Spring days and weeks are often loaded with rainy days! If you have a puppy or higher energy dog, those are days to dread!! A rainy day, plus a puppy or high energy dog equals misery for an owner and often a day filled with naughtiness! When our dogs are under-exercised, and when we don’t provide enough mental stimulation for them, it can add up to trouble in living with them!! Here’s an easy and fun idea for you to help give your dog something to do when you’ve got the rainy day blues!
Many of the dogs that I train have a popular dog toy called a “Holee Roller,” made by JW Pet. I have to admit that when I first saw these toys years ago, I refused to get one for Rugby! I saw that the rubber wasn’t all that thick, and the toy was easily flexible, and I made the assumption that Rugby would chew through it in a nanosecond! But….after seeing so many of them, in so many homes, with dogs who were big chewers, I never saw only a part of a Holee Roller! They were always intact, and dogs seemed to really like playing with them.
So I broke down, and I found one that was in an appropriate size for Rugby, and I brought it home. For those of you not familiar with this toy, it looks like a rubber geometrical object used to teach shapes to kids! It has a sort of waffle pattern, and it’s hollow, and it is a wonderful fetching toy. It’s lightweight, so it goes a good little distance, and it rolls really well. It’s big enough to be easily seen in the yard or house once it’s thrown. In Rugby’s younger days, he loved to play fetch for hours at a time, and he did enjoy fetching his Holee Roller toy! But….it doesn’t make noise, and Rugby is honestly all about toys that make noise! So….it often sits in the toybox at my house….waiting for a dog to play with it!
At a lesson recently, I saw that a client had taken this same dog toy, but she had stuffed two dental chews inside the webbing in an effort to keep her Boxer puppy entertained! Her puppy was just fascinated with trying to figure out how to get those chews out from this toy, or how to chew the chews while still inside the toy! I could see her using all sorts of problem solving skills! I put my thinking cap on, because I really think that this is a great idea that can be fun for all kinds of dogs!
My regular readers will remember that Rugby has “Bubba teeth” in front! He had a growth on his gum in front that meant that he lost four of his tiny teeth on the bottom in the front when the growth was surgically removed. He lost two tiny teeth on top when he aggressively went after one of his beloved piggie toys on the basement floor….and the basement floor won. He knocked a third tooth loose, and it has reattached itself, but it’s crooked! So…he has “Bubba teeth” and it’s really goofy and cute all at the same time! However, not having those tiny teeth limits what he can grab and pull, because there are spaces there and no teeth! I wasn’t sure that he could grab a dental chew to pull it out of the Holee Roller. No game is fun if it’s only frustrating to a dog.
So….I put on my thinking cap, and came up with another version that will work for Rugby….and any other dog as well!! The supplies are simple, and things that you likely already have in your home! It was fast to put together, and kept Rugby very engaged, so that scores extra points in my world! There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to make it, so let your own imagination soar and you can create something similar that will also be lots of fun for your own dogs!
If you want to make one like mine, here you go! I started with my Holee Roller, and cut 5 strips of polka dotted fleece fabric into long strips that were approximately 18″ long by 2″ wide. I chose fleece because it’s soft and thick, could be easily washed, didn’t fray, and guess what? I already had some on hand, so I didn’t have to go buy anything else! Really any sort of fabric will work, a bandana or scarf, for example, but you want your fabric choice to fill the puzzle so that the treats don’t easily fall out.
Once I had the strips cut, I rolled up treats in them. You can use any kind of treat that you like, or even dog food kibble. You can make your food or treats any size that you like. I used Wellness Soft Wellbites treats. They were treats that I had on hand, and I love that they are scored so that they can easily break into much smaller bites.
Once the treats were broken, I rolled about five tiny tidbits per each strip of fabric. I’m guessing that I used less than one whole treat per strip, so in total, I know that I didn’t use more than four to five whole treats. You can add additional or fewer treats as you like. If you want to keep calories down, you can grab a handful of your dog’s kibble from his bowl before you feed him, and use that as the snack for the puzzle. That won’t add any additional calories to your dog’s diet for the day if you’re watching weight at your house.
Once I had the strips rolled up with treats inside, I stuffed the rolled fabric inside the toy. I found that with the fleece fabric, and the size of the Holee Roller that I used, three strips really fit fine, and five strips made it very snug inside. The tighter the fabric, the harder it’s going to be for your dog to pull it out of the toy. If you want to start with a smaller number of fabric rolls, it can be easier for your dog to learn the puzzle, and then you can add extra strips once your dog has the puzzle figured out.
Once Rugby saw me getting the bag of treats, he was suddenly very interested in what I was doing! He really loves games and puzzles, and we play them frequently in my house, so he’s always keeping one eye open for some fun! When I gave the puzzle to Rugby, he was very pleased, and his nose started working overtime! He wasn’t sure what to do with it. There were a few corners of the fabric peeking out through the holes, and with Rugby’s “Bubba teeth” I wasn’t sure if he could grab those to pull them out.
Once he had sniffed the puzzle over really well, he started problem solving. He poked his nose at the puzzle to see what would happen. When that didn’t produce any treats, he started to roll the puzzle and checked the floor for treats. By this time, he was a good minute into the puzzle, and I knew that he would frustrate if I didn’t help him along. So I pulled out a bit of the fabric to make it easier for him by having something that he could really grab. Once I did that, Rugby quickly figured out how to pull the fabric, and once he found success doing that, he seemed to understand that this was how the puzzle worked.
The first time I worked the puzzle with him, he was engaged for four to seven minutes, and by then, the puzzle was empty. When I loaded it back up for him, he lost interest after another five minutes or so, and by then, I just don’t think he was all that hungry, since I had played with him just after his breakfast. He had pulled four of the strips out, but walked away from the last one, and typically, he doesn’t do that! This would be a better game for mid afternoon or before bed, when he is more hungry, and bored.
Just remember, this is a game that is intended to be played with supervision!! DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED!! Dogs and puppies are naturally curious, and remember that the fabric will smell like treats! Depending upon what treats you use, oils and crumbs may attach to the fabric, and I can easily see any dog potentially chewing on the fabric once it is out of the puzzle! Be sure that you are watching your dog, and coaching him when he works! Interactive puzzle play is a wonderful way to bond and play with your dogs! Have fun!!