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!

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