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Introducing the Third Category of Enrichment: Toys and Puzzles

by Dennis ODonnell on April 29, 2020

Ready to continue the conversation around dog enrichment? (If you’re just joining us, you can visit our other posts about sensory and feeding enrichment to catch up!) Today, our focus is on toys and puzzles. These products, whether purchased or DIY, encourage your dog to chew, nudge, paw, pull or play with them to get a desired result — be it treats, food, a squeak or just the thrill of sinking their teeth into something soft. No matter what type of toy or puzzle your dog has, rest assured that while playing, he is keeping his mind active, stimulated and happy.

Dog toys and puzzles come in all shapes and sizes with different smells, textures, tastes, motions and sounds. No matter what toys appeal most to your pup, the key to using them as enrichment tools is to be sure you rotate them regularly, so he doesn’t get bored of the toy or puzzle.

Some things you may want to look for when you’re out looking for toys for your pup could include unusual sounds (think crinkled plastic), unusual movements (like toys that bounce on their own or have dangling parts), or ones that dispense treats! Treat puzzles will always require nudging or solving a puzzle to some degree, which is a great way to play into their food-finding instincts. And if your pup loves a good game of fetch, there’s always the option of buying a toy that automatically shoot balls for you — they’ll stay entertained forever!

Most of the time when you give your pup a new toy, he’ll know just what to do with it. But if you’re introducing a new treat puzzle, especially one that may require more thought from your pup, be prepared for a little bit of training. This will help him associate positive rewards with his new toy and provide you both with some quality bonding time!

Some thoughts on introducing new treat toys:

  1. Start with a puzzle that’s a bit easier, then increase the challenge for them as they gain understanding and confidence.
  2. You can introduce treat toys and puzzles before a meal to create a greater drive to get results, thus learn. (just remember to cut down on the amount of food you feed him at mealtime)
  3. Demonstrate for them how it works so they can grasp a bit better what to do when they try on their own.
  4. Remember, rotation and variation in their toys and puzzles is key, they’ll eventually burn out on the same old thing. The goal is to keep them engaged and interested!

Toys and puzzles are an important part of a regular enrichment program, which is why they will be featured in our #PAW5EnrichedLifeChallenge! Start testing out new kinds of toys now and you’ll start to get a feel for what toys really make your pup happy.

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