Pros & Cons of Stuffed Toys & Interactive Food Games

(Updated 2019)

Should you throw away your pet’s food bowl as Fun Paw Care, contemporary ethologists and up-to-date certified behaviorists and dog trainers advocate doing? I was with one of my clients and their gorgeous Portuguese Water Dog named Charlie (name changed) who is a highly motivated, energetic, young working dog puppy. My clients are in their mid-sixties, in good shape but still can’t exercise him as his body and breed yearned for. My clients love Charlie dearly but also have very busy lives and not enough time to train or exercise him. When going over to their house, it was obvious that Charlie was under-exercised both mentally and physically. This bored, “unemployed” dog was dying to “do something” aka, work, and because of his sedate lifestyle, undesirable behavior manifestation were occurring such as excess barking, nipping at the sheets on the bed, peoples clothes, scratching at people to play, jumping on everyone, counter surfing…etc. The list goes on and on.

Dog Behavior Problems

Charlie is an amazingly intelligent dog, eager to please and to work all day but his owner’s sedate lifestyle and energy are not a good match for him. So how do you rectify a situation where the owners are unwilling or unable to fulfill their pet’s most basic innate desires? What proactive, easy games can be played by a dog independently so that regardless of a pet parent’s busy lifestyle, or if the pet parent’s energy doesn’t match their dog’s individuality and energy, the dog will still be more fulfilled? You must think outside of the box, get creative, and use every advantage you have to fulfill your dog. One great way to do this is with stuffed chew toys and interactive food games.

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I’m so bored with food bowls I spill It out just to be entertained!

Throw Away Your Dog or Cat’s Food Bowl

Repeat after me, throw away my dog’s food bowl. The person who invented a dog food bowl probably had an ill-mannered, disobedient and weak bond with their dog. I explain to all of my clients that the dog food bowl is your enemy until your dog is 100% trained and socialized to your liking. Since no dog should ever stop learning, just like humans, there really isn’t a reason to ever use an old-fashioned dog bowl. Even after training and socialization I still recommend using a dog’s food for enrichment, fun, games, learning, scavenger hunts, training, and socialization. I also use food to keep dogs busy when I am in a rush and don’t have time to train with them, have company over or am just too busy to pay attention. I love to give food for good behaviors throughout the day when they are earned. Treating calm, quiet behavior and anything that I like that the dog is doing really reinforces and ingrains desirable behaviors and extinguishes inappropriate or “bad” ones without having to do a thing! All you have to do is be aware, observant and treat your pup at the appropriate times! Humans tend to yell or discipline their dogs more often when they are doing something undesirable, rather than to treat, reward and praise them when they are doing something desirable. If you practice the latter, your life will be a lot easier, your dog will be more obedient, the bond between you and your pup will be much stronger, and your dog will kiss you for it.

Food and treats (primary reinforcers) are the number one tool in your toolbox to accelerate training, socialization, enriched and keep your pup well rounded and happy. If you just throw your dog’s food in a dog bowl and walk away, you have just thrown away the most influential and the best tool you have for bonding with and teaching your dog what you want from him/her! That is crazy.

Here are just some of the benefits of using stuffed food toys and interactive food games:

  • Most dogs love to work for their food or rewards. High energy and more clever dogs will be able to test their mental acuity and feel fulfilled. This is great for any dog especially dogs that are higher energy and working breeds.
  • Dogs are natural contrafreeloaders. Given a choice, a healthy dog would rather work for their food than be given free food every day.
  • Saves you time. You don’t have to hand feed your canine or cat and train with them every single feeding as long as you don’t just drop the food in a bowl and walk away. Alternatively, drop your dog or cats daily allocation of food in food toys when you are in a rush and do not have the time to train with your pets. They will be happier and so will you with the good habits you are teaching them.
  • Correcting behavior problems. Whether it is barking, aggression, digging, chewing furniture or household items, a stuffed chew toy will help. Chew toys are also wonderful enrichment toys for shelters to use, works wonderfully to de-bark dog shelters and is a great step to creating great habits and keeping it quiet. Chew toys and interactive food games relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Dogs love and need play and enrichment. Interactive games and toys will build your pup’s problem-solving skills while taxing them mentally making them more fulfilled and satiated.
  • Crate training. If you throw a few frozen or regular stuffed Kong chew toys into your dog’s crate, it will make your pet love going in and staying for hours in their den scavenging away and exploring the treasure they have just found. This helps reduce separation anxiety, prevents destructive behavior, facilitates house/potty training, and makes transporting your pet a breeze.
  • Teaches dogs great habits. The most significant part of training a dog is the antecedent arrangement, setting them up for success and teaching them how to play with toys and which ones you want them to play with. Teaching dogs that it is appropriate to chew on a Kong toy, for example, is a good idea compared to your new $1,500 Jimmy Choos.
  • Slows down food ingestion. When a dog inhales their food, it is not as healthy as eating slowly. Besides being more susceptible to choking and indigestion, they are more likely to have bloat which is a deadly condition believed to be caused after a dog eats or drinks very quickly and then exercises or vice versa.
  • Teething puppies and exploring the world. Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth during their lives. Dogs, however, explore the world through their mouths. During puppy-hood and the teething process, usually from around four to six months dogs will try and chew just about anything to relieve the pain in their gums. Dogs do not know the “correct” things to chew on, so if you don’t teach them, don’t yell at them for chewing your new $20,000 oriental rug or designer couch.

Cons of Food Dispensing Chew Toys and Interactive Games:

  • There may be more toys to clean (although most are dishwasher safe)
  • The cost to buy them may be more than a standard dog bowl.
  • If your dog has a very strong mouth than be aware of the type of chew toy you are giving to them. Choose a stronger chew toy that will not be ripped to shreds so that nothing dangerous is ingested.
  • As with yourself, choose a chew toy with no BPA, dyes or harmful chemicals.
  • Throws off predictable defecation.

There aren’t many cons at all. The health, behavioral and physical pros are endless and are only limited by your imagination.

Here is a list of just a few companies that sell food dispensing toys and interactive treat games:

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