For those of you who don’t know, Australian Cattle Dogs (also known as Blue Heelers and Queensland Heelers) are extremely high energy and extremely smart. Tasha who is a Cattle Dog/Rat Terrier mix is no exception. So what have we done to keep her busy? We are constantly introducing new puzzle toys for her to work with. We have bought a handful at this point and most are used to make her work for her food (cattle dogs and most dogs in general need to feel like they have worked for their food). For Tasha, we have found three interactive food toys to keep her busy as well as a few create your own puzzles. We are afraid to try some of the wood toys that they make because we are afraid of her chewing on them.
Because of Tasha’s allergies, she is now on a food called Canine Caviar Lamb and Pearl Millet formula. She seems to love this food and was wagging her tail and getting really excited to eat the first few times she was fed, which she didn’t do on any other food (and she’s tried a few considering the pulling out her hair issue). The issue with the food though is that each piece of kibble is about a third of the size of a normal piece of kibble. This can make some of the food toys difficult.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies that make or sell these toys nor did I receive anything from the companies in order to review them.
Our favorite food dispensing puzzle toy is the Smarter Toys IQ Treat Ball, which we found on Amazon for less than $10. We were very excited to get this one before bringing Tasha home, because many herding dogs in the reviews seemed to love this toy. Luckily for us, this one has a challenge adjustment, which means that it is still quite difficult even with the tiny kibble. The pieces do come apart which makes filling the ball and cleaning it quite easy. What we learned though…make sure it is closed tight, there is this plastic piece in the middle that wasn’t made to withstand chewing. She only got a few chomps though before we caught her so the middle piece which adds the challenge is still useable. When we started her on this toy, we didn’t include the insert so that she could get more out faster during the learning process. Actually, we discovered that this toy is also loved by PawPaw (my dad) last weekend when we were staying at my parents’ house. He had a “ball” (sorry pun intended) watching her herd the ball up and down the hallway and would get excited showing her when she got the treats out or playing soccer fetch with it. He would kick it down the hallway, spilling out all sorts of kibble and then she would push it back to him.
We also got a buster cube for Tasha recently. I have to say, I’m not very impressed. We got this toy because it was supposedly a really challenging one. Well even the first time we gave it to her on the hardest setting she was done in 10 minutes. Maybe if she hadn’t already been taught to roll the thing, based on the IQ ball, it might be a better toy for her. It is a pain to fill too. You have to dump the food into a hole the size of a quarter and then shake it for about 45 seconds to get the food to settle into the puzzle. We have to repeat this process about three times to fill it with the half a cup of food Tasha gets at each meal time. As she is playing with it, the food will dump in large quantities at a time. It does work to mix things up a bit for her at meal times, though, and she will continue to roll it around after the food is gone because it is harder to roll than the IQ ball.
The third food puzzle toy we have currently is the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug. It worked better when we had larger kibble for her, but it is basically a jug with a rope pull in it. We mainly like it because it is a different mechanism than the other two toys. She has to tip the jug over and then push the rope around to get the food out. When we had normal size kibble, the first time took her an hour and a half to eat her meal. The longest it has ever taken her. To add difficulty as she has gotten better it, we have put a golf ball inside to add more things she has to get the kibble around. Some people have also suggested using a tennis ball to help block the entrance.
I have also done things with Tasha’a food like having her wait and hiding the food in the folds of her blankets, which she seems to enjoy. I have also hidden pieces around the house, but I make sure I remember all the places I hid the food so I can make sure she got them all.
We also got a puzzle toy for her when we first got her. This one does not involve food and was probably the best toy we ever got her. It’s called the Kyjen Cagey Cube. This toy is seriously worth every penny. We have increased the difficulty on this toy by putting the tennis ball in there (or a stuffed kong) and adding her $1 rope toys to increase the difficulty. She will seriously rip the innards apart and bring the pieces to us to put back together over and over again. If she gets a little overexcited while playing or having been cooped up to long, she goes over and bites this to get some frustration out. We have a strong chewer and puts some pent up chewing energy into this toy and it doesn’t show any signs of wear, even after 3 months.
Does anyone have any suggestions for other puzzle toys to get her this tired?