Posted by: Jessica | November 30, 2009

Treat Dispensing Toys

Why Use Treat Dispensing Toys?
Treat dispensing toys are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog. They also help occupy your dog for a period of time. Dogs love to have a job to do. Having evolved from wolves, dogs are still wired to work for their food, and using these toys puts that natural drive to work. These toys can also help develop your dogs problem solving skills. Lastly, if you have a dog that gulps down their food too quickly, this can help slow them down.

How to Use Treat Toys
Rather than feeding your dog their food out of a bowl, you can actually feed all of their meals in these toys! There are lots of different toys, so grab a couple and rotate which toy you use each day. Simply fill up the toy and serve! This will keep your dog busy for a lot longer than a bowl.

Figure out how much food your toy holds so you have an idea of how much your dog is eating. Larger kibbles will have more empty space in the toy so they will hold less of these foods. For example, the large Kong holds 1/4 cup of Innova Evo Small Bites, but only 1/6 or so of Nature’s Recipe Easy To Digest. So when I feed the dogs, I know how many Kongs I have to fill for the whole meal per dog. (Fill up the toy, then dump out that food into a measuring cup)

Toy Reviews
I have tried a LOT of food dispensing toys, and there are still many more to try! Here are some of my favorites. If you’ve tried a food toy, please post a comment with your thoughts on it! If there is a specific toy you’d like reviewed, leave a comment!

The Kong
The Kong is the classic food dispensing toy. It comes in a puppy formula which is softer and easy on puppy teeth (pink or blue), classic (red) or extreme for strong chewers (black). The rubber is very sturdy and holds up to sharp puppy teeth and the strength of a pit bull chewing it daily.

The shape of the toy makes it best suited for using in the crate. The best way to use the Kong is fill it with your dry food, then seal up the large opening using something soft. Kong makes a stuffing spray which is like cheeze-wiz for dogs. I also use peanut butter, yogurt, canned pumpkin, bananas, baby food, anything soft. You can even stick the Kong in the freezer after filling it to make it harder for the dog to de-stuff. Because we’re using soft sticky foods to seal the Kong, it’s best to only offer this toy in the crate or outside – peanut butter and carpet do not mix well!

The Kong is top rack dishwasher safe so it’s easy to clean. Sometimes you do have to dig out extra kibble if the dog couldn’t de-stuff it all. Kong makes lots of shapes in addition to the classic kong, and several treats and bars to stuff it with for treat time.

The Molecule Ball
This is one of my favorite treat dispensing toys. The Molecule Ball is tough and easy to clean. Just fill it up with food and set it down! This toy must be rolled around on the floor in order for food to fall out a few pieces at a time. After every few uses, I soak it in warm soapy water, rinse, and air dry.

This toy can be hard to find, I used to buy it at PetSmart but as of now I can only find it online. However I think it’s one of the best toys for feeding meals and well worth the price of shipping.

The Tricky Treat Ball
The Tricky Treat Ball is a large treat dispensing toy. I like how much food this toy can hold, however it’s difficult to clean. The inside has a ledge of plastic to prevent too much food coming out at once – however, this means you can’t clean the toy with water, because you can’t get all the water out. I tried to solve this problem by drilling a hole in the bottom to allow water to drip out, but it was ineffective.

However, this is still a good treat toy if you’re not worried about cleaning it too often. It’s durable, and the size makes it great for bigger dogs. I can fit almost 2 cups of small bites food in this toy, meaning no refills!

The company makes a smaller version which acts more like the molecule ball featured above – however the rubber on the small toy is not as strong as the large (or the molecule ball). It’s also very small. I’d skip the small toy and get a molecule ball.

Occupi by PetStages
I am NOT a fan of this toy – you have to use their treats, no kibble is small enough to fall out of the little holes. Good idea, poorly executed. I’m also concerned about the shape of the toy leading dogs to chew the end off too easily.

They do have treat bars that fit inside, but as a meal toy this is not a good choice.

Everlasting Fun Ball, Treat Ball and more by StarMark
These toys are great for treats and food, and also just for play time! The Everlasting Fun Ball is a bright green ball with two holes. The rubber is super flexible, but also super strong. These should be used with supervision however because I have seen a few strong dogs chew the rubber. For most dogs, this is indestructible. The green ball can be filled with food, then rolled, bounced and tossed. Even without food dogs love the chewy rubber and bouncy ball.

The Treat Ball has a central reserve for food, then two outer chambers to hold the refillable treat. This is a long lasting edible chew. You can put the treat in upside down to make it harder for the dog.

The company also makes other shapes, available online.

The Tug A Jug
The concept of the tug-a-jug is that the dog will pull the rope out of the jug, causing food to fall out, then push it back in and repeat. For low chewers, this toy can encourage a lot of thinking. However, the rope is too tempting for most dogs. Sadie had chewed the rope off in just a few minutes, never having figured out how to pull the food out.

Nina Ottosson Interactive Toys
Nina Ottosson has created an amazing array of interactive dog toys. These are considered the best treat dispensing toys for developing problem solving skills. Recently the company released plastic versions of several of the toys, making them more affordable. I have not yet had the chance to try any of these toys, but I can’t wait to get some of them. Many of the toys are available online.

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