Tarahill Cairn Terriers &
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Interactive toys - help for dogs that need something to do!

Posted by karen on December 14, 2013 at 7:40 PM

I love interactive toys - they keep my dogs busy when I need them out from underfoot, they help my gulpers to eat slowly, they stave off boredom on those long days when it is too cold, too hot or too rainy to go outside.  Interactive toys are a life saver if you have a dog that just cannot seem to burn enough energy off with physical exercise to keep them from being bored and destructive.  Some are useful for dogs that need to be on restricted exercise programs and are getting bored or frustrated.  Whatever the reason, interactive toys are a good investment.  There are many different ones out there, of course, not all are suitable for every dog, but with the burgeoning interest in interactive toys, there is bound to be one (and probably many) that are appropriate for any dog.

Here is a selection of some of the interactive toys in my house.


I especially like my swivel star by Dog Games puzzle toys for my puppies - this is a great toy to get young puppies into searching for food and working at something.  It moves very easily so even little pups can make it work. When they are still too small to 'play' with it, they learn to climb on and around it, then as soon as they are eating dry kibble, or little bits of solid food I place food in it with the segments opened up.  It is not long before they are pros at getting every last morsel from it even when it is presented to them closed up.


I like my Dog Pyramids when I am ready to give my dogs a physical work out and I don't mind the noise of them crashing it into walls and furniture. This is not a "quiet time" toy and not very suitable for using inside a crate. They are quite sturdy and both the small and large versions are suitable for my Cairn terriers. Be prepared for demands for them to be retrieved from under furntiture and other dog inaccessible locations!  The weighted bottoms make sure that they return to the upright position and limit the amount of food that comes out when they are tipped over.

For more quiet times, and a bigger challenge these two toys are better - they can be used in a crate.  The orange version is a Hartz toy.

You will notice that the flying saucer toy in the top picture looks a bit battered - thanks to my not very bright decision to take it to a dog training class where a dog that was much too big and too strong a biter had his way with it before we retrieved it.  So - be sure to assess the suitability of a toy for your dogs strength, play style and behaviours. One of my Nina Ottoson toys (see next paragraph) has a rather battered piece due to a careless moment on my part when a puppy ran off with a piece and chewed off several chunks, fortunately without ill effects to the puppy. Supervision is important!

There are other more complicated types of interactive toys - many of them require closer observation of the dog or active participation by the handler. Nina Ottoson has a variety of interesting and fun dog activity toys designed to make dogs think and problem solve - these are especially useful for dogs that need a mental workout on those days when physical workouts are not possible.  Check out her toys at http://www.nina-ottosson.com/

All dogs can benefit from the mental stimulation provided by an interactive toy but they are especially valuable for dogs with behaviour problems resulting from boredom or excessive energy. Interactive toys give your dog a job to do.  If your dog has no history of working for his food, start small and work up so that eventually you can deliver his entire meal in an interactive device. Clicker trained dogs and especially those that are familiar with shaping are usually very quick to catch on to intereactive toys because they have developed skills in experimenting with their behaviour to see what works. Dogs trained through aversive or punitive methods may take a bit longer to warm up to interactive toys as they may be hesitant to try new things.  If your dog does not charge in and "take charge" when you present him with an interactive toy, show him that you are hiding treats inside and show him how to get hem out. Reinforce him a few times for interacting with the toy even if his interaction is not successful in getting a treat out. Most dogs will quickly warm up to the game and in not time at all he will be successful, if you have chosen a toy that is appropriate for your dog.

Maybe YOUR dog would like a new interactive toy for Christmas!

Categories: Survival skills - dealing with canine behaviour

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