With times like these where everyone is inside more often, we need to be more creative with giving our dogs brain drain so they don’t end up with “cabin fever”. One great way to do that is with treat stuffing toys, and one of our favorite options are Kongs and WestPaws toys. Treat stuffer toys can be used to keep dogs occupied while in their crates when you are gone, when it is muddy or cold out and you can’t spend as much time outside, or even when visitors are over and you want to give your pup something else to work on until the excitement wears down. But don’t get stuck in a rut with your stuffing options- there are many options out there to keep your pup interested and looking forward to quietly working on his treat.
Before you start out, make sure that you have an appropriate size and chewing strength stuffable toy for your dog. Both Westpaws and Kong brand toys have a variety of sizes and material strengths-with recommendations of “strong chewers” or “puppy” options, along with weight guidelines, to allow you to get the perfect toy for your pup!
To start with your treat toy, use a soft item to fill the bottom, such as cheese or peanut butter, then begin to fill. This will help to lessen spills. Put a mix of solid foods/treats, and mix in some fillers like canned food or kibble that has soaked in water. The fuller you can get the toy, the harder it will be for your dog to get the treats out. If your dog is familiar with these toys, fill it full, but if your dog is new or loses interest easily, leave some space and make them easier to get the treats out until they get the hang of the game. There are a variety of ways to fill it, layers of food, smashed softer foods on the side, treats sticking out- use your imagination and get creative! Once you have it ready, you can either give it to your dog right away, or stick it in the freezer for later- this will make it last longer for your dog!
When you are making the ‘filler’ for your toy, it is easiest to mix it all together and put it in a plastic baggie. Seal the baggie up, and cut a corner off (think like a piping bag!). You can put the corner in the Kong and then easily squeeze the mixture in to fill the inside with less mess than trying to scoop!
A lot of fun options that you can use in your kongs are already around your house- some options are cheese, bananas, carrots, blueberries are just a few! Those are great surprises to keep your dog guessing and working hard to find out what he can get out of his toy today! When you introduce a new treat or flavor to your dog, remember to take it slow. Some dogs are sensitive to new items and it may cause upset tummies. Try small amounts in their treat toy until you know they are fine, then add in larger amounts.
One final note to take, is to remember that a full stuffed treat toy is extra calories for our pup- and we want to watch their waistline as we give them more! We can easily add part of their meals into their treat toy, as a filler in between something like peanut butter or yogurt to keep it in, we just have to remember to track what was added and to cut back at dinnertime.
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Explorers: Start off with a puree or pupsicle style stuffed food toy. You want them to be excited about the toy and not feel like they have to work too hard to get the snack inside. If you have a cat that likes to use their paws, try putting a few of their favorite treats inside a larger sized toy they can easily reach inside.
Growers: Your pet is getting good at these! It is time to make your stuffed toys a little harder. Try a layered toy or freeze a puree or pupsicle style kong, as well. It will take them longer to complete when it is frozen!
Challengers: It is time to keep providing your pets with a challenge! Try a layered or treat stuffed food toy, either as-is or frozen. If you have a cat that likes a challenge, put their favorite treats inside a deeper toy or one with a smaller opening for them to fish out with their paws. We want our Challengers to still have fun and enjoy the game, but we do want to continue stretching their brain!