Can we talk about treat-dispensing toys?
May 13, 2022 6:25 PM   Subscribe

My dog, who came to us five years ago as an 8-year-old retired show dog (dog tax), is incredibly food driven and loves treat dispensers way above all other toys. But we need some new challenges to keep her stimulated. Can you recommend some? Please keep in mind that she's a smallish dog (about 16 pounds) so can't handle huge toys, although she's a terrier so punching way about her weight seems like a fair fight to her.
posted by DrGail to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hi cutie! Small-size Starmark Bob-a-Lot.
posted by praemunire at 6:32 PM on May 13, 2022

Best answer: We have a Bob a lot too! My 30lb dog loves it, my 20lb only does if I put cheerio’s in it. We also have snuffle mats, they love those. I rotate two. One that is just long soft fibers and another with several sections requiring different techniques to get the treats. To avoid over feeding, I break treats into smaller bits.
posted by ReiFlinx at 6:39 PM on May 13, 2022

My local fancy pet-supply shop sells this line of puzzle toys for dogs. They look more interesting and varied than most of what I've seen out there.
posted by juliapangolin at 6:49 PM on May 13, 2022

The Outward Hound puzzle toys (they have some Nordic-sounding name cobranding that I can't remember) are also nice, but they don't last as long as a Bob-a-lot.
posted by praemunire at 6:54 PM on May 13, 2022

Best answer: My very treat driven dog's most favorite toy is a Kong Stuff a Ball with treats inside that are just slightly too large to easily fall out (we break up treats to the right size). He also likes the Outward Hound toys (agreeing they don't last as long).

The other treat dispenser toy he likes is hard plastic and incredibly loud on hardwood floors - watch out for that. Its design is similar to the Bob a Lot but I don't know if they're made of the same material.
posted by Red Desk at 9:20 PM on May 13, 2022

The outward hound puzzle toys have been good for my dogs. Also good though was getting a cardboard box big enough for them to fit in, throwing a handful of kibble in it, filling it with bunched up newspaper, then laying it on its side so they could sniff and dig out the kibble. It’s now one of the rainy day activities we do when we can’t go on walks.
posted by lepus at 9:49 PM on May 13, 2022

Nthing the Bob-a-lot and cardboard boxes!
The Orbee-Tuff Snoop is also great and quieter, but collects hair and dust like no other, if you’re bad about vacuuming like I am. If she is fast with figuring out toys, would also recommend putting in a ball (we did buy the associated Nook). Supervised, we have been liking the Trixie Mad Scientist because it’s a different mechanism than a lot of other puzzle toys (we thought it might help replace her digging behavior a little). The Nina Ottoson puzzles were great but only tended to last a few minutes for her (ymmv) and require more active supervision than what we were looking for at the time.

You didn’t ask about general food enrichment, but just wanted to cover it in case — we fill Kongs with soaked kibble, a carrot, and canned pumpkin, and then freeze them. Our dog loves throwing and licking and biting to dislodge bits of food. We also like the Toppl for wet food and easier cleaning (but it’s more licking behavior for her, but we also haven’t tried it with the larger Toppl to make it more of a puzzle). Snuffle mats are also pretty great, but cheaper cardboard boxes do the trick — or honestly, a kibble scatter in a yard (if you have access to one) is a lot of nose work for dogs (and no cleanup!). We’ve also started to layer behaviors to add complexity without buying more stuff — some days, we wrap a kong in a towel, put it in a box, and hide it after we ask her to go into her crate, and then she has to find it and get to the kong (also done this with other treat dispensers too). Or if you have interactive toys where there are little squeaker toys in a larger thing with some holes, we sometimes also just sprinkle some kibble in there (there also also toys with little inserts for treats too like this pig that I’ve had my eye on for a while).

For a while, I thought our dog was super food motivated (and she is), but we’ve learned that she’s actually even more play-motivated now and it’s something that we’ve actively been helping to develop. She likes this ball that you can stuff food in and lots of tug toys, but started her on something like this that you can also put treats in.
After all that, it might be helpful to know what she already has/enjoys and what kinds of activities she enjoys — and what you’re hoping these toys would do (chasing food around and getting energy out, calming/keeping occupied while alone, getting her to love another activity together, training a behavior, etc)
posted by sincerely yours at 11:51 PM on May 13, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions! I’ve ordered a bob-a-lot and a snuffle mat. I think she’ll really enjoy them loaded with some small low calorie snacks, to complement the various treat-dispensing balls we have already. She is slowing down with age and has pulmonary fibrosis as well, so things that engage her mind without requiring strenuous activity are perfect for her.
posted by DrGail at 4:00 AM on May 14, 2022

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