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The Scoop on Food-Dispensing Toys

By Liz Palika

food-dispensing toys

The dog toy that looks like a hollow rubber snowman, the Kong, is probably the most popular (and most recognizable) food-dispensing toy in the world. It was designed in the 1970s by Joe Markham, the company founder, because his German Shepherd, Fritz, was breaking his teeth chewing on rocks. The Kong gained popularity in the 1980s and has been the inspiration for generations of other food-dispensing toys.

What Are Food-dispensing Toys?

Food-dispensing toys are exactly what their name says; toys that contain food or treats in some manner. The dog smells the food and then has to figure out how to get to the food.

The Kong is hollow and can be stuffed with kibble, peanut butter, the treats that the Kong Company makes for that purpose, or other treats. A stuffed Kong can be frozen to slow down the consumption of the treats.

Other food-dispensing toys may need to be rocked, flipped over, or otherwise manipulated so the treats can be found. The Nina Ottosson company makes food-dispensing toys that are often called brain games because they are really puzzles the dog needs to figure out. Designed to be played with owner support, instruction, and supervision, these puzzles range from simple to quite elaborate and difficult. Some of the difficult ones may initially stump dog owners!

Who Can Benefit from Food-dispensing Toys?

Dogs of every size, breed, mixture of breeds, and age can have fun with food-dispensing toys. Not only are there a wide variety of toy sizes but there are many different styles of toys too, making some easier or harder depending on the ability of the dog.

Most dog trainers recommend food-dispensing toys for a wide variety of reasons. The Kong has been a staple toy for puppies for many years. Not only can puppies chew on it with little danger of them chewing off a piece (adult dogs need to be supervised as hard chewers can chew off pieces), but trying to get the treats will keep a chewing puppy occupied for a while.

The brain game puzzles are great for building a relationship with your puppy or newly-adopted dog. Sitting down with your dog to help him figure out a puzzle (and gain some treats) is great fun.

Busy dogs stuck in the house in inclement weather can use up some energy working on a toy. Smart dogs will find on outlet for those brain cells by figuring out a difficult puzzle. Dogs who love to use their nose will find these toys made just for them.

Problem Eaters Thrive

The owners of dogs with eating issues of various kinds will find these toys can help. Dogs who eat too fast can be slowed down when their food is offered in a bowl such as the Brakefast Bowl. A couple of Kong toys filled with kibble can hold a medium-sized dog’s meal and in getting the food out of the toys he’ll eat slower than he would eat out of a bowl.

Picky eaters often forget to be finicky when their meal is offered in a puzzle; especially if you play the game with your dog. In addition, the act of hunting for their food increases the picky or uninterested dog’s interest in food.

If your dog isn’t a good eater, don’t put treats in the toys. This could increase eating problems as the dog will want to wait for more treats rather than eat his food. Instead, put his meals in the toys and offer them at mealtimes.

Read the Instructions

When you buy a food-dispensing toy or two, make sure to read the instructions. Some are designed so that the dog can play with it by himself, perhaps even in his crate when left alone. Others are made to be played by dog and owner together. Some parts of these toys might be breakable should the dog chew on them.

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