Much like a child whose mind becomes bedazzled by noisy toys and action figures, your pup loses himself in treats. Enter the treat dispenser. You plop a few treats inside, give it to your pup and he throws it and rolls it around until those lip-smacking treats drop out through the dispensing holes. Dispensers are excellent toys to stymie boring times.
Treat dispensers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from rubber balls to plastic eggs. Some have multiple dispensing holes, and others have just one. You can find dispensers that have adjustable holes and ones that become larger and allow treats to drop out when your pup squeezes the toy. The more advanced dispensers force your pup to solve puzzles, such as opening flaps with his nose or paw, to get his mouth on the snacks hidden inside. Rubber and plastic dispensers are great for outdoors and indoors, while plush dispensers are an indoor-only toy.
Any treat that won't quickly melt will typically work well in a treat dispenser, so long as it isn't too large to fit through the dispensing holes. Some common treat ideas include pieces of cheese, chunks of doggy biscuits, banana chips, slices of chicken, frozen treats and morsels of dog food. The more enticing the treat, the more likely your dog will want to play with it, so dog food may not work well for pups who aren't impressed by snacking on their daily meal. The Wisconsin Humane Society also notes that you can layer a dispenser, piling all sorts of goodies on top of each other. You can certainly add messy treats, such as peanut butter, but be aware that you'll be in for a bit of cleaning if your pup can't get the clomped mess out.
Helping Your Dog Understand
Some dogs pick up on treat dispensers quickly, while others stare in frustration at the treats hidden inside. Start off with a basic dispenser that has large holes or a single hole whose size you can adjust. Add tiny treats that can easily escape the holes inside the toy. Don't fill it -- just add five or 10. Offer the dispenser to your pup. He'll eventually grab it and drop it, or roll it, and a small treat will escape. Tell him how awesome he is, clap and act excited. The treat itself and your enthusiasm reinforce the basic idea of how to work the dispenser. After a few times of getting treats out, he'll be tossing the dispenser intentionally, and you can move up to larger treats or more difficult dispensers.
While your pooch's tennis ball can remain lost under your bed for a week, the same can't be said of a treat dispenser. Losing track of the dispenser or failing to empty its contents nightly can result in a smelly, sticky and bug-infested mess. Some treats turn rotten faster than others -- cheese in comparison to biscuits, for example -- but you should remove all treats before you and your pal hit the sack. The dispenser itself should never be able to fit entirely in your dog's mouth. Avoid plastic dispensers and plush dispensers if your pup's a heavy chewer or destructive one.
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images