In the wild, animals spend a lot of their time searching for food and eating. This is not true for the dogs that share our homes with us. While a reliable source of good nutrition is obviously beneficial, having meals that can be wolfed down in a matter of minutes hand delivered a couple of times a day does leave dogs with a lot of free time. If that time is not filled with constructive activities – exercise, play, work, etc. – dogs will often find destructive ways to keep themselves occupied.
A food dispensing dog toy might be one part of the solution to a dog’s boredom. A well-designed product can provide the mental stimulation a pet is lacking and/or simply increase the amount of time it takes to get through a meal. Matching dog to toy is essential for success, however.
Some food dispensing toys are puzzles that a dog has to figure out before he has access to a compartment filled with food. Others can be rolled around the floor or yard and will dispense a few kibbles or treats when they fall into a particular position. Some simply ensure that a dog has to lick, chew, or nose around for an extended period of time before reaching the food.
Dogs that are easily frustrated should not be expected to work for a long time for a small reward. On the other hand, clever dogs may quickly figure out the trick behind a simple toy, empty it out, and become bored once again. Having several different types of toys available and rotating through them can be helpful in cases like these. Another factor to consider is how hard a dog typically chews. A toy that is appropriate for a Shih Tzu may not be able to withstand the attention of a Pit Bull.
All toys that are designed to hold food need to be easy to clean and safe for dogs to chew. Do not leave a dog alone with a food dispensing toy until you have watched him interact with it for awhile. If at any time he appears to be biting down with such enthusiasm that the toy might break or that he’s at risk for hurting himself, take the toy away.
Food dispensing toys don’t replace the need for exercise, play, and other forms of physical and mental stimulation, but they can provide a little additional fun to a dog’s daily routine.