Food puzzle toys are a way of life here in the DogBoy’s Training Department. Why do we advocate their use? They are great for reducing anxiety and stress. Puzzle toys give our dogs mental stimulation and allow them to problem solve. Including food puzzle toys as part of your feeding routine also builds confidence for dogs that are shy. Using a puzzle toy instead of just a bowl slows down dogs that tend to inhale their supper.
Initially, I started using puzzle toys as a way to slow my dog down. He would barely stop to chew once released to have dinner. It was a frenzy of how much my Labrador could fit in his mouth and successfully swallow. Now, I think it’s really entertaining to watch him figure out how to get the kibble from each toy. The light bulb moments as my dog is creative and figures out what he works best for different toys is fantastic. Max now has strategies: theTreatstik works best in the hallway, the Tug-A-Jug on his bed in the living area, a frozen KONG laying anywhere and holding it in his paws, and my favorite of all… the Bob-A-Lot, is best taken repeatedly upstairs and rolled down. He is convinced that each method suits each specific toy and relishes the success and consumption of each small morsel.
Here’s an article from ABC News that goes into greater detail about the benefits of using food puzzle toys.
Most games in my house come with rules. Food puzzles are no different. Here is the list of guidelines the training department and I follow when using food puzzles.
- The food puzzle ALWAYS gets put away. This is a special toy that I want my dog to see and think, “Hallelujah the Kibble Nibble is out of the cupboard!”
- When the dog is done pick the toy up and put it away. Done means I have walked away from the item even if it still has half of the meal. Dinner time is now over. There are times if one pesky piece will not fall out I will take it out and give it to my dog so he doesn’t get frustrated.
- Start simple! We learn to count before taking on calculus. Begin with a simple puzzle toy like a kong or treat stick. Save the cool move this twist that type for when your dog is ready.
- Rotate! Variety is the spice of life and getting the same toy every evening can become as monotonous as the food bowl.
The market is flooded with tons of products that are great! Search “dog food puzzle” on Amazon and you get this list of items. DogBoy’s also carries quite a few of the Premier line of food dispensing toys. Come in and take a look the next time you’re dropping off your pooch. We’re more than happy to talk about the benefits of the toys we carry.
Don’t feel like you need to go out and purchase every toy available. There are some simple do it yourself food puzzles. Here’s a list of three easy to create puzzle toys:
- A used water or soda bottle without a lid. Put kibble in give to your dog and let them roll it around, play, and eat the food as it falls out.
- Reuse yogurt containers or plastic cups. Hide your pup’s dinner under the containers and watch as he nudges with his nose and paws them to find the food.
- Put kibble into the individual sections of a muffin tin, top with tennis balls. Your dog has to nudge, move, or knock the tennis balls off in order to get the kibble.
Food puzzles: love them, use them, and recommend them!
Find out more about puzzle toys and how to use them by speaking to one of our Certified Professional Trainers!
Blog post by Alice Akridge, Trainer
Super cool photo by Chris Turner Photography