Here at Amity Pet Care, our two resident dogs are both getting on a bit, particularly 17 year old Peach, and Bear is completely blind (see our previous blog posts to get to know the boys!), so finding appropriate things to keep them mentally stimulated can be a bit of a challenge. They both still enjoy getting out for walks, but are certainly not as active as they were in their prime, so I find it's beneficial to replace some of that physical stimulation with more mental stimulation, as working their brains can tire them even more than exercise, in many cases! I find that the boys' sense of smell is still pretty good, and both are fairly food motivated, so although Peach's eye sight is no longer great, and Bear's of course completely blind, food enrichment toys and bowls are often a winner.
We've been lucky enough to have been gifted some brilliant and innovative puzzle toys for dogs, by the wonderful people at K9 Connectables, to test out. One of the things I really love about these toys, is that you can customise the toy you give your dog, and vary the difficulty, by either giving them a single piece, or combining 2 or more together, to make it more of a challenge. You can fill the toys with tasty treats, such as dog-friendly peanut butter, or add some of their regular food-particularly useful when dogs like out own Bear are on a strict medical diet, but you want to make feeding times more interesting for them.
One of the other great things about these products is you can wash them in the dishwasher, which is super convenient!
So, on to the testing! As Bear is on a strict diet, we used the K9 Connectables with some of his special dietary food. Although I do consider Bear's blindness to be a disability, he is incredibly bright and enjoys activities. He's always been super cognitive, but now has the slight limitation, so relies heavily on his nose, and also touch. He found the K9 Connectables to be high engaging, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy flipping it around with his paws, sniffing out where the tasty bits were, and chewing to get them out. In the summer, I'd probably fill either 'The Original' component, the round end, or 'The Dentist' section, the more elongated end with ridges to promote dental hygiene, with some Bear-appropriate food, and pop in the freezer, so he could have a long-lasting, cooling treat. For this session, I combined all three sections of the starter pack, including the long 'Tech Bone', as he's always been great at working out puzzles, and the verdict is definitely positive!
Peach was also very motivated by finding tasty bits of food and treats, and moved the toy around with his paws and nose. Peach is a much older boy, at around 17 years old, so enrichment has to be much more tailored to him. Saying that, his nose is still incredible, and it took him no time to show interest! Bear tried out the small size, and Peach had the medium as it's got slightly larger holes, making it a little more achievable for him. To ensure the boys felt stable whilst using the toys, I stationed them on a yoga mat, to give them some extra grip, but any mat or runner should do.
We truly believe that enrichment is so important for all life stages, and a good way to integrate it into our dog's routines, is during meal times, so we try to use a different enrichment toy or bowl for each of their meals, so the K9 Connectables will definitely be a welcomed addition to our enrichment collection, especially as it's so versatile.