The Basics of Interactive Toys

By Shannon Smith, Trainer at Rover Oaks Pet Resort

For today’s dogs, interactive toys are not a luxury, but a necessity.  Interactive dog toys ,such as the one pictured here by Premier Dog Toys, have become increasingly popular because of the multiple benefits they provide: a chance to expend energy, a positive way to interact with owners, and a challenge to keep your dog’s mind busy.  These interactive toys are designed to meet several needs for your dog.

Interactive toys are designed to develop problem solving skills and allow dogs the chance to search for food. All animals have an innate need to expend energy searching for food.  These interactive or puzzle toys allow the dog to satisfy this need and exercise their minds in a healthy and safe way.  The variety of interactive toys is amazing and you are sure to find one your dog will love.

There are several great puzzle toys of varying degrees of difficulty designed for use with owner supervision.   When the dog solves the puzzle, treats are dispensed or accessible. For young, high-energy, and untrained dogs, interactive play with these toys offers an opportunity for socialization as well as a chance to burn extra energy. While these puzzle toys are generally used with owner involvement or supervision, several are designed for use without direct owner supervision.

Interactive toys that are designed for chewing as well as designed to challenge your dog will help your canine companion safely expend mental and physical energy while you are away.  Leaving these toys with your dog if they must spend time alone gives them a positive outlet for natural dog behaviors. Interactive toys help fight boredom in dogs, and can even help prevent some problem behaviors from developing.  These toys dispense food as the dog plays and interacts with the toy.  By rewarding the dog by dispensing treats, the toy helps hold the dog’s attention.  This helps your dog expend energy that may otherwise be used for inappropriate behaviors such as barking and chewing while you are away.  This greatly reduces stress due to confinement, isolation, and boredom.  And here’s an important tip: Rotate your dog’s toys weekly by making only a few toys available at a time. This helps keep interest level high.

Here’s another good tip:  Allow your dog to have fun playing “hide and seek” with the interactive toys.  “Found” toys are often much more attractive than a toy which is obviously introduced. By teaching your dog to search in appropriate places for the interactive toy, you can hide toys for your dog before leaving home.  Finding the toys is a good activity for your dog, using up energy without the need for a lot of time or space.

While these toys help meet some of your dogs needs, remember that they are no substitute for your time, love and adequate exercise.  Providing your dog an outlet for their mental and physical needs is a small thank you for the love and dedication they give to us so freely.   Your dog will thank you for your dedication to their happiness.