rollers" are another awesome soccer ball shape that are a totally different feel for the dog. They are better for tug-o-war time and for bouncing around the house (much quieter than a tennis ball!)
For a dog who really likes to destroy things, I would recommend the "Xtreme" version.
Pro Tip: For an extra challenge, put a "Mini" Hol-ee Roller inside of a medium or large Hol-ee Roller with the treat in the middle!
Well, THOSE are my top dog toys for canine enrichment with food/treats! Let me know if there are any other brands or types of toys I should recommend! I would love to try them myself with my dogs and my dog boarding clients!
I hope you find these useful! Be sure to let me know if you end up trying any of these out.
If you want to see my list of TOP CAT TOYS, click here!