More on Interactive Dog Toys

I was interviewed today by a freelance writer on the topic of interactive dog toys. The question was posed as to why these toys are important for dogs. The most obvious answer is that they provide mental stimulation. As most of us know, mental stimulation is just as important for dogs as is physical exertion. And if solving a puzzle or a problem is involved, even better, as this helps to create new neural pathways and boost dogs’ problem-solving skills. It stands to reason that dogs who have better problem-solving skills will find training and learning new things easier. (Warning: If you’re not careful, this improvement in problem-solving skills can also have unwanted consequences such as figuring out how to get to things that are off-limits!)

Another wonderful consequence of exposing dogs to various types of stimulating toys is that it can help to build confidence. When Sierra came to us from the shelter at the end of December, she was insecure in many ways. She would shut down easily if she didn’t know what was expected from her; even a gentle hand signal for “stay” would cause her to put her ears back and stop any activity, as though she was afraid to do the wrong thing. In addition to working with her on training, and providing lots of physical exercise and affection, I’ve been introducing her to new toys. I’ve previously written about the Aikiou, and have since tried out two of the Nina Ottosson toys, the Dog Tornado and the Dog Brick. The Dog Brick is a bit more challenging than what Sierra can handle right now, but the Dog Tornado has been lots of fun. Here’s a video of Sierra working it to get to the treats.

I also came across a fun toy recently that I couldn’t resist trying out, especially since Sierra is such a hunter. It’s called a Weazel Ball, and consists of a hard plastic battery-powered ball with a fuzzy tail-type “weasel” attached. It rolls unpredictably, and as long as the dog isn’t afraid, it seems to be a pretty fun activity. I get a kick out of watching Sierra play with these new toys and figure things out. Here’s a video of her second try with the Weazel Ball; the first one made her nervous, but on the second try, she was more confident. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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