If you have worked with a Zen Dog Trainer you know that having the right tools and equipment to control your dog’s environment is what we call the Secret to Zen Dog Training! Finding fun and interesting enrichment toys to increase mental exercise and encourage your dogs to work to get their regular meals is one of the easiest ways to keep your dog busy and reduce destructive behaviors!
If finding the best tools and equipment for dog training and enrichment is something you want to learn more about, check out These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Things, where we share the products that we recommend to clients and use at home with our own dogs. Just so you know, we may collect a share of sales or compensation from the links on this page if you decide to purchase them.
THE GO-TO TOYS
These toys are the ones we recommend on a daily basis and use at home with our own dogs.
- Tricky Treat Ball – This is a personal favorite. It’s easy to fill with treats and with a little help, your dog will quickly learn how to roll, shake, and drop it to get treats to come out. We like how it’s quiet when it rolls on the floor unlike some of the hard plastic toys.
Busy Buddy Twist ‘n Treat – Dispensing Dog Toy. The twist ‘n treat is a great toy for puppies. The disc can be opened loosely at first to help puppies get it and then tightened to make it more difficult. We recommend mixing in some larger treats to slow down how quickly the treats and food comes out. Also, unless your dog is tiny, we recommend getting the larger sizes so they can hold more food.
Kibble Nibble – Busy Buddy Meal Dispensing Dog Toy. The kibble nibble is especially easy to use as it twist apart and you can fill the entire thing in one go. It’s perfect for putting an entire meal in at once. Plus, the rubber on the outside reduces the sounds somewhat when they roll it around.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
We can not have a list without mentioning some of these classic toys that have been client favorites for years!
KONG Wobbler Dog Toy – Interactive Dog Treat Dispensing Toy. No list would be complete without mentioning the Kong toys. The problem with the regular Kong is that the food comes out too quickly so you have to pack them with peanut butter or freeze them. This wobbler has a small hole so it lets treats out one piece at a time. Just keep in mind the rigid plastic can be noisy especially if you live in an apartment building with people below you.
Dog Brick Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy – Outward Hound (Nina Ottosson), Intermediate. Nina Ottosson is one of the first to focus on enrichment devices for dogs and has been making interactive puzzle toys for over 30 years! We suggest picking the more advanced and intermediate toys for dogs that are quick to figure things out. The downside to many of these toys is they can be difficult to refill which makes them more likely to be left in the closet.
Twister Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy – Outward Hound (Nina Ottosson), Advanced. There are several twister style interactive puzzle toys from Nina Ottosson. Here again we recommend the more difficult toys. This is a great food acquisition device but once again, it takes some effort to fill.
- LOOBANI Dog Puzzle Toys Wooden – Interactive Dog Toys for Boredom, IQ Training and Mental Brain Stimulation, Treat Dispensing Dog Toy. With three compartments to fill with food it’s easy to slow down an eager eater and make dinner time a little more exciting. We like how it comes in a large too.
Wobble Bowl Dog Game – Outward Hound (Nina Ottosson) – Interactive Slow Feeder Bowl Dog Game. This toy, that looks a bit like a spaceship, is a fun way to slow down a fast eater. The easy open top makes it a breeze to fill, and the specially designed bottom make it quieter then other slow feeders.
HOW TO INTRODUCE FOOD DISPENSING TOYS
If your dog is the persistent type, you can probably just fill up the toy and let them figure it out. However, all too often people buy their dog a toy only to find their dog doesn’t seem to like it.
To avoid wasting money on toys your dog will never use, you should help your dog learn how to use the toy by interacting with them the first few times you give them the toy. The more you play with your dog and spin it, twist it, or solve it with them, the faster they will learn that good things happen when they play with their new toy.
Another huge tip is to start with a hungry dog. If your dog just ate a big meal, they will be less motivated to play and interact with the toy. But if they are hungry, they should be more willing to experiment and try the toy to get it to work. Remember to keep helping them get it at first so they learn to be successful with the toy before you can expect them to really spend time working for treats.
Finally, the most important thing you can do to help your dog learn to play with these food dispensing toys is to use high-value treats in addition to kibble or regular treats. The higher the value of the treat the more motivated your dog will be to play with the toy. Once your dog has learned to enjoy playing with the toy, you can start using lower value treats or their regular kibble to train.
- These Beef Jerky Treats are our go-to training treat for clients and our dogs at home. Dogs love the beefy taste, they are healthy (all USA beef) and a good value. They are also easy to break up, and don’t make your hands smell too much!