Sorry about the delay in getting our final entry in this series out to you all! I hope that the weekend provided some of you with opportunities to try some of the games and activities we mentioned last week with your pooches. If so, please share your experiences in the comments, I always like to hear about people and dogs having fun together.
Perhaps you’ve eyed Nina Ottosson toys online and thought they looked like a lot of fun but can be pretty pricey. You’re right on both counts, they are great fun for dogs and hit the wallet pretty hard in comparison with other, more affordable food dispensing toy options. (Clients – I have many of the toys at home and occasionally offer mental enrichment classes where you can try them all!)
Today’s game, the final in our series, will provide a simple, DIY puzzle/food-dispensing toy that uses materials you likely already have around your home.
The Muffin Tin Game
- muffin tin
- your dog’s dinner ration or a handful of small, tasty treats
- one ball for each muffin “spot” on the tin – many people use tennis balls, but you can get creative. I find that using a number of types of smaller balls with different textures, shapes, even squeakies, can increase the fun AND the difficulty level!
Place treats in each of the muffin “spots”, cover each with a ball, and give it to your dog! Pretty simple, right? Your dog may use her paws or nose to try to dislodge the balls in an effort to get at the treat. She may need some encouragement from you if she has not played with many puzzle toys before, and some shy dogs may actually need to have the interaction shaped through clicker training.
Once your dog gets the hang of this game, it can quickly get to0 easy! I have thought of three potential ways to make the game more difficult, but would love feedback from those of you who have played at home on your own creative solutions for adding new challenge to this old favorite!
- Increase ball variety – you can make this game a bit harder by using balls which wedge further down into the divots or which are harder to grab/move (small, hard plastic balls)
- Turn it upside down! I like to fill the muffin tin, top it with uniformly sized balls (generally tennis balls), and then use my arms or a piece of cardboard to flip the tin upside down and place it on the floor. The balls will make the tin roll around on the floor, and the new challenge becomes either somehow dislodging the balls underneath or picking up the tin.
- Finally, you can freeze some canned food in the bottom of the muffin tin. This doesn’t really dramatically increase the difficulty level, but does add a new bit of challenge and will take the dog a bit longer to empty the muffin tin completely.
Here is a nice youtube video illustrating the Muffin Tin Game from one of my favorite youtubers of all time, enjoy!