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How Treat-Dispensing Toys Can Help Your Bored Dog

Dogs love treats, but wouldn't it be great if you could make your dog work a little more for those tasty treats? Food-dispensing (also known as treat-dispensing) dog toys could help you accomplish that goal. Even better, the mental and physical stimulation food-dispensing dog toys provide may decrease the chances your dog develops boredom-related behavior problems — barking and chewing, for example. Before you go out and buy a food-dispensing toy, however, you should consider the following.

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1. Food-Dispensing Dog Toys Should be Durable

“For most dogs, getting hold of food is the single most interesting and satisfying activity in the world,” says dog trainer Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA. It’s no wonder, then, that the durability of your dog’s food-dispensing toy is of utmost importance. Look for one that can withstand you dog’s repeated punishment, and if the rough play becomes so intense that your dog is at risk of injury, take the toy away. Benal also suggests resolving any issues of food or toy guarding with your dog before using the food-dispensing toy as a routine.

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2. Food-Dispensing Dog Toys Should be Easy to Clean

There are enough things to clean around your home. Save yourself the trouble and choose a food-dispensing dog toy that is easy to clean. Bear in mind that some styles of food-dispensing dog toys are easier to clean than others.

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3. Stuff the Dog Toy with Healthy Treats

Just because your food-dispensing dog toy can be filled with just about anything, doesn’t mean you should. Use healthy treats when stuffing dog toys and consult with your veterinarian prior to making treat giving a routine. He or she may have recommendations as to the amount of calories for the treats given daily/weekly so that your dog does not become overweight or obese.

4. Do Not Use the Toy for Regular Feedings

Despite its potential benefits, you don't want to overuse a food-dispensing dog toy (especially if you use dog kibble in the toy). Failure to do so may result in your dog refusing his or her regular meals. Instead consult with your dog trainer, behaviorist or veterinarian on how frequently you should be using the toy.

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5. Food-Dispensing Dog Toys Do Not Replace Exercise

Even though food-dispensing dog toys are often excellent for increasing your dog’s level of physical exertion, “[they] can’t replace the benefits of a long walk or time spent playing or interacting with other pets and people,” says Jennifer Coates, DVM. Instead combine the mental stimulation of a food-dispensing dog toy with daily exercise to help keep your dog happy and healthy for many years to come.

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