So when you got your puppy, everyone told you to go buy yourself a Kong toy (you know that funny shaped red ball that you put treats in). So you followed this sagely advice grabbed what you hope would be your dogs new favorite toy, whacked a teaspoon of peanut butter in the hole and presented this delicious conduit to you new best friend.
Then in the most ungrateful move known in the history of Dogdom, Rover gives this new device a casual sniff and goes on his merry way. Now with all your Kong shaped dreams shattered on the floor like a spilled bowl of puppy kibble, you proclaim to anyone who will listen - yeah I tried one of those Kong things and my dog just wasn't interested.
Dog owners often give up on these treat dispensing devices, because they feel that their dog is not interested, but the reality is that the dog doesn't know what it is or how to use it. Unfortunately, dogs are pretty bad at reading instructions, so as a dogs owner we need to teach our pooch how to interact with these toys - and once they see the benefit of the game (getting food) then their interest will be peeked and they will begin to pay on their own.
The benefit of using treat dispensing toys can not be understated, the mental stimulation and enrichment derived from food balls and other games can help drain energy from even the most rambunctious of pets.
Here are my top 5 tips for getting your dogs eating out of a treat dispensing toy:
1. Use better food - not all dogs are excited by peanut butter, so try things like cream cheese or even baby food to introduce your dog to the toy, the more exciting the initial flavor the more likely they will enjoy the toy.
2. If using dry dog food, allow your dog to sniff the toy, rock it back and forth on the ground in front of them to show them that the toy has food in it.
3. Feed all meals out of a food toy. There are some that work great with dry food, I personally use Kongs to feed a raw food mix twice daily to my dogs.
4. Encourage your dog to interact with homemade, destructible food toys first. This just means put their food in a cardboard box and let them rip it open to eat it. Dogs are naturally destructive, some more than others and younger more so than older - but allowing them to destroy something that you don't value helps save your valuable items.
5. Keep it simple. When your dog is engaging with a toy for the first few times it needs to be super easy, even if you start placing a treat under the food ball so that they have to just push the ball out of the way, being successful with help them become confident with interacting with the toy.
I really encourage you to get into food toys to add an element of enrichment and mental stimulation to your dogs life. They will love you for it.
I think suggestion #4 should be reconsidered. If you teach your dog to destroy a cardboard box as in the example, they will always associate the cardboard box to be there to destroy. This might not be a habit you actually want them to have later in puppyhood or their life in general.