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No matter how much love and attention pet parents shower onto their dogs, they can only provide so much stimulation. Puzzle toys and feeders come in all shapes and sizes and can be used from playtime to feeding time.
Dog-treat puzzle toys can benefit hyperactive puppies and couch potatoes alike. Using interactive feeders and toys, pet parents can provide their dogs with the necessary mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy.
Interactive puzzle toys are invaluable in meeting our dog's basic needs and helping curb some of their unwanted behaviors. Read on to learn how to get dogs interested in them.
While going for a walk around the neighborhood or taking a trip to the dog park is essential for a dog's mental and physical well-being, some dogs will require more stimulation than exercise can provide. Even those requiring less physical stimulation may lie around the house looking bored when confined indoors.
Using interactive feeders and treat-dispensing toys, pet parents can provide their dogs with enrichment that utilizes their instinctual desire to forage and hunt for food.
Dogs often bury food and bones in the wild (or the yard), so they can return to it later. Puzzle feeders such as treat-dispensing balls require dogs to mimic the digging action that would require them to resurface their food, providing physical and mental engagement.
Many pet parents also choose to utilize fun puzzle toys to distract their pets from stressful situations. Dogs that suffer from home-alone anxiety or fear of meeting new people may benefit from having an interactive feeder to distract them from a potentially triggering event.
Lastly, interactive feeders slow pets down when eating. While some dogs graze their food throughout the day, many wolf it down as quickly as possible. Using interactive feeders ensures that pets eat at a healthy pace, using mealtime as a reward for the work they have to do to be fed.
Dog puzzle toys are designed to mentally and physically engage dogs, so pet parents won't typically have to work very hard to get their dogs interested. Dog parents can follow these five simple steps to encourage their dogs to participate in interactive games.
First and foremost, pet parents will want to be sure to choose a suitable toy for their specific pet and should consider the following factors:
Size: Be sure to choose food puzzles that are size-appropriate. Chihuahuas will need a different size toy than Saint Bernards will, especially if pet parents plan to fill the toy with kibble.
Breed: Breed plays a part not only in a dog's size but their genetics. Breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Boxers are prone to bloat and may benefit from eating all meals from a puzzle feeder or slow feeder that forces them to eat at a more measured pace.
Chewing abilities: Dogs that are extreme chewers will need a more durable toy than those who are more moderate chewers will. Pet parents should be sure to buy toys their dog will not be able to chew up and ingest.
Food motivation: Some dogs are more food motivated than others are. Puzzle toys are a great way to entertain food-motivated dogs, and interactive feeders may help encourage picky eaters to finish their meals.
By considering their dog's unique qualities, pet parents can ensure they get the correct type of toy for their dog.
Hundreds of interactive puzzle dog toys are available to pet parents, but the key to encouraging dogs to become interested in puzzles is by starting easy.
Dogs may get discouraged and lose interest in puzzle toys if they're too challenging initially, so it's best to make sure that their first experience with an interactive puzzle is uncomplicated and positive.
While getting their pets interested in playing with dog-treat puzzle toys, pet parents should purchase toys rated "level one" or "easy." This will ensure that their dog is rewarded with treats for minimal effort while they build their skills.
Some dogs may feel insecure when they begin using puzzle treats, but pet parents can quickly turn this around with gentle encouragement and positive behavior reinforcement.
By staying present during their dog's first few times using a puzzle toy, giving their dog praise, and encouraging their dog to continue using puzzles, pets will build positive associations with these toys, even if they were initially unsure.
Dogs who are food motivated will likely need very little encouragement to utilize smart dog puzzle toys. Filling puzzle feeders with items like dry food and peanut butter should suffice.
However, dogs who are pickier eaters may need more novel food items to encourage play. Pet parents can entice dogs by filling puzzle toys with their pet's favorite foods and may have more luck keeping their dogs engaged if they continually rotate high-value treats.
As dogs gain confidence using their puzzle toys, pet parents should slowly swap easy puzzles with more difficult ones. Keeping pets challenged is part of the point of using interactive feeders, and there are hundreds of types of puzzles that dogs can learn to do.
If dogs seem discouraged by more challenging puzzles and struggle to figure them out, pet parents can use encouragement and help show their pets how to solve the puzzles.
However, when dogs reach more complex puzzles, they will likely already have enough positive associations with interactive feeders to feel motivated on their own.
Dog parents with questions about puzzle toys and appropriate pet enrichment options can contact Fuzzy via in-app 24/7 Live Vet Chat for more information or recommendations whenever they need.
Try Fuzzy's vet-recommended interactive dog toys like the Outward Hound Orange Bone Puzzle Toy for beginners or the Smart Composite Interactive Treat Puzzle Toy for tough chewers to get started.