You wouldn’t know it by looking in the designated dog toy closet, that I currently only have one dog. It’s filled with different types of toys for different types of needs. I’ve got toys for problem solving, and brain enrichment; toys for retrieving; toys for slow feeding and food dispensing; toys for independent play and toys that are best when used with the help of a human or other dog. And, yes, I also have toys I know my dog will absolutely destroy in less than ten minutes, but he will be filled with joy afterwards, so they are important to have, too. It might sound silly, but dog toys can be essential tools for different needs, which is why I’m excited to share the top four toys from SodaPup that are designed for different types of needs, situations and enrichment that can help with Lost Pet Prevention.
My dog is a few things: a senior who takes supplements; a fast eater; a pup that needs his brain stimulated through problem solving. Our SodaPup slow feeder mat can be used to address all of these unique needs at once! While there are a variety of design options, the basic concept for each slow feeder mat is the same. There are various nooks and crannies that soft foods and liquids can be placed for your pup to lick up. Mats can be used for food, treats or supplement serving at room temperature, but if you’re hoping to stimulate your dog’s mind for a longer period of time (which can help with separation anxiety or other times of stress), you can also pop the mat in the freezer overnight. Frozen treats can also help cool your pup in warmer weather.
So, what do you put in the mat? It’s your call, really. For me, I smoosh some of my dog’s canned food in the nooks after mixing it with his pro and pre-biotics. Sometimes, that’s all I do, it doesn’t have to be a fancy, hard, or long process. Sometimes, I’ll spice things up by adding homemade bone broth, plain Greek yogurt, smashed fruit like watermelon or blueberries, or liquid meal toppers. If you’re not sure where to get started, SodaPup has recipes for you to try on their website. Your dog doesn’t care if it’s pretty but they will appreciate an opportunity to have something yummy by licking it off the mat.
We have a LOT of different food and treat dispenser toys, and quite a few come from SodaPup because they’re so durable. The variety in shapes, sizes, and location where food or treats are dispensed mean that my dog is solving puzzles in different ways, using different parts of his body (nose, tongue, paws, etc.) to get his reward. This mental stimulation and positive reinforcement is a great reward for him, but can also be used as a distraction during times of stressful situations, like the loud noises of a thunderstorm or fireworks.
One of Yoda’s favorite food and treat dispenser toys is SodaPup’s Skull shape. The shape of the skull means you never really know where it’s going to bounce if you toss it or if your dog rolls it with its nose or paws. The randomness of the movement is exciting for me as I play with my dog and for him as he guesses where it’ll land and where the treats will wind up.
Active play with my dog is a priority of mine each day. I try to change things up regularly, so one day he might be catching a ball I toss, another day, he might be getting his meal by solving a puzzle, and a third day could be through playing with tug type toys. It can be as simple as braided fleece, but I prefer something more durable, which is why I gravitate towards tug toys from SodaPup.
Tug toys can also be great for households with more than one dog as they can be used to play together if you aren’t able to spend as much time dedicated to play on certain days. As with all toys, Pet Parent supervision is important. At times when more than one dog is playing with the same toy, keeping an eye on their body language, noises, and excitement level are things to be mindful of.
Starting in mid-June, when I know the Fourth of July is around the corner, I make sure I have a few sturdy tug toys on hand. As soon as a home-grown fireworks display occurs in our neighborhood, I’ll grab a tug toy and start engaging my dog in a high-energy and positive reinforcement filled round of play. Keeping high value, stinky treats next to his tug toys remind me to grab them as soon as I grab the toy we’re playing with.
Sometimes loud noises or stressful situations can’t be anticipated (like above with the random neighbor-initiated fireworks) but, there are times when a Pet Parent knows something stressful is coming down the pike. Weather forecasts for thunderstorms or the scheduled fireworks display happening nearby are prime examples. In these cases, many folks in the pet industry recommend setting your pet in a place that is tucked away and likely more quiet, which is often a person’s bathroom. This location is a PRIME SPOT to use slow feeder mats that are also equipped with their own suction cups.
I normally keep one in the freezer, already filled with high value goodies so I can quickly grab it and head to the bathroom. Once there, I turn on a white noise app on my phone, shut the blinds, and stick the mat to the side of the shower for my dog to start licking away. Because it’s already frozen, it takes him a while to get everything licked up.
If you have a pet who doesn’t enjoy grooming activities such as baths or nail trims, these suction mats can be a life saver, too. Even if they don’t seem particularly stressed while bathing, providing an opportunity to include positive reinforcement with treats is always a good choice.
Enrichment toys and high value treats go hand-in-hand with other Lost Pet Prevention tools. Providing a safe outlet for your pet to problem solve, engage in different types of play, and engage in multiple forms of positive reinforcement can help to keep your pet happy, safe and HOME for the rest of their lives.