I want to see the wheels turning in my dog's head.
February 4, 2009 10:13 PM   Subscribe

My Old English Sheepdog is bored with his Kong. What brain-teasing toys and games do you entertain your dog with? I am very impressed with the design and concept of the Dog Brick, however budgetary constraints compel me to seek out less expensive options from the hivemind. So, how do you give your dog's brain a mental workout, with the end result being the satisfaction of finding a yummy treat?
posted by invisible ink to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
We rolled up treats in a bar towel and then tied it into a loose knot. Our blue heeler learned how to "untie" the towel. Don't use this if you're worried about the dog learning a new "ripping up towel" trick.

Frankly, I could use some ideas to keep Bleu occupied also.
posted by schyler523 at 10:42 PM on February 4, 2009

My last foster got bored with Kongs too, so I mixed it up with this Tug-a-Jug thing. It was ridiculously fun to watch him try to figure it out. But don't use it if you need the dog to be quiet, or if you have downstairs neighbours - they tend to start to bang it around a bit. There are other food toys like that too - haven't tried them all.

Are you freezing the Kongs with stuff in them? What kind of food?
posted by barnone at 11:00 PM on February 4, 2009

Are you thinking of stuff for the dog to do while you're not with him (or his downtime), or things to do with your dog? Are you doing other training with him at the moment? That really gets the wheels going.
posted by barnone at 11:01 PM on February 4, 2009

This one looks a bit safer for floors and furniture.
posted by barnone at 11:01 PM on February 4, 2009

This may be simple but my dog likes his squirrel dude. I put his dry dog food inside. Dog picks it up and drops it repeatedly until a few bits of food bounce out. Eats food, finds dude again, and repeats. I had trouble getting the food to stick inside the kong - the squirrel dude has little flaps over the opening so the dog food or treats don't just fall out. In fact, I cut off one of the flaps to make it slightly easier for the food to fall out.
posted by metahawk at 11:03 PM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: Barnone- I'm interested in hearing your ideas for both Max's downtime, and for games I can play with him. No other training at the moment. I don't freeze his Kong, just stuff some Beggin strips inside.

Metahawk- Max, bless his heart, is not the brightest of dogs, so I will definitely look into the squirrel dude. I can already picture him bouncing it all over the floor:-)

Thanks everyone! Please keep the answers coming!
posted by invisible ink at 11:27 PM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: Barnone - thanks also, for the Kibble Nibble link - definitely including it on my shopping list.
posted by invisible ink at 11:30 PM on February 4, 2009

One trick is to stuff a Kong with bits of his food and peanut butter. Or, plug the little bottom hole with some peanut butter, fill his kong with kibble, and pour in some beef broth. Either way - freeze it for a few hours. It takes way longer to get through and IME leaves dogs kinda worn out from the process! I had a whole tupperware tray in the freezer with rotating kongs - I called them puppy babysitters!

Make sure that you measure out his food for the day into a bag, and dole out portions from that - otherwise it's super easy to overfeed.

Hopefully it'll prevent him from getting into trouble, and encourage him to zonk out! (Shameless foster puppy photos included :-)

Looks like the jug and squirrel guy are made by the same company.

Have you done any clicker training? It's SO easy to learn and dogs pick it up quickly too. Then you can start playing hide and seek (hiding toys or treats), learning silly tricks like high five or dancing or play dead, etc. That kind of mental stimulation when you're with him leaves him even more content and worn out when you're not there.

That little guy pictured above was incredibly food motivated, and with clicker training, I had him doing reverse high-fives, dancing, rolling over, staying while I ran around the house, etc., in a few weeks.

Puppy/Dog classes are also fun.
posted by barnone at 11:55 PM on February 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

We play a game with our two dogs where you put the dogs out of the room, then hide treats in various places, then let them back in. Or do the same but stuff treats inside the various stuffed toys that have had the stuffing ripped out of them - that seems to take them longer to deal with than a kong.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:34 AM on February 5, 2009

My favourite example of an absorbing dog toy. Jerry's owner, Lam Ngo, designed the ball thrower as a one off. Short interview with him.
posted by rongorongo at 2:34 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

barnone, can you come over, right now? My puppy arrived on Saturday and I'm exhausted!!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:39 AM on February 5, 2009

My first Frenchie, Willy, loved his Molecuball. You fill it with cookies, or whatever, and they have to bat it around with their paws or nose to get the food out (sensing a theme here with these toys?). ;)

We put the mini-sized bone shaped cookies in there (perfect fit). They were just weirdly-shaped enough that they didn't fall out straight away and gave him a bit of a challenge.

I should point out, however, that Willy wasn't big enough to get the whole Molecuball in his mouth to give it a shake. A bigger dog might be able to pick the whole thing up and just empty it like a Ruffles bag, kind of making the whole process moot.

The frozen Kong trick does work, incidentally. Stuffed with cheese, mini piece of chicken, ham, etc. peanut butter, baby carrots, small bits of dog cookies. You can even put a teaspoonful of plain pureed pumpkin in if he likes it. Get a few of them, keep a supply in your freezer as people up-thread suggested. It does get messy, so if you have carpets, I would try and limit to your kitchen.

Oh, and barnone, your doggy is soooo stinkin' cute, I just want to play with his ears!! :)
posted by dancinglamb at 6:27 AM on February 5, 2009

Try a Buster Cube. My dog thought the Molecuball had a simple engineering problem (hole too small) and fixed it. The Buster Cube is hard plastic.
posted by biscotti at 6:59 AM on February 5, 2009

One more doggie toy for the measure: my pup really liked his Treatstik.
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:25 AM on February 5, 2009

My dog has tried lots of interactive toys. Some favorites:
Everlasting Treat Ball (though I don't remember it being that expensive!)
Everlasting Fun Ball
IQube puzzle (doesn't have food, but is my pup's favorite)

also, if you want to do things with your dog to keep him entertained, get a clicker and this book
posted by mjcon at 7:34 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

My dog enjoys this treat ball and can play with it for long stretches. I fill it with about a half cup of food in the morning before leaving for work and she's got most of it out by the time I get home.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:51 AM on February 5, 2009

Just in case the budget loosens up, that Dog Brick is pretty great. My dogs have one and they love it; however, it doesn't use up as much time as things like the Tug-a-Jug or Buster Cube.
posted by HotToddy at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2009

We do all suggestions mentioned above: Kongs, molecuballs, hide and seek, clicker training, learning new tricks, etc.

The thing that seems to *completely* konk out our puppy's brain is frisbee. It took a while to teach her how to catch and retrieve a disc (vs a ball), but it was so worth it. Even a moderate amount of playing catch with a frisbee will wear out her little puppy brain. I have several kinds of discs which all fly differently, which keeps her thinking. Frisbee can double as a physical workout as well with a disc that you can throw long, like an ultimate disc. Another great thing about frisbee is that we can use a small floppy disc indoors, even in our small apartment, if it is raining outside.
posted by rajbot at 11:46 AM on February 5, 2009

Chop carrots or apples into little bits and throw a handful all over the room so they bounce under the sofa and stuff. Vegetables are good for this game because they don't get stinky if the dog misses some.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2009

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