Tag Archives: Enrichment toys

Sophie

Embrace the Curfew

Five German Shepherds

Left to right: Fin, Amy, Sophie, Blitz and Molly

Out of Control

Back in 2002, we were the confused owners of five German Shepherds. Their behaviour was appalling and we were losing control. Every morning we would take them to the nearby army ranges for their morning walk. We found ourselves going earlier and earlier in the hope that we wouldn’t meet other dog walkers because if we did, it would turn into utter chaos.

We realised we needed to do something about the situation and we consulted dog behaviour expert, Angela Stockdale of The Dog Partnership. Her advice was ‘they need a curfew‘. We were even more confused if we didn’t take them out, how would they get the exercise they needed? They would become even worse, surely.

We decided to put our scepticism aside and follow her advice. For three months we didn’t take them out for walks. Their stress levels that had been escalating day on day during the walk, began to come down.

Life without walkies

But you can’t just stop walking your dog and leave it at that. The morning walk had to be replaced with some other activity. For us it was clicker training and to say it was a life-saver is not an exaggeration.  We scheduled short five-minute sessions several times a day, individually for each dog. It enabled us to get to know each one of them far better, learn their strengths and weaknesses, what motivated them and what bored them.

In no time at all, they weren’t rushing to the front door at 5 am, barking and waking the whole neighbourhood. They were more relaxed. When it came to training sessions, we did various different things with each of them. We had a lot of glass doors and when one was doing their training session, the others would watch.

Dogs Dancing

Molly (left) does the tango with Fin

Molly, who was a timid girl, learned to dance and her confidence grew. Fin, who was our newest rescue, learned some manners and how to behave around ladies!

Dog Skateboarding

Amy on her skateboard

Amy who was frankly a bit of a thug diverted her attention to skateboarding.

KONG Time

Amy (left) and Sophie at the top of the stairs

Sophie was a master of the KONG. She would empty it of every last crumb by taking it to the top of the stairs and dropping it down.

Jolly Ball

Blitz with his beloved Jolly Ball

Blitz, our first rescue boy who was a real gentleman, loved the Jolly Ball and would spend ages playing with it on his own. Both him and Fin mastered the peek-a-boo trick (see our What Makes You Click Training Cards for this trick) and many others.

Did it work?

So, what was the result of our three-month curfew? We had calmer, better-behaved dogs that we knew as individuals. They could entertain us and show off their tricks which they really enjoyed. Who doesn’t enjoy praise for a job done well? It was time well spent and we were able to gradually reintroduce them to the outside world.

What you can do right now

Why not give clicker training a try? We have Clicker Training Cards, that come complete with clicker and treats, or download our What Makes You Click? cards absolutely free and get started right away.

Clicker Cue Cards

What Makes You Click Training Cards

You will need lots of tasty Training Treats which we have in abundance, or why not make your own. Most people have a tin of tuna, flour and eggs in the house. This recipe will get you up and running in no time: Tillies Tuna Cake Recipe.

Tuna Dog Treats

Tillies Tuna Cake Recipe

Snuffle Mats are becoming an increasingly popular game for dogs and cats. If you fancy a challenge how about making your own Snuffle Mat to keep them entertained when you’re flagging. An old doormat and some t-shirts should suffice to complete this excellent tutorial from the Dogs Trust.

Make your own Snuffle Mat

Make your own Snuffle Mat

Learn to love the curfew

Your dogs may not be badly-behaved and in need of a curfew, but it has been forced on us all and we have an opportunity to really make the best of it by embracing it and spending quality time with our furry friends. You never know, both dog and owner could learn something new.

Tilly in her cone of shame

Beat the Boredom

Tilly after her elbow arthroscopy

Her legs must be chilly?

Cage Rest and Cone?

What do you do when you’ve got a sick or injured pet? What if they’re on cage rest? What if they are doomed to wear the cone of shame? We have been faced with this problem for weeks now.

But it’s not only that, what if they’re home alone or the weather is bad? How do you entertain a bored pet?

Exercise their brain!

For a dog on cage rest as our Tilly was after her elbow arthroscopy, wearing a cone to protect her stitches, life was very miserable and we feared for her mental wellbeing. Not only that but two weeks into her confinement, her spay scar became infected, so she was double coned and confined for a further two weeks.

Tricks and Tips

How did we cope? Well, we had two large dog crates which were situated in the main parts of the house so that wherever we were, she could be nearby. She had a soft toy with her at all times, but that had to be operated on to remove the squeakers. Toby hates squeakers and she was driving him crazy!

A stuffed KONG

A well-stuffed KONG always proves popular!

Due to the amount of space available, we decided to use smaller treat toys to entertain her. She couldn’t have coped with the puzzle toys in such a restricted environment. Our go-to toy for most occasions is the KONG. Stuffed to the gills with tasty treats, what dog could resist? And you can always freeze it for longer-lasting play. You simply can’t go wrong with a KONG!

Our second choice was the Starmark Treat Ringer Orb which proved such a big hit with Toby as a pup.

Treat Ringer Orb

The challenging Treat Ringer Orb

At first, Tilly found this difficult and it lay untouched in her crate, but by removing a treat and letting her get a taste of it, she was motivated to try for herself and eventually got the hang of it. Now it’s one of her favourite evening challenges.

Thirdly was an old favourite, the Lotus Ball. This is a very simple toy and probably better suited to retrieving, but for Tilly, it contained another little treat for her to extract and keep her mind active. To make it more appealing, we boosted it up with a jackpot treat, Davies Puffed Jerky. Our dogs go wild for it.

Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky

Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky

Puzzle Toys

If your dog is not restricted space-wise, there are numerous puzzle toys to keep them entertained. If you haven’t tried one before it’s best to start with something straightforward as you will find they are easily discouraged if they can’t get the hang of it. A great starter toy is the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart.

Nina Ottosson Dog Smart

Nina Ottosson Dog Smart

Another simple toy is the Lick n Snack Platter which gives them an instant win, plus licking can have a calming effect on your dog. Great as a feeding bowl, too.

Moving on you then can progress to the K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, and bring out the super-sleuth in your dog. There is the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy, which has 3 different treat-feeding features and is a long time favourite. Or why not try the Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy that challenges both their physical and mental abilities. The K9 Pursuits Multi Maze is a 2-in-1 anti-gobble slow feeder and interactive game! The best of both worlds with its three interchangeable centrepieces all offering a different challenge!

Interactive Games

There are games to suit all levels: from top left, K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, middle, K9 Pursuits Multi Maze Slow Feeder, bottom left, Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy and the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy

Or your dog may prefer soft toys, so why not make these interactive too? If they’re not treat motivated but love a squeak, what about the Puzzle Plush Hide A Squirrel. Three furry gremlins to remove from their tree trunk nest.

Alternatively, there is the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game, which has multiple hiding places for treats and small toys. Excellent for the keen forager.

Interactive Soft Toys

Some dogs prefer soft toys like the Puzzle Plush Hide a Squirrel or the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game

You may find something above that you think is suitable for your dog but if not we have plenty more to choose from in our Interactive Play section or even our Treat-Dispensing Toys. And don’t forget the all-important Dog Treats to accompany your strategy games.

Keeping Cats Occupied

Cat in crateIf your cat is confined to a crate for any reason here are some tips and tricks:

  • Keep the crate super clean, changing water and blankets regularly.
  • Ensure the crate is in an area in the house where the family spends most of their time to prevent loneliness and boredom.
  • Keep some toys in the crate, perhaps infused with catnip, or dangling through the bars for entertainment. Swap the toys from time to time to give your cat something new to play with.
  • Have a regular routine so your cat knows what to expect and when. At night half cover the outside of the crate with a blanket.
  • Talk to your cat or play music or the TV so there is some background noise.
  • A cat pheromone spray may also help to calm and de-stress anxious cats.
Cat Enrichment Toys

From left to right Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser, Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy

There are a wide variety of enrichment toys available to keep your feline active and prevent boredom. There are self-play toys such as the FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser. Useful when they are home alone.

Next, there are the food puzzle toys that encourage foraging and make them work for their treats with the Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy being one good example, and the Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, another. Your cat will learn to manipulate the toy to release the food.

Then there are interactive toys that are designed to strengthen the bond between you and your cat. The Cat Activity Fun Circle Interactive Toy is a game you can enjoy together, which is also suitable for older or sick pets and provides different activities on two different sides.

Take a look at our full range of Cat Strategy Games to find something to keep your kitty fully engaged.

So, do you know if your cat is bored? Take a look at this excellent article, Is Your Cat Bored? 10 Ways to Prevent Boredom, which explains how you can tell and provides some interesting ideas for enriching your cat’s environment.

Horses Need Enrichment Too!

Likit Equine Boredom Breaker

The Likit Boredom Breaker for Horses with Likit Refills in 4 delicious flavours

In a 24-hour period, a lot of equines will only have a few hours of mental and physical human engagement so boredom vices can set in. Enrichment toys can provide welcome relief for them and hung in the stable, the Likit Boredom Buster will do just that. Developed to provide environmental enrichment, this challenging stable toy is designed to get horses to work for their reward and there are four scrumptious Likit Treat flavours to choose from (available separately).

Enrichment provides a way to stimulate a horse’s natural instincts and is crucial to their overall wellbeing. By engaging these instincts, they can become healthier, happier equines.

Stock up and be prepared

In summary, ensure that your pets have a well-stocked chest with a wide variety of toys and games for both physical and mental stimulation. You can’t make every minute of your pet’s life exciting, but you can go a long way to keep their boredom at bay!

Pampered cat

Happy Cat Month 2019

Pampered cat

A pampered cat is a happy cat!

Happy Cat Month is a time to celebrate our feline companions by showing them extra love and attention. Using this time as an excuse to focus on positive reinforcement for our cats is a great way to promote their happiness and show appreciation for their company. In honour of Happy Cat Month, we’ve teamed up with Sainsbury’s Bank and listed a few tips for pampering your pet that you can find below.

A great gift for the playful cat is cat agility weave poles. These fun toys are simple to use as you can set up them up as an obstacle course for your cats to manoeuvre around.

Cat agility weave poles

Train your cat to weave

Gifting your feline friend with new toys is not only fun for them but stimulates their minds. A catch the mouse game is perfect for the cat who loves to mess around.

Catch the mouse fun cat toy

A game of cat and mouse

Rewarding them with homemade goodies for when they are on their best behaviour is another thoughtful gift idea. Consider making them a yummy personal cat cake filled with chicken. We’ve included the recipe below!

Cat cake:  

Gifts for pets: 

Finding that perfect gift is never easy but here are some ideas that may put you on the scent to finding something to satisfy even the most discerning feline or pampered pup!

For more tips on how to show appreciation for your furry friends, check out Sainsbury’s Bank guide that’s full of unique pet gift ideas.

The Ricochet Electronic Dog Toy

Petsafe Ricochet Electronic Dog Toy

Tilly tests the new Ricochet dog toy

A new type of interactive toy

When the new Ricochet Electronic Dog Toy landed on our doorstep, we couldn’t wait to give it a try. It is, in fact, two toys. As your dog plays with one of the interactive paired toys, a fun and exciting squeak sound is heard from the other toy. When your dog rushes to investigate the second toy, the sound bounces back to the first toy, hence the name. It will keep your dog entertained ping-ponging between the two units trying to capture that illusive squeak!

The paired Ricochet Dog Toys

The Ricochet is made of hard plastic with rubber top

Tilly is a keen tester

We chose Tilly to be the chief tester because she loves squeaky toys. We took her out to the field where we could hide the toys in the grass.

She was a little confused at first and couldn’t quite grasp what was going on, but after a few minutes, she got the hang of the game and was dashing back and forth between one and the other and attempting to round them up!

You can see how she got on with our video of her first encounter.

Product details

While not a chew toy, the Ricochet is durable enough for intense play. Change up the game by hiding one of the toys behind furniture or in a nearby room. The toys have a range of up to 30 feet. When your dog is done for the day, it will automatically turn off after 60 minutes of non-interaction to conserve the battery life.

Features

  • Hide and Squeak – The PetSafe® Ricochet Electronic Dog Toy features 2 paired toys that will have your dog bouncing back and forth as he tries to catch a “moving” squeak sound
  • Surprise Sound – The PetSafe® Ricochet is perfect for single-dog households; when your dog interacts with one of the toys, the other toy makes a squeak sound from up to 30 ft. away
  • Automatic Exercise – Dogs will love to chase the squeak between the toys, and you will love knowing your dog is staying active
  • Mental Stimulation – The moving squeak provides a fun puzzle for your dog, as the sound is never where he expects it
  • Free from Stuffing – The PetSafe® Ricochet has no stuffing or fabric to tear, making it a no-mess toy
  • Long-Lasting Play – Playtime with the Ricochet lasts up to a month of daily use; both toys turns off after 60 minutes of no activity to save battery life
  • One-Year Warranty – The PetSafe® Ricochet is backed by a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Each toy uses 3 AAA batteries (not included)

Available now!

Unleash the Power of KONG

Unleash the power of KONG toys!

Do you know what a KONG can do?

The unassuming toy with a secret

When we first came across KONG Dog Toys, which must be twenty years ago now, they didn’t look like the most exciting dog toy we had ever seen. In fact, probably like a lot of people, we saw them as a tough chew toy with an erratic bounce. Our dogs just weren’t that interested.

How wrong can you be?

The secret to the Classic, Puppy, Senior, Extreme, and indeed the Kitty KONG, is that it’s a hollow rubber receptacle for all sorts of doggy, or feline delights. It has holes at both ends, one large and one small. The key KONG ingredient is the stuffing. That’s what makes it so special and so very useful.

What does the inside of Classic KONG look like?

The inside of a KONG

Let your dog, or cat, in on the secret

Firstly, you need to get your dog or cat interested in it. Once they understand what it’s all about they will not only want it but love it. To begin with, you just need to fill it with a couple of their favourite treats. Something they really enjoy, that they can smell, and that will easily slip out of the large opening. Try this for a few days. Don’t hand them their favourite treat, put it in a KONG and let them get it out themselves.

As soon as they understand that this ‘toy’ is the bearer of delicious snacks, they will start to get excited as soon as they see it.

You can work on this, gradually stuffing the KONG with other delights and making it a tad more difficult for the dog to get out. Make them work for it. Plug the small hole at the bottom with peanut butter (check it’s Xylitol free) or cream cheese and then fill with a variety of treats. Leave a longish chew sticking out to get them started.

A fully loaded KONG

Eventually, you could dispense with your food bowl and feed them their meals in the KONG. You can also freeze the filled KONG which is great for hot sunny days; a KONG Popsicle, or to make them longer lasting.

It can take your dog a couple of hours to fully empty the KONG and lick the peanut butter or maybe liver pâté from the bottom so they are perfect to extend play-time and can help distract them if they suffer from separation anxiety.

Problem behaviours can be helped with a KONG

Feed their minds

An excellent enrichment toy. They are perfect boredom busters if they are confined to a crate, hopefully, cut down on chewing and stimulate them mentally at the same time.  We had one dog, Sophie, who was KONG mad. She had developed a foolproof method of getting every last grain from her KONG toy. She would take it to the top of the stairs and drop it. As it bounced down the steps the treats would come tumbling out and she would snaffle them up!

It’s important to get the correct size for your dog so do check out the detailed KONG size chart before purchasing. And take another look at this seemingly simple KONG toy, now that you know how to unlock its secrets.

Check the KONG size chart before you buy

It’s important to get the right size for your dog. If in doubt, size up.

Get stuffing

You may also like our short video on how to stuff a KONG, and you can find plenty of inventive KONG stuffing recipes at BARKTHINK, or maybe your cat may be partial to a Kitty KONG stuffed with bacon and eggs?

Sit back and be amazed at how your much your dog loves its KONG. And the good news for us humans is that when they’ve emptied it, we can stick it in the dishwasher.

But of course, your cat can benefit from a KONG in the same way your dog does. Cats go absolutely crazy over the Kitty KONG once they learn to use it; it’s an excellent way to keep your cat occupied and challenged.

The original and the best KONG

The KONG range

Since their original and we think best ever invention, the KONG Company have branched out and now do a wide range of enrichment toys for dogs and cats. See our full range of exciting and innovative KONG products here.

KONG now do a wide range of enrichment toys for both dogs and cats

We have a wide range of KONG products, both new and old favourites

From left to right KONG Tiltz, KONG Replay, KONG Babbler, KONG Snacks, KONG Safestix, KONG Easy Treat, KONG Ballistic Hide ‘n Treat, KONG Quest Foragers Dumbbell, KONG Rewards Shell, KONG Senior, KONG Quest Foragers Flower, KONG Squeezz Ball, KONG Stuff-a-Ball.

The pup challenge

We experience the highs and lows of a new puppy

As the clock struck midnight on the New Year, instead of knocking back champers, we were wrapped up in bed with a Lemsip!  We had succumbed to the virus that seemed to be sweeping the nation and it made life with a lively puppy just that bit tougher.

Toby was, of course, adorable but on top of that he was hard work.  We have had many puppies in the past but as they grow, you quickly forget the bad bits!

Lack of sleep, they like to wake early, taking them outside (in bad weather) every half an hour, trying to stop them chewing, especially electric cables that you never noticed before and keeping those needle sharp teeth out of your flesh!  Not to mention the feeding four times a day!  It’s a full-time job and not for the faint hearted.

We are very lucky in that we work from home so we could be with him 24/7.  Heaven knows how people cope when they have to go out to work.

A dog crate was an essential piece of kit, especially for those much needed moments of respite and invaluable overnight.  Clicker training helped to calm him down and focus his mind for short periods, often leaving him needing a nap and us with some breathing space.  We tried out plenty of toys and he loved most of them, but not for long enough. His attention soon returned to chewing rugs, furniture or shoes, that someone had foolishly left lying around.

Two other problems we encountered were sheep poo, and Jack our Border Collie.  The field we walk them in has recently been vacated by our pregnant ewes and there was plenty to interest him.  We couldn’t get his nose off the ground and quickly taught him a “leave” command, which works about 30% of the time. Jack was a bigger challenge – whereas both Archie and Daisy have welcomed new pups before, this is Jack’s first one.  He didn’t react very well and although the 2 shepherds would tolerate Toby, Jack was very snappy.

We tried to work this through by taking them out to one of our large sheds and training them together.  Jack realised that being with Toby meant positive things rather than negative.

To a certain extent this has calmed the problem and Jack’s snapping seems to be much more ‘warning’ than intent. Toby does heed those messages when he isn’t hyper-excited, and more often than not, Jack prefers to move away rather than getting involved. We still have work to do, but we are happy with the progress so far.

Despite all of the above, Toby has been an absolute joy.  He is so bold, intelligent, quick to learn and entertaining and he’s certainly taught us a thing or two.  Last week he started his clicker class and we were very proud of him.  He behaved beautifully.  But we won’t be resting on our laurels, there is homework to be completed and we are well aware that once he gets comfortable in the new training environment, he may not be quite so polite and well mannered.

Pictured below are the items we found most useful for Toby:

Toby loves the Everlasting Treat Ball

The treat-filled Tuggy is a hit!

Toby with the Puller

Perfect for controlled walking