Do you remember when you were a kid, and your teacher came up with special rainy day games because it was impossible to go outside during recess? You had fun and still learned something. If you were in kindergarten, maybe you had a nap afterward because the fun wore you out. During the late winter and early spring months, depending on where you live, your area could have snow days or unending downpours of rain. Weather can be unpredictable, but like that childhood teacher, you can be ready with some interactive toys and indoor activities that will be fun and can poop out your pup.
Certain toys are created to appeal to those dog breeds that need extra stimulus to tire them out. Most people with a Labrador Retriever know exactly what we mean. Is your canine buddy a thinker, like our Shepherd? Are they quick at figuring out which hand holds the treat? Maybe a puzzle toy is the way to go. Is your dog extremely food motivated, and will do anything if there is an edible prize? There are treat-dispensing toys meant to engage your dog before they are rewarded by a food payoff. Whatever game or toy you choose, consider your dog’s personality and the best way to exercise their mind and body. If your dog is still young, getting them to think during playtime is a great way to fight future dementia, as well as avoiding boredom-motivated destruction of furniture and other objects.
When picking a toy for your dog, consider your dog’s breed or blend. Certain toys might become boring more quickly to one dog, while others might be too difficult, prompting your dog to get frustrated and give up. Once you introduce a new toy to your dog, always provide supervision. You will want to observe their interest level, and their skill at solving the task at hand. It is also important to monitor their actions because toys could break and your dog could swallow the pieces. Watch out for toys made from particle board, or other material that can be softened or dissolved by the dog’s saliva. Always pick up and put any discarded toy out of sight and out of reach.
Do you have a working breed, such as a Border Collie? Hunting dogs and herding dogs typically need a job, or they get bored quickly. Border Collies for example, might like a puzzle toy that requires them to use their nose to find the treats, and their dexterity to remove them. Maybe you have a dog who would be happy playing an endless game of fetch? Sometimes a simple game that provides physical exertion along with mental stimulation is all that is needed. A home with a long hallway and a tennis ball might be enough to tire out your pooch. But if, like us, your arm gives out before your dog does, there are fetching machines that can automatically toss a tennis ball for you like the Go Dog Go G3 Automatic Fetch Machine, the best in this category. Just remember to watch for signs of exhaustion, and be sure to provide proper supervision.
Hunting dogs have to decide which path to follow when using their noses to track prey. We have a dog who has a playful outlook, and likes to dig her head into every grocery bag we bring home. If you do too, a game that allows your dog to satisfy that insatiable curiosity might be the ticket.
Be ready for those days when the weather keeps you inside. Here are a few interactive toys perfect for a variety of personalities and dog breeds.
A soft, plush squeaky toy is perfect for any dog with missing teeth. A noisy toy is also ideal for a blind dog, or one with poor vision. There are plush puzzle toys such as this one we love, the Hide-a-Squirrel plush puzzle toy from the brand Kyjen. Hide the little squirrels in the tree trunk of the toy, and let your dog use their natural instinct and curiosity to figure how to get them out. Each of the squirrels squeak, causing your dog joy when he successfully digs one out and shakes it. When your dog is done, stuff them back into the tree and go again. Monitor your dog while they play with this toy. Some dogs might tear at, or quickly destroy all of the tree trunk and squirrels, and possibly ingest parts.
Fun board games and puzzle toys might be the perfect antidote to a bored dog. Today’s interactive toys are meant to be used with your supervision and possible guidance to ensure your dog is successful. The goal with all toys is to stimulate and allow your dog to enjoy “beating” the toy, thereby gaining the treats inside. Puzzle toys are perfect for dogs who like to find where the treats are hidden, using dexterity, scent and problem-solving skills. Nina Ottosson puzzle dog toys from The Company of Animals are designed by Nina Ottosson to challenge a dog, in addition to ensuring they have fun. Nina Ottosson interactive puzzle toys are the absolute best of the best. If your dog is extremely clever, look for variations in the puzzle instructions that can make the toy more difficult to solve.
If your dog is food motivated, a treat dispensing or treat-hiding toy might be the perfect entertainment for a snow day. However, some dog personalities might lose interest and get bored due to the low payoff. Some toys work better with dry treats that fall out a little more easily, rather than wet or soft treats that might stick on the inside. A hard rubber toy like a Kong can be stuffed with a mixture of wet and dry treats, and sealed with peanut butter. Place it in the freezer for a couple of hours to make the task of destuffing the toy a little harder. Round plastic toys that roll around before any food is dispensed can be great for hunting dogs, or any dog who will work for their food. Pushing a toy around with their nose can be fun, and your dog will get both mental and physical exercise, too.
This article was written by LIFE+DOG editor Sharon Castellanos.