When anyone talks about exercise for their dogs, most people think about walking the dog, running, or playing in the park.
But what about exercising your dog’s mind and body?
Dogs need mental stimulation. They can often get bored, which sometimes leads to less than desirable behavior. However, there is something that a pet parent can do — purchase and play a fun interactive game dog treat puzzle toy with your pooch. These dog treat puzzles tap into your dog’s sense of smell with treats, so all dogs can play and have fun.
Designer Nina Ottosson invented this category of dog toys over 20 years ago. Her toys have fun, descriptive names like Dog Twist, Dog Tornado and Dog Spinny. Kyjen also sells its own versions. The games come in durable and colorful plastic, and Ottosson also sells more expensive wood versions. I’d suggest starting with one of the plastic versions to see how you and your dog like it.
How dog treat puzzle games work
The games and toys have three levels of difficulty:
Level 1 – For beginners, puppies, older dogs and dogs that are difficult to motivate.
Level 2 – Fits most dogs.
Level 3 – For “smart” dogs and dogs that need extra mental stimulation.
Once you’ve picked an appropriate level toy that looks interesting to you and your pup, it’s time to get started. Some of the games come with an instructional DVD, but they’re pretty simple to figure out.
- Take some of your dog’s favorite treats and break each treat into multiple small pieces. You only need enough to generate smell and a reward
- SHOW your dog how it works. Make certain he is watching you as you place his favorite treats throughout the interactive game. Be patient.
- Your dog watches and listens.
- Now allow your dog to try to play the game and get the rewards. Praise her when she does things right.
Together, you both will have fun! The more you practice, the better your dog will learn and master the game. You can move from one game to another and increase complexity as your dog learns.
These toys are meant for pet parent and dog to play with together – do not leave the dog unattended and the dog must not play with or chew the blocks/pieces. If they do, place your hand above it and say “NO” and then put back in place.
Results of using an interactive dog treat game
I was amazed at how much our dog, Berwyn, loved playing an interactive game. So much so that he’d bark for it when he saw it up on the shelf. It also is quite wonderful to show off how smart your dog is in front of guests by playing one of these interactive games that your dog has mastered and loves. You’ll quickly hear your guests clapping as your dog plays and achieves milestones. Not only fun for the people, but incredibly satisfying to your dog!
Playing an interactive game with your dog not only excites your dog and prevents boredom, but it also helps to strengthen your bond with your dog.
My favorite puzzle games are from Nina Ottosson, but they are primarily found at local and specialty dog stores, not at the large retailers. The Kyjen toys can be found at Petco.
The next time you’re struggling with an obedience problem or you think your pooch is getting bored, try one of these interactive puzzle games. Mix and match. Use one game by itself, or put together several games to create the ultimate BIG game. You decide how difficult it will be, from easy to very advanced – the possibilities are endless!