There are a wide range of activity toys on the market now, by manufacturers such as Kong and Busy Buddy. Activity toys usually have a cavity for filling with treats and encourage independent play, which can keep your dog busy when it is left unoccupied and become an invaluable training aid. Some activity toys can be thrown and fetched, some can feed your dogs meals. Some toys can be stuffed like the Kong, others are treat dispensers which are filled with dry kibble and can be knocked around by the dog until the kibble falls out.
WHAT ARE KONGS?
Kong Dog Toys have become a cult item over the last few years and there is a good reason why! The Kong is a rubber toy which has a large cavity in the middle for filling with food and treats. Kongs come in a wide range of sizes and colours to suit different dog’s needs.
HOW TO USE A KONG
When you first introduce your dog to a Kong, let him have a sniff at first, then fill it with some of his usual dry dog food, or some treats. Your dog will soon learn how to get the food out, and you can then use the Kong to deliver a meal.
Once your dog gets good at this, we can make it harder! Try ‘cementing’ the dried food with a wet food such as cheese spread, meat paste, mashed banana, peanut butter or for more sensitive stomachs, plain yoghurt. It is always worth testing a small amount of any new food first to make sure that your dog doesn’t have a bad reaction to it. Pack all of the ingredients in tightly and watch your dog work to get them out!
If this is still too easy, you can stuff a Kong and then freeze it until it becomes solid. This should make the Kong last much longer as the dog has to wait for it to solely defrost.
WHAT CAN WE USE ACTIVITY TOYS FOR
Kongs are an excellent toy to leave with your dog when he is home alone, as they are virtually indestructible. Giving your dog a fun activity whilst you are out also helps to prevent or reduce any separation anxiety problems.
Use activity toys to keep your dog occupied whilst you are busy. This will also help reduce any problems with hyperacivity or understimulation – they are ideal for dogs on restricted exercise or crate rest to keep their minds busy.
They can also be used as a reward in a training situation.
THROW OUT YOUR DOG BOWLS!
Any or all of your dogs meals can be fed as an activity using a Kong or similar activity toy. Dogs love working for their food, and by challenging them we are exercising their minds as well as their bodies. Using a food bowl is a missed opportunity for an activity, and the food is often wolfed down in seconds!
Try scentwork exercises with your dog such as scattering their kibble out in the garden for them to sniff out, or use a Snufflemat indoors. Or make your own activity toy out of plastic bottles and cardboard boxes! Always supervise your dog around these. Use a slow feeder to stop them from gobbling their food down which can lead to health problems.
A mentally and physically stimulated dog is usually a happy dog!