Interactive Dog Toys: Unlocking your Dog’s Potential

chess gameLate in life, BlindDog has become a convert to the concept of the interactive dog toy, and she’s converted me along the way. Let me tell you why.

An interactive dog toy is any toy where the dog has to engage its brain to work out how to get treats or food out of the toy. Arguably the dog has to interact with any dog toy, but truly interactive dog toys require a lot more thought (and usually a yummy reward).

The main reason BlindDog has embraced the trend at the ripe old age of ten, is that she is what experts call food motivated, and what I call greedy.  She will do anything for food.

Secondly, as she was a rescue dog, she never really learned to play when she was younger (with the exception of one specific squeaky toy, now long since lost), which is a shame as Bichons are usually very playful. So wrestling and chasing with toys that give her FOOD is a good replacement.

Also, as she can’t see very well any more, it’s great for her to have toys which smell of food and rattle from the dog biscuits inside so she can easily find them. I make no apologies for the fact that most of her toys were chosen to be as noisy as possible!

The reason I’m a die-hard fan of interactive toys is that I know when she plays with them she’s getting a great physical work-out, and its important for older dogs to have frequent gentle exercise throughout the day so as not to put to much strain on their joints.

Its also really easy to use interactive toys to feed your dog’s daily ration and keep them occupied at the same time.  This is great if your dog is on a low calorie or prescription diet and has to avoid other chews and treats that you might otherwise give them to keep them out from under your feet.  Your dog is having fun, using up energy and not eating anything ‘bad’.

Yorkie with mini buster cube

Finally, interactive toys are great for exercising dogs’ brains, something that is so important when your dog’s main ‘job’ is snoozing onthe sofa! People often forget that small dogs need a brain work-out too, not just bored border collies and labradors. I had always thought BlindDog leant more towards cute than clever, but she has been so quick to work out some of her puzzle toys that she’s clearly not just a pretty face!

Interactive toys can be expensive compared to other toys and for the uninitiated it can be difficult to know what to buy. But the enjoyment they bring to your dog (the break they give you) are priceless!  There’s also nothing to stop you using your imagination and making your own.  To help you chose what to buy, BlindDog and I will review some of the best interactive dog toys.

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Are Small Dogs Bored Dogs?

A lot of attention has been given to dog behaviour recently, and specifically to the ways our dogs see the world (in our case, not too well!).  I’m thinking of programs such as Victoria’s Stilwell’s ‘It’s Me or the Dog’, Cesar Millan’s ‘The Dog Whisperer’ (although the less attention paid to him the better) and Dr John Bradshaw’s fantastic book, ‘In Defence of Dogs’.

We seem to be slowly catching on to the fact that dogs, descended from wolves and domesticated in order to work with us, get bored if they have nothing to do. A ‘naughty’ dog is usually a bored dog who chews the furniture, barks himself hoarse at the smallest noise and shoves his nose into everything simply because he hasn’t got anything better to do.

In all of these discussions the spotlight is on burly, boisterous BIG dogs.  In part this is because large breeds were bred to spend all day herding sheep, retrieving game or guarding homes and so they require a lot of mental as well as physical exercise. But its also big bored dogs cause big damage and destruction.

Little dogs tend to get overlooked and I have a feeling that as a result many owners are failing to adequately enrich their small dogs.  Perhaps because they don’t realize how important it is to stimulate their dog’s brains. Or maybe because if their dog is bored it’s just the dog that suffers and not their table legs?

I won’t deny that BlindDog is a lapdog and was bred to be expert at receiving cuddles, getting tummy rubs and sleeping on the sofa.  And believe me, she excels at all of these jobs.

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But BlindDog also has Water Dog and Poodle in her long ancestry, both dogs which were bred to retrieve waterfowl and assist sailors.  When BlindDog is splashing through puddles, racing over snow or following a scent through the undergrowth, you can really see the big, working dog behind the fluffy, teddy bear haircut.

When small dogs are bored they can turn into attention seeking, noisy, destructive (and sometimes aggressive) brats. They might be able to do limited damage, but there’s no limit on the damage being bored can do to them.

On this blog you’ll find lots of ideas for ways to keep any dog (big or small) enriched, engaged and entertained.