Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Peace & Joy with the Family Dog

by Bette Yip, CPDT of Picture Perfect Pets

It’s that time of year again! Families are bustling about preparing for the holidays, leaving the family dog wondering why the humans of the house are suddenly less attentive.

This sometimes causes our dogs to seek out new and more creative ways to get our attention and amuse themselves, and sometimes, we humans don’t appreciate our dog’s choice of activities. To avoid potential problems this season, be proactive—start preparing your dog for the holidays now!

Each year this time, we trainers dole out the usual tips on management and training to help your dog be a welcome part of your holiday festivities, with maximum safety for all. You can find more of these tips in the Dog Training Tips section at .

Here, I’ll focus instead on the usefulness of getting your dog hooked on a few great puzzle toys to help her stay self-entertained when you need time to yourself for holiday activities. Teaching your dog to play with puzzle toys also provides your pooch mental stimulation and a little extra exercise, which will help her to relax better during naptimes. She may learn to enjoy these new puzzle toys so much that you’ll even decide to add a few extras to your doggie holiday gift list!

So, what is a “puzzle toy” for dogs. Most people are familiar with the classic Kong toy, which is a hollowed out piece of rubber meant to be baited with food filling so that a dog has to really work to get the goodies out. Since its introduction, the market has been flooded with innovative new canine puzzle toys. Brilliantly simple, and a favorite of every dog I’ve introduced it to, is Nina Ottoson’s Dog Pyramid, a self-righting fillable toy. As your dog nose-pushes it and swats at it to knock the goodies out, it pops itself back up. Feed your dog meals out of such a toy, and mealtime becomes a wonderfully tiring and enriching event in itself!

Another of my recent favorites is Premier’s Tug-a-Jug, made of a tug rope tied into a bullet-proof plastic jug with a removable bottom. The toy also has a nubby rubber hollowed out ball around the opening of the jug, for additional chewing entertainment. Put some small dog food pieces or treats in the body of the jug, along with a hunk that’s too big to come out, and with a little training, you can teach your dog how to grab the rope, fling the toy, paw the toy, chew on the toy—and eventually, empty out the small bits of food. Again, this makes for a creative way to feed dogs their meals while keeping them out of your hair for a while, too.

Some dogs figure out how to entertain themselves with puzzle toys easily without much human guidance. With each one they conquer, their problem solving skills grow, making the next puzzle toy that much more fun. Other dogs need a little more coaching to figure out a new toy. Learn how to get your dog hooked on puzzle toys in the Dog Training Tips section at .

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