• Ashley Hill, CPDT-KA

"Treat" your dogs right - even when home alone!

One of the greatest things about Love The Dog treats is that they are what dog trainers like to call "high value." As with human food, not all dog food and treats are created equal, and most dogs tend to have a strongly carnivorous preference. Combined with the (to a dog's palate) exotic and exciting spices/herbs like garlic, turmeric, and oregano, Love The Dog treats are as tempting to dogs as you or I might find a perfectly seasoned filet of beef!

With such "valuable" treats, we can "buy" a lot of behaviors from our dogs when we use them as rewards in training. High value treats are useful for helping dogs swiftly learn, and love to perform, new behaviors. Love The Dog actually appears to have contributed to a mysterious new behavior on the uptrend all across the United States: dogs are coming running when they hear the fridge open - with great enthusiasm and 100% reliability!

We'll revisit the topic of Love The Dog treats in your training sessions in a later post, but today we want to encourage our customers to combine their Love The Dog treats with the great variety of doggy puzzle toys on the market to add a powerful new tool to their arsenal of ways to keep their dogs happy, exercised, and well-entertained - especially when left home alone.

What is a food puzzle toy? These are toys that are generally hollow so they may be filled with treats or food. Perhaps the classic is the iconic Kong. Jinbei the miniature poodle is pictured here with a Kong, but not just your ordinary Kong - this is a Kong Wobbler! The genius of food puzzle toys is that dogs must interact with them to get to the goodies inside. When dogs are first learning these toys, they can be great brain trainers, and when dogs become pros, they can turn into a full-body exercise. Jinbei loves to smack the self-righting Kong Wobbler with his paw to knock out his favorite Chicken and Turmeric treats. A session with a fully loaded Wobbler can take him up to ten minutes, by the end of which more than a little edge has been taken off his daily energy level. Pair that with another food toy and a frozen Kong, and you can get a pretty tired poodle.

The Wobbler, like the toys of similar shape and function pictured below, also has the added benefit of rewarding the dog for acting confidently and purposefully on his or her environment, and even helps desensitize more timid dogs to causing noise and ruckus! While this is a great added benefit for some, do keep it in mind if you live in a building where noise travels easily.

The next row of toys features classic ball-shaped puzzles. Many of these have exit holes for the treats that adjust the rate of treat delivery. The clear ball with a green maze interior, and the JW Pet Hol-ee Roller with an inner plastic treat container, are both soft rubber options that minimize noise. The bright orange Buster Cube is for dogs that like a challenge and really enjoy whacking their puzzle toy around for goodies! The eggplant-shaped toy here is also a treat dispenser; its unique design makes the treat opening angle upward, ensuring the treats don't just tumble out for free. The other cleverly shaped toys are like alternative Kongs - they are great to line with dog-safe peanut butter or canned food and then press in Love The Dog treats. The black circle toy is on of many that conceals treats using a variety of simple mechanisms that you can help your dog learn to operate.

One of my favorites here is the bottom-middle blue and orange Foobler ball. This ball has several individual treat compartments that you can program to open periodically using the built-in timer. You can teach your dog that when the timer bell rings, the Foobler is ready to dispense treats again, and you can then set the Foobler to entertain your dog at intervals throughout the day even when you are at work!

While fun for any dog, these toys also have practical applications that can actually improve a dog's quality of life or aid in behavior modification work. If your dog experiences mild to moderate separation anxiety when left home alone (you can check this with a webcam, or by Skyping your laptop in the room where you leave your dog if it is set to automatically answer your calls and the speakers are disabled), providing your dog's meal in an interactive toy can give him or her a hobby to pass the time in lieu of other creative boredom busters like destructive chewing or barking. Most importantly, food toys create a positive association for the dog with being left behind and/or in their crate.

German Wirehaired Pointer Piper formerly suffered from severe separation anxiety and fear of being crated, so interactive feeding toys were a critical component in his recovery. He is pictured here on the left in the early stages of his training learning to relax in and love his crate. Piper is laying down quietly and without anxiety - and each Love The Dog treat hidden in the food he gets out of his Kongs powerfully reinforces that behavior and state of mind. Now Piper can enjoy being home alone in his crate instead of feeling panicked and engaging in destructive behavior. In the photo to the right, we sneaked up on him in his wire car crate to snap photographic proof of him comfortably asleep in the scenario that used to cause him to panic. In the beginning, one of the few treats valued enough by Piper for him to consider entering his crate was ours. We are so happy to have contributed to Piper's health and happiness!

It is no wonder that interactive treat toys are celebrated in dog shelters and rescues for being an easy way to entertain, exercise, and enrich the environment of dogs waiting to find their permanent homes. Love The Dog's CFO Gretchen is pictured here in a North Carolina shelter on the day our Chef, Lauren, rescued her. You can see a treat ball frequently used with peanut butter at her side. Even today, interactive feeding toys with her favorite Peanut Butter and Blueberry treats remain a staple of Gretchen's daily routine.

Gretchen has always enjoyed being home alone no doubt in part due to this early-established healthy habit of playing with toys to get her food. But for dogs that are either a little bit too anxious to eat just their daily diet when stressed, or for dogs who do not find their usual food motivating enough to expend the effort to empty a treat ball or Kong, spicing things up with Love The Dog treats can be a big help! And thanks to their irresistible aroma, Love the Dog treats are also ideal for hiding around the rooms where you leave your dog home alone to encourage him or her to use their instinct and noses to find their meal - a great skill-building hobby for all dogs.

So get the most out of your treats with a few food puzzle toys - your dog will thank you. And don't forget to let us know with a post on Facebook or Instagram what ways you use Love The Dog treats in your pups' daily routines!

#treatballs #feedingtoys #nosework #separationanxiety #homealone #training #crate

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