Making life more interesting for your canine friend: Enrichment toys

Jul 14, 2020

Making life more interesting for your canine friend: Enrichment toys

by Dr. Debra F. Horwitz | Behavior Bits

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When dogs are left to their own devices without adequate resources to keep them busy, they often end up engaging in dog-like behaviors that may be fun for them but annoying for us. Dogs like to do “dog stuff, sniffing (like we talked about in an earlier BehaviorBit called “Are some walks better than others”) digging, chewing, jumping, running and chasing and socially interacting with people and maybe even other dogs. Of course, some activities are best done outdoors; however other needs can be met. Remember, each dog is an individual with their own needs for exercise and mental stimulation. We covered exercise when we discussed walks, some dogs need long walks and some are content with slow, “sniff walks”.

Beyond walks, there are several enriching toys to choose from. The best is to have a choice of chew toys, food dispensing toys and mental stimulation activities for your dog and it may take some trial and error to find what they like. Chew toys come in all shapes and sizes and of course, the size is related to the size of your dog. Rawhide bones, antlers and other chew items can often cause intestinal upset and are not recommended. Hard rubber chew toys are best and some dogs like toys that make noises. Be sure you keep an eye out for when they chew through to the squeaker so they don’t try to eat it. Many toys can be filled with a bit of kibble, perhaps some canned food, and left for the dog to work on all day or even be part of their daily allotment of food (such as Kong toys). Harder puzzles (Nina Ottosson puzzle toys) may be enjoyed by some clever dogs that like to work for their food.

About the Author

Dr. Debra F. Horwitz
  • Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
  • 2012 recipient of the Veterinarian of the Year
  • NAVC 2012 and NAVC 2014 Small Animal Speaker of the Year

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