The Best Food-Dispensing Toys 2019
If you’re not utilizing treat-dispensing toys along with your dog, you’re lacking out on one of many best coaching innovations of the final 100 years – critically!
These fantastic instruments and toys will help you with a protracted record of dog-training and -management challenges, together with boredom-busting, excessively quick consuming, high-energy consumption, constructing psychological expertise, counter-conditioning, redirecting inappropriate conduct, and rather more.
In the mid-1980s, after I acquired my first Australian Kelpie, food-stuffed toys had been an unknown. A tennis ball was “the thing” – and Keli, my Kelpie, was fairly hooked on hers. Then we found the Kong. Still perceived primarily as a fetch toy in these days, the hole, snowman-shaped, laborious, rubber toy delighted my dog with its high-flying unpredictable bounces. Almost pretty much as good as herding sheep! She switched her allegiance from ball to Kong.
Then sooner or later Jean Donaldson – dog coach, founding father of the Academy for Dog Trainers, and e book writer extraordinaire, prompt stuffing treats within the Kong’s hole inside to be able to entertain in any other case bored dogs. The food-dispensing dog-toy revolution was on.
The market has expanded since these early days when the Kong Company just about had a food-toy monopoly. Or ought to I say exploded? Today your choices embody an virtually infinite number of merchandise that include meals that can entice and problem your dog. These merchandise encourage him to chew, lick, nudge, paw, and toss to be able to discover and attain the meals.
We nonetheless love the essential Kong toy, in addition to the number of different toys made by Kong. But we’ve to confess, we additionally love a lot of Kong’s rivals within the food-stuffable toy class. In reality, there are such a lot of it’s laborious to even have favorites anymore! But at a minimal, we expect you have to be conscious of what number of choices can be found to you and your dog immediately, so you possibly can choose those which might be finest suited to your personal dog’s wants and needs.
It’s a easy idea: brief items of fleece tied onto a flat plastic or rubber body, making a tufted floor, splendid for scattering or hiding kibble or treats. Originally, the snuffle mat was a takeoff on the concept of scattering a dog’s meals in some grass, so it could take him some time to search out and eat his meal.
When I first heard of snuffle mats, they had been a do-it-yourself undertaking. Not lengthy after, I began seeing mats made by people and bought in a small cottage business, and never lengthy after that, the idea grew to become fairly commercialized. While you possibly can nonetheless simply make a snuffle mat to your dog, you too can buy a number of artistic variations, with rubbery fingers as a substitute of fleece tufts, fleece tufts of various lengths and patterns, and exercise mats that embody pockets and different treat-finding challenges along with the tufts and fingers.
These mats can serve a number of totally different functions. They are excellent for dogs who eat too shortly and are at fixed threat of choking on a bowlful of unchewed meals or inhaling bits of their meals. Sniffing out and retrieving bits of meals from the various mat crevices is assured to decelerate essentially the most ravenous speed-eater.
Snuffle mats are additionally helpful for protecting your dog occupied throughout occasions when she may in any other case get fussy. My dog Kai’s snuffle mat was a godsend whereas he impatiently waited his flip at agility class. The mat saved him calmly and fortunately trying to find treats as a substitute of barking from frustration and arousal on the sight of different dogs operating the course.
The mats additionally could also be used to maintain your dog from becoming bored when left alone (not beneficial for a persistent or aggressive chewer!). Just load the mat, set it down for her in her “home-alone” house, and also you’re good to go.
Some dogs, particularly the gentler, much less assertive ones, want a little bit assist studying the right way to use the mat. You might have to start out by dropping treats on prime, somewhat than burying them deep within the mat. As your dog will get the concept, you can begin pushing treats deeper and deeper into the tufts, till your dog actually has to work to get them.
Toss within the washer once they begin getting sticky, pungent, or moldy; many will also be put within the dryer.
The dog will get to make use of her sense of odor, contact, and style to search out meals.
Dogs can chew these up (and ingest them!). Do not depart your dog alone with a snuffle mat if she’s an aggressive chewer and/or susceptible to ingesting non-food objects.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Snuffle Mats
Darkyazi Snuffle Mat/Nosework Blanket, $31
Paw5’s Wooly Snuffle Mat, $40, (215) 383-1654
Petvins Dog Feeding Snuffle Mat, $37
SNiFFiz Smelly Matty, $55
Good directions for a make-it-yourself snuffle mat
Fill-with-Food Toys to Lick and Chew
The snowman-shaped Kong toy continues to be round, in fact, and continues to be an awesome alternative for stuffing meals into, in addition to a fetch toy. While not indestructible, the black Kongs are very powerful and a sensible alternative for the aggressive chewer. In reality, I nonetheless have the unique black Kong that Keli fortunately chased some 30-plus years in the past. It’s a little bit worse for put on, but it surely’s nonetheless right here!
In addition to the basic crimson and black Kongs, the Kong Company additionally gives “puppy” Kongs in pink and blue which might be a little bit softer and simpler to chew.
Between Kong Company and their rivals (together with Busy Buddy, Idepet, Trixie, and others), there’s an virtually infinite record of food-stuffable toys of varied shapes, colours, sizes, and supplies. Some are grooved, inviting your dog to lick squeeze cheese or peanut butter from the grooves. Some are hole, encouraging chewing greater than licking. You can stuff your dog’s complete meal into a number of hole toys, and even freeze them, to decelerate the quick eater and hold the bored dog occupied for an extended time. Our freezers virtually at all times include a number of!
Most are dishwasher protected.
Wide number of merchandise; novel merchandise will hold your dog engaged.
Some dogs have little curiosity in actively chewing to entry treats and meals. You could must encourage yours, or select a unique kind of meals toy.
Dogs can chew these up (and ingest them!). Either choose super-tough toys particularly designed for aggressive chewers or don’t depart your dog alone along with her food-stuffed toy if she’s an aggressive chewer.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Fill-with-Food Toys
Busy Buddy’s Twist’n Treat, $5-$14, relying on measurement. Available in pet provide shops and on-line, or from its maker. (866) 738-4379
Idepet Dog Toy Ball, $9
Kong, $7-$14, relying on measurement.See your entire line of basic Kong toys on the firm web site. Available for buy in pet provide shops in every single place and on-line.
Kong Genius Leo Food Dispensing Dog Toy, $5-$eight, relying on measurement. Connect a number of so as to add to problem. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
I name these merchandise “push toys,” as a result of dogs must push and roll them round to be able to get kibble to fall out of them. What all of them have in frequent is a compartment which you can fill with kibble or different small, laborious treats, and a gap for the treats to spill out off, supplied the dog rolls it again and again.
The first product like this that I ever noticed was the Buster Cube – a tough plastic dice with rounded corners and a gap on one facet for the treats to spill out of. Omega Paw’s Tricky Treat Ball was comparable, however fabricated from a softer vinyl materials that didn’t make such an ungodly racket as a dog rolled and bashed it round, making the meals fall out a bit or two at a time.
Today, there are a lot of variations of those kibble-dribbling toys, together with these authentic merchandise. Look for merchandise that gained’t spill all the products too shortly, however aren’t so tough to get meals out of that your dog offers up in frustration. Another good function is the flexibility to open the toy to be able to empty it utterly now and again; you don’t need items of kibble to get caught inside, develop moldy, and solely then fall out and be eaten by your dog.
Kong got here out with a product that we like lots: the Kong Wobbler, which is formed like the unique Kong, however fabricated from two laborious plastic halves that screw collectively, making it extremely simple to load with kibble or treats and open afterward for cleansing. The backside half is weighted in order that the toy rights itself after every push, which will increase the interactive nature of the toy and makes it a bit extra participating than among the different push toys. Our pot-bellied pig, Dexter, fortunately eats a part of his meal from a Kong Wobbler!
Note that, relying on the extent of problem, your dog could should be taught the right way to use these toys. Roll or push it over a number of occasions so she will be able to see the deal with fall out (and eat it) every time. Encourage her to make use of her nostril and/or paws to have interaction the toy till she realizes that she will be able to make the treats seem.
More interactive than most of those different merchandise; playful dogs will notably take pleasure in these.
Because these toys are supposed to be pushed or pawed round to be able to dispense the treats, they don’t seem to be essentially capable of face up to chewing (not like the merchandise talked about within the earlier class, that are designed to surrender their meals stuffing by being licked and chewed). These merchandise wouldn’t be applicable for dogs whose go-to tactic is to attempt to chew the meals out of the toy. Dedicated chewers can harm, chew, and ingest items of those toys if they’re so inclined.
Be conscious! These toys could be very noisy, particularly on laborious flooring.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Kibble-Dribblers
Busy Buddy’s Kibble Nibble, $11-$16, relying on measurement. Available in pet provide shops and on-line, or from its maker. (866) 738-4379
Omega Paw’s Tricky Treat Ball, $5-$eight, relying on measurement. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
Our Pets Buster Cube, $11-$12, relying on measurement. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
In distinction to the push-around toys, these merchandise are designed to be stationary – although they, too, are supposed to decelerate pace eaters. Slow feeding is believed to lower the potential for life-threatening choking or bloat, a not-uncommon drawback in dogs who inhale their meals.
These merchandise are often grooved or have pegs within the bowl, requiring the dog to make use of her tongue to achieve the meals. They are sometimes weighted and/or geared up with non-skid ft and a large base to attenuate spillage. They will not be fairly as difficult as among the different food-toy merchandise, although this makes them a good selection for dogs who get simply discouraged and cease making an attempt to get treats from the harder designs.
These merchandise work equally nicely for feeding dry meals, moist meals, uncooked frozen, or home-prepared.
Most are dishwasher-safe.
The grooves in some designs could make these bowls tough to scrub and not using a dishwasher.
Most of those merchandise are made for bigger dogs; fewer fashions can be found for small dogs.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Slow Feeders
Kyjen Slo-Bowl Feeder, $15. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
Neater Pets’ Slow Feeder, $27. (877) 917-7387
Outward Hound’s Slo Bowls, $10-$20. Available in pet provide shops and on-line, in addition to from their maker. (800) 477-5735
QT Dog’s Brake-Fast Stainless Steel Dog Bowl, $10-$23, relying on measurement. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
Compared to among the different food-dispensing toys, “licky-sticky” is a comparatively new idea. This class describes merchandise that should be full of a sort of meals that the dog can take away solely by decided and extended licking, equivalent to peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, child meals, or a pt-type canned meals – and which might be designed to be affixed to a stationary place (often with suction cups).
Prior to the invention of those merchandise, I’ve prompt to shoppers that they simply smear cheese or peanut butter on the fridge door or bathe wall. I can see how some may desire this various!
The factor I like finest about these is that they will hold your dog comparatively motionless, fortunately occupied, and licking/consuming, whilst you attend to a husbandry activity that requires two palms, equivalent to buckling a muzzle, bathing, grooming, taking a temperature, and many others. That’s so helpful that I truly squealed with delight the primary time I noticed one!
Because the dog can’t carry them off to take pleasure in in non-public, these are nice for protecting him in a single spot, with out pressure or restraint.
The dog’s enjoyment of scrumptious treats could classically situation him to affiliate grooming (or no matter you’re doing to him whereas he licks the meals) with good issues, making him extra happier to cooperate and take part.
These merchandise will not be a good selection for a dog who has food-guarding conduct, until and till conduct modification has been accomplished.
If your dog is susceptible to chewing up toys, don’t depart him unattended with any of those merchandise. Most are versatile and never sturdy, as they’re meant for licking, not chewing.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Licky-Sticky Things
Aquapaw Slow Treater Treat Dispensing Mat, $11. Available from Amazon.com and from its maker.
Chase ‘N Chomp’s Sticky Bone, $15.
Helpcook Dog Lick Pad, $13.
Hyper Pet’s Lickimat Dog Mat, $6-$10.
Hyper Pet’s Lickimat Dog Soother, $5 for creamier treats.
Interactive Toys and Dog “Puzzles”
Interactive toys have change into highly regarded since they first appeared a decade or so in the past – and with good cause. They make a dog work for her treats, along with her mind in addition to her physique! Brain video games are extremely helpful for protecting dogs mentally in addition to bodily wholesome.
Swedish dog-toy designer Nina Ottosson began creating her line of interactive toys in 1990. Today, there are dozens of her merchandise available on the market, in addition to many from different designers. Some are clear-cut imitators, others are fairly modern and authentic. All are assured to offer dogs with enjoyable and stimulation.
These are enjoyable for all dogs, however particularly helpful for serving to to entertain and occupy senior, handicapped, or rehabilitating dogs who should be saved calm.
Because most of those had been designed to have the human interacting with the dog because the dog interacts with the toy, they’re additionally good for relationship-building.
Some of those interactive toy puzzles are fairly complicated and difficult. Your dog might have some help, not less than at first, to assist her succeed and study, and keep away from frustration. Start with less complicated toys and work as much as the tougher ones as soon as she understands how the video games are performed.
The early Nina Ottosson toys had been fabricated from wooden – simply chewed and laborious to wash. More latest fashions are fabricated from plastic; nonetheless some have small items that your dog can chew up if you’re inattentive.
These toys are designed for use beneath human supervision. Many of them are simply destroyed if left along with your dog unattended.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Interactive Toys
Nina Ottosson‘s dog puzzles, $10-$30. See full line of merchandise obtainable on the corporate web site. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
Trixie Pet Products’ Dog Activity Strategy Games, $10-$30. See full line of merchandise obtainable on the corporate web site. Available in pet provide shops and on-line.
Electronic Treat Dispensers
Last, however in no way least, is a brand new technology of computerized digital food-dispensing toys, giving a complete new feel and appear to the treat-dispensing toy market.
The earliest merchandise on this class allowed you utilize a distant management to launch a deal with to your dog at a distance from you. Next, they got here with timers, so you might launch meals or treats at pre-set or random intervals (useful for preoccupying dogs with separation nervousness or isolation misery). Today, some permit your to dispense treats to (and generally, talk with) your dog from distant places, by way of an app in your cellphone or pc!
Many dog house owners and trainers are fascinated with the know-how. Some merchandise could be set to beep randomly to sign to your dog deal with is coming, and a few will truly take photos of your dog as she arrives to eat the deal with.
I’ll confess I’m a know-how troglodyte and am fairly intimidated by these merchandise! But I do love the distant treat-dispenser perform that means that you can sign to your dog the chance for a deal with from 50 to 500 ft away, relying on the model. This kind of toy has many useful functions, equivalent to when guests arrive, you should use its perform to maneuver your dog away from the door (as he runs to get his treats from the machine that you’ve arrange elsewhere). Other coaching and administration functions embody conditions the place you need the dog to go to her mattress, transfer away from begging on the desk, cease obsessing over squirrels or UPS vehicles exterior, and extra.
Brilliant for participating dogs who’re simply bored when left house alone. Anticipation of random treats can hold the canine mind engaged and out of hassle.
Surveillance options (nonetheless digicam, one-or two-way audio, video, and/or live-stream monitoring), ease proprietor anxieties about home-alone dogs, too.
The distant treat-dispensing perform can probably trigger issues in a multi-dog family, particularly if there’s competitors for sources. Be cautious!
Some of the fancier high-tech merchandise require a good quantity of Internet bandwidth to perform. If you’re on satellite tv for pc/restricted bandwidth, they could not work or be optimum for you.
You do should be considerably tech-savvy – or have entry to somebody who’s – to determine some of these things out!
These could be fairly expensive.
Whole Dog Journal-Approved Electronic Treat Dispensers
Furbo Dog Camera, $199. Dispenses treats by way of cellphone app; additionally takes video and permits two-way audio.
PetCube Bites, $249. HD pet digicam that means that you can monitor and discuss to your dog and fling treats by way of app.(888) 447-2522
PetSecure Treat & Train Remote Reward Dog Trainer, $120. Dispenses treats by way of distant management.
Ready Treat Remote Treat Dispenser, $50. Dispenses just one serving of treats by way of distant management earlier than needing to be reloaded.
Smart Animal Training’s Pet Tutor, $299. Can be operated with distant management in addition to cellphone app; could be programmed to launch meals randomly or at set intervals. (877) 250-2694
Lots to Choose From
As you possibly can see, there are a lot of choices for educating your dog to play along with her meals. An inventory of examples of merchandise in every class seems on web page 22. Find those which might be prone to attraction to her – and to you – and get began!
Author Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT‑KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She stay in Fairplay, Maryland, web site of her Peaceable Paws coaching middle.