The key to your dog’s happiness and health is regular exercise and enrichment. Enrichment for dogs means to stimulate their brains through problem solving, playing, chasing, smelling, chewing and scavenging.
Toys that dispense treats in small portions as a dog interacts with it over a long period of time are great. These types of dog enrichment toys may require persistent licking or chewing as they are relaxing for dogs and are a great way for dogs to settle and occupy themselves.
1) Stuffed Kongs
Kongs alone are great chews for your dog, but stuffing them with yummy treats makes the activity more challenging and extends the time your dog is occupied. Set a kong in a bowl and plug one end with a thick paste, such as peanut butter. Flip the kong upside-down and begin filling the inside with your dog’s favorite snacks. Pumpkin, sweet potato, and canned dog food make great stuffings. The peanut butter will prevent foods with thinner consistencies from seeping out into the bowl. Place the treat in the freezer overnight so your dog has to work hard to get everything out. Once the inside has been licked clean, your dog still has the chew to work on.
2) Lick Mats
Lick mats are a great option for dogs that are less food motivated or prone to anxiety. The dog has to work hard to lick all the food out of the textured rubber mat. Simply spread a thin layer of wet dog food or yogurt across the mat. On average, these mats occupy dogs for approximately 30 minutes. Lick mats are also great tools to use when clipping your dog’s nails or during bath time.
3) Frozen Treat Toy
One of the most popular dog toys are frozen Kongs. You plug one end of the Kong with a firm treat and fill the interior with various freezable foods. If your dog finds Kongs frustrating or too challenging, consider a treat toy with a wider opening. West Paw Toppl toys are a great option for an easier, enriching activity. Dog safe fruits and vegetables can be added to your treat toy stuffing for healthier, lower calorie snacks. As a meal replacement, you can also soak your dog’s kibble in water and use that as stuffing. Sticking a chew or treat through the toy before freezing will make the treat last longer.
4) Food Dispensing Toys
Food dispensing toys require your dog to knock kibble or treats out of a small toy. Many owners replace their dog bowls with food dispensing toys in order to provide daily mental stimulation for their dogs. It is a good idea to first buy easy puzzle toys so your dog can learn how they work and avoid frustration. The Kong Wobbler is often used as an introduction toy because the dog has to learn to bat the toy around to knock out kibble.
5) Challenging Chews
Chewing in itself is a relaxing activity for dogs. However, many dogs plow through chews and have them finished in just a few minutes. Bully sticks are a safe option, but don’t last very long for some dogs. Try stuffing a bully stick inside another dog toy so your dog has to work around the toy and figure out how to gradually tug the chew out. There are a variety of toys designed specifically to use with bully sticks. You can also check around the house for any hard dog toys with holes or openings to use instead.
Frozen treats, lick mats, and food dispensing toys are all great enrichment activities for your dog. They have the added bonus of occupying your dog while you finish chores around the house or just need some time to yourself.
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