2017-12-08 / Pets

The 2017 trainer’s Christmas wish list for your dog

By Phyllis Beasley, CP DT-KA Owner/Lead Trainer, Praise Dog! Training www.praiseyour dogtraining.com


Snuffle mats provide mental enrichment and can slow down your dog’s fast eating. Snuffle mats provide mental enrichment and can slow down your dog’s fast eating. I bet your Christmas gift list includes presents for your pooch, just like my list does. Two years ago my December article was about A Trainer’s Christmas Wish List for Your Dog. The toys I wrote about were geared to providing mental enrichment and fun challenges for your dog.

This year, toys providing mental enrichment are still at the top of my list, but, in addition to those I am adding my favorite chew toys and exercise toys. These additions probably came to mind because I am personally discovering the value of chew toys and exercise toys since the very recent addition of an energetic and mouthy working dog puppy.

Still at Number One at the top of my list is the classic Kong ™ . Many trainers call these versatile toys the Cadillac of dog toys. The classic Kong™ toy comes in sizes based on a dog’s weight and in various strengths for puppies, classic adult, and heavy-duty chewers.


The Nylabone puppy teething ring was baby Louie’s favorite chew toy. The Nylabone puppy teething ring was baby Louie’s favorite chew toy. The Kong™ bounces in fun directions, but its greatest value to dogs is when it is stuffed with goodies such as peanut butter, kibble, spray cheese, canned dog food, or any combination of tasty treats your dog likes.

You can feed your dog his meals in the Kong ™ and work his brain while he is getting his nutrition. Kong Company also makes a Kong™ Wobbler that provides another enriching way for your dog to eat. Your dog must learn to knock the Wobbler around so his kibble falls out.

A stuffed ( and frozen to make it last longer) Kong™ given to your dog only when he is in his crate, helps him learn to relax in his crate. Need some uninterrupted visiting with relatives during the holidays? Stuff a Kong™ and let your dog settle in his crate while you have some quiet visiting or working time.


Quincy has learned that Kongs are filled with yummy stuff. Quincy has learned that Kongs are filled with yummy stuff. Many trainers believe you should never feed your dog in a bowl. Mental enrichment and mental exercise are provided when your dog is fed from any toy that allows you to stuff it with food or serves as a food puzzle.

A new favorite enrichment toy is the snuffle mat. You can make your own or buy one. The snuffle mat is a mat woven with strips of cloth. Mix your dog’s kibble up in the strips of cloth, and he will use his nose to “snuffle” through the cloth to find the kibble. It is my puppy’s favorite way to eat his meals.

There are many other types and brands of toys that can be stuffed with food. One company that produces many types of safe and enriching toys is Nylabone. In addition to their food-stuffed toys, I have discovered several chew toys that are particularly appealing to dogs. The bumpy Nylabone Dura Chew Dinosaur seems to be particularly appealing to teething puppies or adult dogs who love to chew.

The Nylabone Puppy Starter Kits should be in every puppy’s Christmas stocking. The Nylabone “bones” come in a variety of flavors and types, including edible and flavored. The Nylabone™ Puppy Chew Teething Key Ring seems to be especially appealing to puppies, perhaps because the semi- soft plastic rings that dangle around and tempt them to chew.

How about a toy that provides great exercise for small areas and can help teach impulse control? Try a flirt pole. A flirt pole is a pole with a string and a toy tied to the end of a string, similar to a fishing pole and similar to cat toys. Your dog will have a blast chasing the toy attached at the end, he can’t run off with the toy and you do not have to exert much energy to get a tired dog. You can make your own or purchase one online.

I love flirt poles as a way to exercise my high-energy Shelties, and it is a great way to play with mouthy dogs without their teeth being near your hands. But there are a few guidelines you should follow. Before you begin using the pole, check with your vet to ensure that your dog is in proper physical condition for this intense activity.

Then start him off with short play sessions and build up his stamina slowly. Chances are your dog won’t want to stop playing this game, so you will have to tell him he has had enough. If your dog has an old leg or knee injury or undesirable chasing habits, this may not be the right toy for your dog.

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