Dogs have a natural need to use their mouths to gnaw, lick, rip apart and explore
items or objects around them. This need is a separate reservoir of energy, which
needs a natural outlet on a daily basis. Even if the dog is properly exercised,
their mind needs activation and work as well. If dogs are not directed towards
meaningful, allowed activity, it can turn into destructive behavior or even
How to play with my dog using an activation toy?
Based on recent reader feedback, we turn our attention to toys and activities which will
help you play with your dog in a way that challenges their mind. Why we say play with,
is that activation toys, like food, should be used to strengthen your role as your
dog’s leader and access to the toys you use to play with her should be controlled by
Just the act of taking out a given toy should be a joyous thing that the dog will
happily engage in. That is why leaving a given toy lying on the floor will reduce its
natural charm. The main principle in dog ownership is that to your dog you should be
the source of everything good in life and if you achieve this, she will follow your
guidance in every situation.
Leadership stems out of a positive practiced relationship with your dog, where you set
the limits on what is allowed behavior. Simply bribing your dog away from undesired
behavior will not. In a situation where the reward is bigger than your bribe,
you will lose no matter what. It is one thing to reward your dog for desired
behavior, rather than bribe them away from an undesired one.
In our opinion, some of the most engaging activation toys are created by Nina Ottosson.
Her activation toys are recommended by all experts and range between easy (level 1)
and expert (level 4). These toys are not intended for the dog to play alone with,
rather than working with her to puzzle it out is a rewarding activity in itself.
Your role is more that of a referee, guiding your dog towards the proper way of
playing with the toy rather than letting her just use brute force and destroy the toy.
Eve has found, even after some time, the Ottoson level 2 toys still engaging.
She really enjoys playing with the Outward Hound Treat Maze
on a daily basis. She has become somewhat an expert at it and being an intelligent dog
she has figured out multiple different strategies for getting the treats out of the
toy as quickly and efficiently as possible.
How to calm down my dog with the help of an activation toy?
As stated in an earlier article,
feeding your dog with raw food is a trendy topic with a lot of proponents and dissenters.
We use Kong activation toys to calm down our energetic
dogs or to prevent them from engaging in undesired behavior such as one caused by
separation anxiety for example.
The classic Kong toys, which are made out of natural rubber, are the perfect activation
toys once packed with minced meat and frozen solid in a freezer. Alternatively, if
you have bought or prepared raw meatballs and frozen them, you can slide them inside
a Kong and voila you have your activation toy armed and ready to go in no time at
all - pre-frozen.
Pick up the Kong activation toy in your hand.
Pick up a frozen raw meatball in your other hand.
Place the meatball on the counter.
Push the meatball into the toy against the counter top (use both hands if need be).
If you’re having difficulties with this, you can use a drop of cooking oil as a lubricant.
Once the toy is armed with the meatball, use this opportunity to rehearse your dog obedience. Drill her with the basics, such as how to sit or lay still and wait for your permission to engage with the toy.
How to take care of my dog’s teeth and satisfy her need to chew?
In addition to food, dental care is an important part of dog ownership. Chewables are
also a great way to direct the natural need for dogs to chew or gnaw on something
towards something more acceptable than your shoe or the telly remote for that matter.
For example, Barkoo rolled chews
or chew sticks
which are made our of natural beef rawhide are much healthier and safer choices
than real bones, especially cooked ones, which are outright dangerous.
The trick with chewables, as with any other toy, is not leaving them lying around rather than
give them to your dog as a treat or “toothbrush” after each meal. One common mistake is
to buy an over-sized chewables for your dog, who will lose interest in them in quick order.
Giving smaller things more often to chew on will help you better engage with your dog as well.
One good rule of thumb is to never give any treats or food to your dog without making her
work for it. Asking her to sit down quietly until you give her permission to food or
treats is the best way to enhance your role as her leader.
You can even turn this into a game, where she sits in front of you and looks into
your eyes until you give the break command. It is the type of basic obedience that is
easy and natural to do and which yields the best benefit - no bribing needed.
Outward Hound’s Nina Ottosson Activation Toys
These toys are the gold standard for dog activation toys and they are meant
to help you play with your dog in a way that challenges their mind but at
the same time is fun and engaging.
Kong activation toys, which are made out of natural rubber, are a great way to
stimulate your dog and feed her raw food, such as minced meat.
Natural Rawhide Chewables
Natural rawhide chewables are a great way to handle the basic dental care
of your canine family member, as well as direct her natural need to chew on
something away from your shoes or whatever else happens to be within her reach.
In the name of transparency, we think it is good disclose the affiliate programs,
to which we belong to. In practice, this means that should you end up buying
products through our affiliate links, those entities will pay us a small commission.
You will not pay us, nor is the price any different, should you buy directly from
a given site.
Zooplus UK online store for chewables and KONG activation toys.
Amazon UK online store for Nina Ottosson activation toys.