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Breed & Health Resources

A Tired Dog Is a Good Dog: The Importance of Interactive Dog Toys

By Bradley Phifer

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A tired dog is a good dog! A simple yet accurate phrase every pet owner must memorize. Boredom and lack of exercise are the leading causes of destructive behavior. This isn’t a ground breaking statement, but a reminder that we have to provide physical and mental exercise to our dogs in an effort to fulfill them as individuals and decrease many of our pet-related frustrations.

Taking your dog on long walks, going jogging, playing fetch or tug are all great ways to interact with your dog and provide physical exercise. But how do we exercise our dogs on days when we can’t go for a long walk, or play fetch due to schedules or weather conditions?

There are a variety of toys on the market which are designed to provide our dogs with mental exercise. These “interactive” toys provide a puzzle for dogs; occupying their attention and enriching their environment at times when we are unable. Interactive toys also encourage your dog to self-entertain. If Sophie is working on de-stuffing a Kong, she is less likely to be jumping on guests or chasing the cat.

There are a variety of interactive toys on the market, such as:

  1. Kongs: a great toy that can be stuffed with your dog's kibble, treats, and other foods. Add peanut butter or a small amount of canned dog food and freeze.
  2. Squirrel Dude: a great toy, similar to a Kong, that can also be stuffed with your dogs kibble, treats or other foods. Add peanut butter or a small amount of canned dog food and freeze for a longer lasting enjoyment.
  3. Tricky Treat Ball: the TTB is a hollow ball you pour your dogs kibble inside of. As your dog rolls the ball around on the floor his kibble will fall out.

Interactive toys not only encourage our dogs to think for themselves, but also learn how to problem solve. Dogs who are fearful, lack confidence, or are anxious may gain a much needed boost of confidence as they begin to learn how to manipulate these toys to gain reinforcement.

A special note about toys:

Addressing the stress, boredom and frustration in an affected dog’s environment is likely to improve the clinical signs associated with this disease. Exercise, obedience training and addressing any specific signs of separation anxiety are strongly recommended approaches to this.

  • Rotate your dog’s toys every three to four days to maintain novelty and encourage greater interest.
  • Keep interactive toys put away until you need to give your dog a job to do. When the doorbell goes off, offer your dog a stuffed Kong or a TTB to prevent jumping up.
  • If you live in a multi-dog household supervise your dogs while interacting with high value interactive toys to decrease chances for dog-on-dog resource guarding.
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