Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Primary Emotional Needs of Dogs (ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology)

Describe the dog’s primary emotional needs.

Why do dogs need mental stimulation?

(These were two separate questions in the same Unit. I have combined my answers, because I believe they are linked and relevant to each other – A.L)

Dogs have relatively simple emotional needs. If his physical needs are met – food, shelter, exercise/play and human/animal company – he’s happy. If he’s made to feel wanted, loved, included in his human family’s daily life, a useful member of his family – he’s happy. If someone praises him, talks to him affectionately, gives him pats and cuddles and treats – he’s happy. If he has a place to call his own, be it a blanket in a corner, a crate, a dog bed, a cardboard box, as long as he feels safe and secure and not threatened – he’s happy. Take a dog out for a walk in the park, take him to the beach, let him play off the lead with other dogs at a dog beach, take him to the yard and throw a few balls for him to fetch, give him the opportunity to sniff and sample the heady scents of a hedgerow or shrub, tree or lamp-post – he’s beyond happy. Dogs thrive on routine, encouragement and reward. Teach him a trick and when he’s learnt it, reward him with a treat – he’s happy.

Some dog breeds such as working dog breeds, need mental stimulation to avoid negative behaviours born of boredom. Breeds such as border collies, Australian shepherds and kelpies need to be given a task or mission, to keep them occupied. This is why they don’t do as well living in a city apartment, as when they have a 100 acre farmstead to run around in, and sheep or cows to herd. Dogs faced with hours of loneliness and boredom can express their discomfort by excessive vocalization, howling, chewing the furniture, digging holes, or the opposite extreme by becoming depressed and uninterested in anything.

Mental stimulation toys, or enrichment toys, for dogs abound in this day and age. The ubiquitous Kong, with its robust rubber chewiness, is a great favourite. Many Kong models can be stuffed with all sorts of treats, even frozen to provide respite from hot days. More and more companies are coming out with better and better enrichment toys, such as puzzles that make the dog use their brains to figure out how to get to the treat within. There are even dog mazes and slow feeders where the dog has to move the object with his tongue or nose, to release it so he can then eat it. There’s even a toy shaped like a flying saucer, that works using centrifugal force – the dog has to spin or shake the toy to make the treats inside fly out the sides.

I read of a Kickstarter project called the Foobler that claims to work on a timer that releases food periodically, up to 9 hours, or the average time a working person is away from home. And here too: While this looks like a great idea – a self-feeder that also acts as an enrichment toy, that keeps a dog occupied for hours – I can’t help but think that it’s more of a lazy dog owner’s substitute childminder, an excuse for the owner to justify leaving their dog alone at home for longer and longer hours. There simply is no substitute for human companionship and contact, in a dog’s mind.

All these toys are well and good for dogs whose owners are out at work for much of the day, but nothing compares to the joy a dog feels when his owner returns home and spends time playing, training, walking and rewarding him.


What is the “Left Gaze Bias”?

The following is part of my coursework assessment from my ongoing ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology.

Canine Psychology is very intriguing and I would encourage anyone who loves dogs to perhaps consider learning more about it. You’ll begin to understand and appreciate your own dogs better, and they’ll love you all the more for it. The field is very dynamic and fluid, with scientific developments being discovered all the time…okay, it may not be cutting-edge surgical medicine, but it’s still cutting-edge science.

I highly recommend the ISCP’s Diploma Course, which qualifies graduates to call themselves Canine Behaviourists. The ISCP advocates only positive reinforcement techniques. If you can’t commit to the Diploma Course, the ISCP offers stepped courses leading up to it, so you could start with the basics and work your way up to the Diploma. Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, the multi-talented and inspirational founder and Director of the ISCP, is just lovely and very supportive. ❤

Here’s the assessment question, followed by my answer:
What is the left gaze bias, and why do dogs use this?

In human beings, the expression of emotions, coming from the left side of the brain, is displayed first on the right side of our faces. We tend to look towards the right side of someone’s face first, to gauge their mood or emotions. We detect clues subconsciously from someone’s right side of the face, to tell whether they’re happy, sad, angry, etc. This is called the “Left gaze bias”, because, from our viewpoint, we are looking towards the left. The left gaze bias only applies when we are looking at another human being’s face, it does not apply when looking at inanimate objects or animals.

Dogs have somehow learnt to gauge a human being’s emotions by utilising the very same technique of left gaze bias. They only do it to humans, and not to other dogs. When a person goes up to a dog, the dog will first scan the right side of that person’s face, to see if the person is friendly, happy or means to do them harm. Dogs are one up on human beings in that, unlike humans, they do not lose the left gaze bias when shown an upside down face, or photos where the left and right sides of the face have been flipped over.

Dogs are the only animals other than human beings, that practice left gaze bias. This ability has not only made dogs one step ahead of humans in gauging body language and intention simply by looking at the person’s face, it has allowed them to adjust their own behaviour and actions in a split second, to either support a person who’s feeling sad (by placing their paw on the person’s hand or licking their face), or react to a person who intends to harm them (by either fleeing, or becoming defensive aggressive). That’s why when you come home to find your sofa torn to shreds by your dog, the dog can tell just by looking at your face whether you’re going to be upset and yell at him, in which case he’ll try to slink away unnoticed, or if you’re going see the funny side of it, in which case he’ll come bounding to you for pats and cuddles just like he normally does.



The image illustration above was taken from this site below, which also has an interesting video link testing out whether you’re right brained or left-brained:

Incidentally, I’m equally right AND left brained. 😄

The Love Hormone

What is the bonding hormone? Why is it important? (The following is from my coursework for the ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology course I’m currently doing):

(Image source: Google Images search under keyword Oxytocin)

The bonding hormone is called OXYTOXIN. It is also called the “Cuddle Hormone” or the “Love Hormone”. (This is the same hormone that is released from eating chocolate, which is why some say “Chocolate is better than sex”!)

Perhaps the reason why dogs became and remain to this day humankind’s best friend is because they have inadvertently tapped into the secret of releasing Oxytoxin in both their humans and themselves. Research has proven that when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes, just like when two lovers gaze at each other, the hormone is released in both human and dog. This hormone acts to strengthen the bond between human and dog. Stroking the dog increases the levels of oxytocin in both human and dog. Oxytocin also lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, calms both humans and dogs, and reduces stress levels. It makes both humans and dogs feel good. The therapeutic effect dogs and other animals have on humans has been proven, that is why many hospitals and hospices engage the services of therapy dogs (and other animals such as cats, rabbits and even chickens) to make their patients feel better and perhaps even recuperate or recover faster from their ailments or surgery.

The stronger the bond, the more likely the human is to protect the animal from harm, because the human now has a vested interest in the animal. Put simply, Oxytocin is what causes humans to love their dogs, and dogs to love their owners. The ability of humans and dogs to bond works in favour of both species – humans get the companionship, protection and assistance of their four-legged friends, while the continued existence and survival of dogs is almost guaranteed by staying close to humans.

Oxytocin is what makes us treat our dogs like family members rather than just household pets. The bond can be so strong that when a dog dies, it’s almost as if your daughter or son has died.

Dogs and Emotions (ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology Coursework)

What emotions have you noticed in dogs you have known? How did the dogs express those emotions?


When I open the door to the living room in the morning (the dogs sleep there), Shelagh my pit bull greets me with an enthusiastic full-body wag. She approaches me sideways in a simpering manner, head curving down to one side, eyes looking at me coyly, body swaying in time with her tail. When she gets to my feet she throws herself down and exposes her belly, eager for a tummy rub. Her mouth is open, tongue lolling, the area around her eyes are crinkled. I would say Shelagh is HAPPY to see me, and maybe she’s even laughing with JOY.

Scruffy, my little lotsabitsa, shows his HAPPINESS at seeing me in the morning in his own way. He’s half the size of Shelagh, so he decides the best way to get my attention is to jump up and down on his hind legs, staying out of Shelagh’s way, while smiling with his gently open and relaxed face, tongue hanging out. Later, out in the garden, after he’s done his business, Scruffy expresses his HAPPINESS by doing crazy zoomies, darting past me here and there, feigning to the left, then to the right. At breakfast time, he does a HAPPY dance by prancing around in circles.

When Shelagh is feeling UNCERTAIN, I notice she has a way of rolling her eyes in my direction, showing some white, and the underside of her eyes crinkle up. Sometimes her brow furrows at the same time, as if she’s trying to ask me a question, or is seeking reassurance. If she’s AFRAID, her tail drops right down and curves underneath her body. When she slowly regains her confidence, her tail comes back up again. When Shelagh was a puppy, she used to be quite FEARFUL whenever she’d piddled on the floor instead of on the newspapers I put down, and sometimes she’d even pee herself if I so much as raised my voice at her.

When Scruffy is UNCERTAIN or AFRAID, he tends to run away with his tail between his legs, and hide under the car. His ears will be flattened back against his head, and if I try to coax him out from under the car, he may thump his tail on the floor and “smile” at me almost apologetically, but he will refuse to come out and may even crawl deeper underneath the car away from me.

When Scruffy is AFRAID, he skulks close to the ground, tail under him. If he thinks I’m about to punish him when I bring my hand close to his face, he sometimes bares his teeth at me, but only for a second, before turning his face away and “apologising” by swishing his tail on the floor and rolling over onto his side submissively.

When both dogs are RELAXED, Shelagh’s ears are laid back. Scruffy is more highly strung, and has a more nervous nature, but when he’s RELAXED he tends to roll over and sleep with his legs in the air. Shelagh loves her afternoon naps in my bed with me, and shows her CONTENTMENT by curling round and plonking her head against my side, and sometimes rolling over to expose her tummy, begging for a rub. If I make a fuss of her by stroking her face, ears and tummy, and then stop, she asks for more by bumping my side with her head and turning her head round to lick my hand.

When Shelagh senses it’s time for her walk, she starts whining EXCITEDLY. She has a funny kind of whining routine, it sounds more like a yelp-whine, with whole volleys of very verbal and loud “Wowowowow”s interspersed with whines. In the car, on the way to the beach, perhaps, Shelagh will keep up this continuous yelp-whine. On the way home, now that her need has been SATISFIED, she’s surprisingly quiet. I first observed Shelagh’s strange yelp-whine routine when we were in our backyard swimming pool, and she would often do this when she’s decided not to jump in to fetch her ball, and it’s sunk to the bottom of the pool (it’s more like a leather sack with several large holes in it, than a proper ball now). Perhaps whining is for EXCITEMENT, and yelp-whining is for EXCITED FRUSTRATION?

For many months I have been observing Otto, one of my favourite dogs at the Refuge where I volunteer. Otto has a thing for certain men, he’s quite happy to play nice with some when they stand outside his enclosure, but with others he launches himself into a FURY of non-stop barking, until they go away. The sight of Otto leaping high into the air, literally bouncing off the walls and ceiling of his enclosure, barking his head off at a person, is one to behold. At some stage in his social development Otto may have been abused, FRIGHTENED or THREATENED by a man, so much so that whenever he sees a male visitor outside his enclosure, he decides in a split second whether to completely ignore the person, be his usual happy self, or go all out kamikaze batshit crazy.

And yet, even after such an outburst, I’ve always found it possible to distract Otto and calm him down by simply tempting him away from the source of his DISCONTENTMENT by using treats. On several occasions, I believe I was able to get Otto to feel COMFORTABLE and RELAXED, by soothing him with TTouch strokes, to the extent that even when visitors appeared outside his enclosure, Otto was HAPPY enough to let them pass by without batting an eyelid, literally.

Otto always welcomes me into his enclosure right at the door, by standing on his hind legs and nuzzling my hand with his head. He expresses his HAPPINESS by running to get his favourite toy while I open the door and let myself in. Sometimes Otto gets EXCITED when we’re playing and I’ve hidden his toy behind me, and he will bark at me. Not aggressively, but rather in a PLAYFUL “Hand it over already, woman!” way. He will do the same if I’ve gotten him to sit but am withholding his treat.

Django, another of my favourite dogs at the Refuge, also welcomes me at his door by nuzzling my hand with his head, or offering his head up for a scratch. When I’ve entered the enclosure, Django expresses his AFFECTION and LOVE for me by rubbing his entire body sideways against my legs, rather like a sinuous feline. He also loves to curl up by my side as I sit on his trampoline bed, and he’ll place his head in my lap, rather like my own dog Shelagh at home. I’ve tried TTouch strokes on Django and even managed to make him fall asleep for 10 minutes, he got that COMFORTABLE.

When I approach Django from outside his enclosure, through the fence, he often displays an APOLOGETIC manner, ducking his head down and coming towards me sideways, presenting his body for patting. He looks almost SORRY for himself. Again, I’m reminded of my own Shelagh when she thinks I’m about to scold her. Some kind words, strokes and treats soon puts him right again.

Justin is one of the Refuge’s dogs currently recuperating from a cruciate ligament operation. As a volunteer Canine Carer there, I sit with him to keep him company, and to make sure he doesn’t go off his head with BOREDOM. Justin is a Kelpie, an Australian working/herding breed known for their intelligence and active lifestyle, rather like Border Collies. Poor Justin was so bored cooped up in his cage by himself that one day, when I put the lead on him and took him out to the Puppy Yard next door so he could stretch his legs, relieve himself and have a little play, he thought I was taking him for a long walk. When he realised he was just going to the Puppy Yard, he took his FRUSTRATION out on my lead, by pulling it between his teeth and tugging on it and shaking it repeatedly. I settled him with some treats and an enrichment toy, and he was GRATEFUL enough for the distraction to bump and nuzzle me, at one point he even crawled onto my lap for a cuddle. When he sensed that it was time to go back into his cage, Justin expressed his FRUSTRATION again, this time by mouthing my elbow with his teeth.

From what I’ve experienced, dogs always smile with a panting face. Sometimes they just pant from exertion or the heat, but whenever a panting face is accompanied by wagging tails, prancing around and generally exuberant body language, I know they are smiling.

Taco, a boarder at the Refuge, is a tiny little chihuahua with a big attitude. I went to walk him one day, and he was FEARFUL of my approach, as I was a stranger to him. He barked himself into a corner, then flashed his teeth at me. As I went closer to slip the lead over his head, he flinched and moved away, growling at me. I crouched down to get closer to him without intimidating him, but Taco danced nimbly away from me. Once again, he was defensive aggressive towards me, flashing his teeth and trying to nip my fingers. I finally managed to corner him. As I dangled the lead over him and he cowered in the corner, he suddenly decided not to flee or fight, instead he froze. Taco lay on his side completely still, trembling with his head facing me, and I was able to slip the lead over his head. Once he was on the lead, Taco’s character changed just as suddenly as he’d frozen. He jumped up, tail wagging upright, and almost pulled me out of the kennel in his EXCITEMENT to go for his walk. Once in the exercise yard, I was able to slip off his lead easily, and off he went exploring. However, when the time came to put the lead back on and bring Taco back to his kennel, it was a repeat performance of what we’d gone through previously.

The New Bullies

Social Media can be a great tool for bringing about an increase in business traffic. It can serve to alert many people to the existence of a product, service or cause.

But it also has a very ugly side. One that seems to be rearing its head more and more frequently these days. And I’m not talking about how our Media feed is being manipulated so that we only see or know about what They choose to let us see or know. They’re not even trying very hard to cover up the real news these days. And why? Because generally, people are stupid and lazy and can’t be bothered to scratch under the surface, to peel away that very thin veneer of a facade, to uncover the Truth. The Elite are almost guaranteed that the sheeple masses will soak up and bask vicariously in the glorious scandals and “news” of celebrities, and not be inclined to look elsewhere. If it does not appear on your Facebook feed, it never happened, right?

But I’m not going to harp on about that. Not today. Today I’m calling out the New Bullies On The Block. Yes, the playground bullies of old have grown up and migrated to Social Media, where they’re having a whale of a time.

These days I find myself holding back from making comments about any posts I see online. The first thing I do is check the Comments section. I can then gauge by the level of “flaming” going on, whether the post is going to be full of online trolls, or real human beings, with a modicum of respect and common sense. If it’s the latter, then I might post my comment.

Sadly, we’re living in a world full of trolls. You can’t post anything up on your own Social Media feed, without attracting these lowest forms of life. No, I don’t mean to insult amoebas. I mean the ones that have nothing better to do that jump on your back and try to pummel you to death with Their Opinions. And, being the malcontents that they are, these heinous creatures will then sit and wait for other unsuspecting people to come along and dare to make a comment. And then they’ll set to with fangs bared and claws out, ripping to shreds any dissenting views. They must have really ginormous Egos that require constant buffing and buttering up.

Many a forum thread or post have had to be deleted by either the original poster, or moderators, because these bullies have so effectively hijacked them as to be unrecognisable. What may have started out as an innocent statement, has been turned into a maelstrom of seething discontentment, like a pit full of vipers.

Why? Why do people feel the need to troll? Why do they need to take to Social Media to vent their frustration against something else? Because rarely is their anger really about the subject or person they’re flaming. These cyber bullies have other ants down their pants, but have turned to Social Media as a means of releasing their angst. Welcome to the world of Virtual Psychiatry, where you attempt to heal yourself by tearing someone else a new a**hole to bits.

Even the most inocuous Pages can be filled with the most horrendous wolves in sheep’s clothing. Everyone’s out to get something for nothing.

Even a post selling off some books can turn into a playground full of bullies. Where the seller perhaps needs to sell quickly, in order to get much-needed cash, and has named their terms. You’d think this transaction would’ve gone smoothly without notice, but you’d be wrong. Instead, these new playground bullies decide that they don’t want to respect the seller’s terms, so they try wrangling different terms, their own terms to be precise, advising the seller of their own requirements, and they even start arguing amongst themselves and talking as if the seller isn’t in the conversation. Brazen? Yes. Cheeky? Definitely. Rude? Oh, most certainly. Enough to drive people away? What do you think?

It’s becoming rarer and rarer to find decent human beings in this world. Mostly, they’re the ones living away from our technologically advanced but soul-sucking, materialistic world. Or, they’re the ones who realise where Society is going wrong, and are managing to keep their heads while everyone else is running around like so many headless chickens. When you come across people like these, (the ones still owning their heads, not the headless chickens), hold tightly onto them because they are as precious and rare as hens’ teeth these days. I’d rather have just 1 of these “real” people as a friend, than a million “the lights are on but nobody’s home” vapid, vacuous, vain, empty sacks posing as human beings. I recently uncovered 2 diamonds in the rough, and they are definitely worth holding on to.

Why do people feel they can misbehave so freely on Social Media? Is it because of the relative anonymity the Internet provides? Is it because anyone can set up any identity they like, hell why not create a dozen different profiles, and let’s go take our anger and frustration out online, and bring others down to our level so we can feel ever so slightly better about ourselves for the next 5 minutes? Why do some people, especially the younger generation, feel so entitled? And get so aggressive when their bullying is called out?

Here’s another example of the sort of attitude that makes my blood boil. It’s not on Social Media, this example…it’s far worse than that. This is a real life example.

Someone’s just been asked if they would like to sell their car. Let’s call them the Seller and the Buyer.

Buyer: How much do you want for your car?
Seller: $5000
Buyer: I’ll give you $2000
Seller: But you asked me how much I wanted, and I said $5000.
Buyer: Hey listen, I’m just trying to help you out here. $2000 is my offer, take it or leave it.

That is just rude and disrespectful.

Society is sick. And we need to start reversing the trend, before it’s too late for all of Humankind.

Are you with me or against me?

Is this going to open up a whole new can of worms?

(Image source: Which, incidentally, provides a rather good example of the type of flaming or bullying that goes on in online forums. It’s by no means a new phenomenon either, as this site harks back to 2008 or even earlier).

Happy Australia Day – From the Dogs

I created these 10 digital mobile photography art images on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4, for the Dogs’ Refuge where I’m a volunteer. The girl who normally does photography for the Refuge is still on holiday in her home country, so I suggested to the Staff that instead of trying to get our dogs to model hats, thongs (flip flops), towels etc with the theme of Australia Day, I could edit photos of the dogs instead, and add clipart and text to the images.

Not all of them might make it to the Refuge’s Facebook page, so I thought I’d share them here with you.

It was quite a feat to create them, in between walking dogs, sitting with them and distributing doggy biscuits. But I had fun doing it. It’s been a long while since I last did much digital mobile photography art, but nothing beats jumping right back on the bicycle, right?

Enjoy! Hope you like them!











Always Read The Label

Put people in
Neat little packages
Create nice little labels
And tags
So that
When you see someone
You know how to
Adjust your attitude
Make a little mental note
On how to treat that person
Always read the label

If they fit the pigeonhole
You can file them away
In a safe place
Inside your head
Along with all the others
So that the next time
Another one comes along
You know exactly what to expect
It certainly makes life much easier
And less scary
When you know
Who or what you’re dealing with

Until someone comes along
And upsets your apple cart
And turns your Nice Plan
Upside down and inside out
By not conforming to any
Of the rules you’ve set for them
By being completely different
By doing everything contrary
To what you’ve learnt
And to what Society
Has drilled into your head
And now your head is screwed

This is not an abnormality
This is not a blip
Humans are not pigeons
That fit neatly into pigeonholes
For your convenience
Do not adjust the person
But do adjust your attitude
And prejudices against
The very labels you have imposed
Upon others, as
There are others Just Like You
…always read the label

The only labels we need have
For people should be
Good or Bad
But even then the very yardstick
By which we measure them
Is never completely unbiased
Depending instead on everything
You’ve been taught from young
And again, depending on
The very things we would like
To NOT discriminate against
How’s that for irony?

So, one person’s Good
May be another person’s Bad
When viewed through
The highly distorted lenses
Of Race, Religion,
Sexual orientation,
Culture, Gender
Political affiliation,
Even Occupation
And Life Philosophies
One man’s meat
Is another man’s poison

So, what should we do?

Start again, start afresh
Start with a clean slate
Start with our children
Before it’s too late


Which Planet Are You On?

The Kid and I were watching the TV series “Supergirl” the other night, and something one of the characters said to another made me sit up.

Kara is Supergirl, and her Aunt Astra, who was imprisoned on Fort Roxx, a floating space satellite maximum security prison thingy, has contrived a confrontation with Kara. In a nutshell, Astra was regarded as a terrorist on Krypton because of her revolutionary activities, and when she got captured she was sentenced to life imprisonment on Fort Roxx. When the Planet Krypton exploded, Fort Roxx was knocked out of orbit and landed on Earth. Kara herself had been placed in a space pod as a 14 year old girl, and sent to look after and protect her baby cousin, Kal-El…unfortunately the shockwaves from the demise of Planet Krypton also knocked Kara’s pod off its intended trajectory, Earth, and she languished in space for years, before ending up on Earth. By the time Kara got to Earth, her baby cousin Kal-El, had already grown up and become the superhero known as Superman.

Here’s a transcript of the conversation that construes between Aunt and Niece. This is in Season 1, Episode 8: “Hostile Takeover”.

Krypton is dying.

Our core is unstable. It has been for a long time because of how we’ve harnessed it for power.

We became greedy. And now the oceans have changed, and the weather.

I’m trying to get people to stop and see what they’re doing, and in doing so, I’ve had to do some difficult things.

Now, those of us who grew up on the Superman stories know exactly how it ended for the planet Krypton.

All just science fiction, right? Therefore not relevant, right?

But…Astra’s words have a certain ring of truth to them. Just look around us. Look at the human race. Look at the effects of our wanton disregard for the gifts of Mother Nature, our exploitation of Her animals, plants, oceans, minerals etc.

What have we done to our own Planet Earth???

Isn’t it time we stopped and started to think of ways we can SAVE our planet? Instead of continuing to plunder it for its resources, just to feed some greedy, grasping, profits-before-people corporations? Money isn’t even real!

Or…will those who dare cry that the emperor wears no clothes simply be locked up, just like Astra was? Will the Elite simply pay their minions to silence the revolutionaries, the rebels, the ones who dare speak the Truth?

If we do nothing, then Planet Earth is doomed to the same fate as Planet Krypton. Only this time round, it isn’t going to be science fiction, it’s going to be fact.



More on Dog Enrichment Toys

Yesterday’s post was about Dog Enrichment Toys. In my research online on the subject, I came across dozens of different types and brands. It certainly seems like there are a lot of manufacturers out there jumping on the doggy bandwagon, all hoping that their product is The.Best.Dog.Toy.Ever.

That’s not going to happen, luckily for some and unluckily for others, whichever side of the retail market you happen to belong to. Dogs, like children, adore novelty. The scientific term for this, (yes, there really is one), is “neophilia”. Click here for the Science.

So, in effect, any toy that’s new is The Best Toy Ever to a dog. For the next few minutes anyway, until the novelty wears off. But, before you despair, and go out and splurge on more new toys, here’s some really good news…Put away a toy in a cupboard for a few days, and meanwhile let your dog play with its other toys. It’s a matter of “Out of sight, out of mind”. When you reintroduce that toy to your dog again, it will again be The Best Toy Ever. You could even fill the same treat dispenser with a different type of treat each time, and your dog wouldn’t care less that it’s the same old dispenser, he’s more interested in what’s inside it.

Here are just some of the more unusual enrichment toys available on the market. I won’t name them or provide links, as all you need to do is Google “Dog Enrichment Toys”, and you’ll be presented with a shedload of sites offering these products. I will however say this: try the DIY ones first, as you may already have the materials needed to make them at home, and save a lot of money AND have some fun yourself in the making of the toy. The retail manufactured ones can be quite expensive to buy.


















Here are some examples of DIY dog enrichment toys.




As you can see, the first 2 above are essentially the same, only one uses PVC piping and the other uses empty drink bottles. The principle is the same – the dog needs to tap the bottles hard enough that they spin on their axis (the horizontal pole) and the treats fall out.

In the last picture, the toy is again made from PVC piping, (check the plumbing aisle in your local DIY store). The ends have been capped with a tennis ball. You can also buy end caps from the same aisle you get your pipes from. Drill some holes randomly in the pipe, fill from the end with kibble treats, and your dog’s challenge then is to push the toy this way and that to get the treats to fall out.

The trick is keeping the dog keen while it figures out how to get the treats out. Some dogs are very smart and will test out different ways of getting to the treats. Others will lose interest after just a few failed attempts.

Dog Enrichment Toys

Since I’ve recently become responsible for providing Enrichment Toys to some of our more needy dogs at the Refuge, I seem to have developed an interest in researching different types of Enrichment Toys for dogs.

Enrichment Toys for dogs, cats and other pets come in different styles and levels of “difficulty”. I use the term “difficult” very loosely, because really it’s not fair to compare a dog’s ability to a human’s. Dogs lack opposable thumbs, for one, and only have their snouts, mouth and paws with which to open or close anything. Whereas we as adult humans would think nothing about twisting the top off a jar of pasta sauce, or using a peeler to peel carrots.

So, what “difficult” means for dogs in the context of Enrichment Toys would be more akin to “How long does it take the dog to figure it out?” As in, how quickly can Rex learn to push the treat dispenser in such a way that the kibble within falls out so he can eat it. Or, can Rex figure out how to use his nose and tongue to push the treat along the maze until it emerges so he can gobble it up.

There are many, many different types of Enrichment Toys, also known as Puzzle Toys, Slow Feeders, Activity Toys, Boredom Busters, Enrichment Dispensers etc. Some are very simple, consisting of one piece only, such as the ubiquitous Kong:


(Image: Google Images)

Others are complex and contain many different parts, and require the dog to stand on levers to release the treat. There’s even an ambitious one that works using centrifugal force…you put kibble in the middle of the flying-saucer shaped dispenser, and when the dog nudges or rattles it around, the kibble within spin out. An example is shown below, designed by a Swedish woman named Nina Ottoson. You can read about Nina’s personal story here, and check out her many products for “activating” pets (her own term for it) here.


(Image : Google Images)

You only have to Google “dog enrichment toy”, or “dog activity toy” to find hundreds of examples of both manufactured and homemade DIY versions of such toys.

At the Refuge recently, we had 2 of these funky flying-saucer treat dispensers. One was given to a dog named Wolfie, whose technique was to chew on it. I tried the other out with a greyhound named Pi, and he amazed me by thinking outside the box. Instead of nudging the dispenser around, like I was expecting him to, Pi’s technique involved stamping down on the side of the flying-saucer disk, and making it flip over and over, so the kibble dribbled out. Clever Pi!