Boredom is a top-ranking source of stress for dogs. Because puppies and young dogs spend lots of waking hours seeking mental engagement, boredom also sets up for problem behaviors. Owners can channel their dog’s energy into constructive, safe, and appropriate activities with knowledge and preparation. Cold weather months can mean a stressful change for dogs who are accustomed to long walks and lots of outdoor time. Get your toolbox together to avoid boredom-induced, undesirable behaviors that might prove challenging to change.
Toys vs. Chews
Separate your dog’s playthings into two categories: toys and chews. You and your dog play together with toys. These include balls and discs as well as plush toys. When the game is over, place that toy in an area which is inaccessible to your dog. Plush toys are targets for shredding, which not only destroys the toy, but can pose a choking hazard. There are also behavior and training benefits to storing toys this way: they become “motivators”.
Chews provide independent engagement, environmental enrichment, and mental stimulation. Chews include bones and bully sticks, antlers, Himalayan chews, and hooves, among others. Check with your vet to make sure your choice is healthy for your dog. Some dogs don’t digest rawhide, for example. While a conventional means of delivering meals, the food bowl is boring! Food-dispensing devices rank high for the enrichment and mental stimulation they provide. It’s just as easy to scoop dog food into a food-dispensing device or puzzle. You can provide all meals and treats in a food-dispensing device. The foraging activity keeps your dog busy and out of trouble. These activities can also reduce stress in fearful and anxious dogs.
The following toys are safe and fun for everyone. Use them as training motivators and practice obedience cues during playtime. Short (5-10 minutes) and frequent daily playtimes work best.
ChuckIt – there is a glow-in-the-dark ball option for fetch games at dusk
ChuckIt – Paraflight Max Glow and Flyer (disc)
JW Pet Crackle Heads Ball/Ricky the Raccoon – crackly, squeaker fun for fetch and tug
JW Pet iSqueak Ball – all toys are better with a squeaker
Kurgo Winga – similar to a ChuckIt!, but with a disc rather than a ball
Nylabone Happy Moppy Dog Toy – cute and colorful, durable and fun to fetch and tug
Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Puzzle – a plush toy with other animal varieties; a game for the four-legged “problem-solver”
Outward Hound Plush Squeaker Matz – these durable tug toys are available in several lengths; go for the long toys for larger breeds
Outward Hound Hedgehog – it grunts; enough said
Outward Hound Flirt Pole Tail Teaser – a great outlet for dogs who love to leap
Ethical Pet Skinneeez – long, stuffingless toys are great to play tug; they squeak, too
Ethical Pet Giggler Chicken Dog Toy – these are good puppy “chewers”; funny when shaken
KONG Tri-Fun Dog Toys – these crackle and squeak for extra fetch fun
KONG Puzzlements – interactive toys in four styles with various degrees of difficulty
Chews include items that dogs love to gnaw on as well as food-dispensing devices for foraging. Use food-dispensing toys for your dog’s meals – not only his treats. Chews are great in helping puppies and adult dogs to enjoy crate time as well as to achieve independence training. Pick up and change out to maintain the novelty, fun factor.
USA/Chasing Our Tails Bones and Chews – knuckles, marrow bones, antlers, bully sticks, hooves, sterilized bones, cow hooves
Barkworthies – good quality with a terrific variety of chews, bones, antlers, and others
SmartBones and DreamBones– these are rawhide-esque, but more digestible
Himalayan Chews – made from yak milk and very long lasting
Nylabone – Puppy Chew Teething Rings, Keys, Pacifier – use to redirect puppy nipping as well as crate time; some are flavored
Outward Hound Fun Feeders – available in a variety of colors and designs; helps to slow down food “inhalers”
Outward Hound Puzzles – channel your dog’s persistence in a constructive way; wide variety of styles
KONG Classic – perfect device to introduce your dog to foraging for his meals; every dog needs at least one; buy the black version for insane chewers.
KONG Stuff A Ball/Puppy Activity Ball – two age appropriate styles; use it to play ball AND deliver dinner
KONG Wobbler – fun for the more advanced food “forager”; available in two sizes
KONG Puppy Teething Stick – rubber ridges that can be filled with peanut butter, etc. or not
Busy Buddy – a collection of food-foraging toys in order of challenge (easy to difficult): Puppy Squirrel Dude, Twist n’ Treat, Kibble Nibble, Barnacle, and Tug-A-Jug; most are available in several sizes
JW Pet Hol-ee Treat Ball – fun and well-designed for a practiced “forager”; perfect for kibble, not just treats
Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball – double fun: eat and play
Nina Ottosson Puzzles – wonderful variety of interactive fun from the “Founding Mother of Dog Puzzles”; pricier than some, but great design and quality
Where to Find the Good Stuff
Especially when buying food and chews, read the fine print on the packaging. Look for products that are sourced and processed in the U.S. Packaging can be deceiving. There may be an American flag on the bag or a “made in America” statement, but it is produced elsewhere. When in doubt, ask your vet!
The following is a list of reputable retailers and a website where high quality standards and outstanding customer service prevail.
Faux Paws Pet Shop (Summit, NJ)
Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming (Westfield, NJ and other locations)
Pet Valu (multiple locations)
Pet Supplies Plus (multiple locations)
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2016 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC