Do Dogs Like to Work for Their Meal?

When we got the verdict on Cookie's issues with her back legs and she was ordered strict rest, my heart was breaking for her.

Cookie is a very active dog and she loves being active.

She loves running and hunting her little critters. She loves playing with JD and going for hikes. Now all that was suddenly taken away from her. How was she going to get through that?

First thing I immediately pointed out to the orthopedic specialist was that she won't be able to do this without some chemical help. Which is what we started her on.

She still needed to be doing SOMETHING.

We of course play all sorts of training and shaping games but I felt we need to find more ways of entertaining her.

I was always both intrigued and skeptical about the puzzle toys for dogs.

At first sight these things look awesome. Working the dog's brain, providing mental challenge. But how long would this last? How much mental challenge would they be once the dog figures out how it works?

Some of these things are pretty expensive and I didn't feel like spending all that money on something that might last a few days at best.

We experimented with some DIY games, such as a muffin tin and tennis balls.

Cookie did indeed figure out how it works very quickly and after than was more interested in the balls than working with the puzzle.

When she was ordered strict rest, though, I decided to revisit the idea.

Perhaps not as much because I had high hopes for it to do something amazing but because I needed to feel I was trying to do something nice for her.

On the way from the orthopedic consultation, hubby took me to one of the pet stores and I went looking for puzzle games.

They had three of those, fortunately quite cheap. They did look a bit too simple in principle but I was going to try anyway. Unfortunately, the one that looked most intriguing was a "factory lemon". I'm glad I found out before I brought it home. I asked the girl at the store if we could take it out of the box so I could check it out and see what it does. Turned out that the part that was supposed to turn was not doing that very well, getting stuck and making agonizing noise when forced.

I then had the other two opened and checked them out.

They worked the way they should. Were they going to provide any worthy entertainment for Cookie? That remained to be seen. For about $25 each I got both of them.

We opened them up as soon as we got home and Cookie got to try them.

As I suspected, she figured out how they work right on the spot. Which meant that each fill lasted just seconds. But when refilled, she was happy to work the treats out of it again and again.

Of course, can have her play with it too long and have to make sure the treats I use are tiny. But she is having fun with it.

A month after we got those games, she still has fun using them.

I know that I have to refill them very frequently so I just have a bag of treats right there with me. She gets the treats out and I refill. And so we go on that way a few times with each of the toys.

She does look forward to this and has fun working it.

After the first half minute when she had to figure out how they work it doesn't involve much of problem solving any more. But it still involves manipulating the objects in order to get the reward. There are couple pieces which she needs to take into her mouth "just so" to be able to get them out because they don't stick out enough, whether that's on purpose or not. But she does find the only one direction at which to grab them in order to be able to get them out.

If she wasn't raw-fed, I'd serve all her meals in these.

For dogs who eat their food too fast, these toys would be one way of slowing them down. Of course, supervision is required but that makes no never mind to me.

Cookie likes the work.

Cookie is quite eager to get these to play with. We concluded that it gives her something to do and she likes having to work for the food.

In the wild, a dog would have to work for every bit of food they get. Find it, catch it ... most of their days would have been spent working for food. Living with us, food is served in a bowl and often no work is needed in order to get it.

As tempting as that might seem, what is a dog to do with their day?

Do dogs feel satisfaction when the accomplish something? 

I believe they do. And I do believe that dogs do need to have jobs or work for their meal. I do believe it makes them happier.

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  1. I'd say that yes - Laika loves working for her food. I've bought a couple of those puzzle toys and she loves em, not quite as much as her Kong Wobbler but I love being able to switch them out.

    It's such an odd concept considering their heritage that our dogs get all their meals for free. Now I'm not suggesting any harsh labor by any means, but puzzles are great for getting into that working for food mentality.

    1. In the wild, they'd spend much of their time working for food. Living with us, they have nothing to do much of the time, which isn't good for them at all. I think dogs love having jobs and doing things. Yes, of course, I don't mean hard labor though I don't think they'd mind that either.


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