Sometimes we can’t always meet the exercise needs of our dogs, so when you can’t exercise the body, try exercising the mind instead. There’s all kinds of ways to do this, including good old obedience training in the house, but another thing that most dogs like is interacting with a food toy.
There are some great commercially available food toys, such as the Kong Wobbler, the Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble from PetSafe, or a number of puzzle toys and slow feeders. all of which make the dogs work for their dinner.
If you’re not ready to invest in these options, there are also a number of ways that you can make your own food toy to give the idea a try. All of these ideas should be used under your supervision, since not all the hand-made toys are as durable as the commercial versions.
One of my dog’s favorite food toys is the muffin tin game. Simply take an old muffin tin, put a few pieces of kibble in the bottom of each muffin well and then cover each well with a tennis ball or other kind of ball. The dog has to lift the ball out of the well in order to get to the kibble. Once they clear all the balls, refill the muffin tin and start again.
Another idea is to cut some holes in a sour cream or yogurt container. Be sure to file down any sharp edges. Put the dog’s dinner in the container, replace the lid, and then stand back as the dog rolls the container around in order to get the kibble to come out.
A similar idea is to cut holes in a cardboard shipping box, interlace the flaps shut and let your dog move the box around to get to the kibble. If this is too challenging for your dog, make the holes bigger and along the bottom of the box. Vary the size of the box and the placement of the holes to increase the challenge.
For an even greater challenge, you’ll need a used, clean peanut butter jar and a cardboard tube from a finished roll of paper towels. Drill roughly a dime sized hole in the lid of the jar and cut the cardboard tube to length so that two or three pieces fit in the jar. Fill each cardboard tube with kibble, screw the jar lid back on and then let your dog have at it. As your dog rolls around the jar, the kibble will dispense out of the top. If the kibble isn’t coming out easily enough, make the hole a bit bigger. Here’s a short video that demonstrates how to create this toy: dogfooddispenser.
As with anything new, introduce your dog to the game slowly and with encouragement. They may need your help in the beginning to figure out what they are suppose to do.