Toy test: snufflestack

It’s taken me a while to post this but better later than never! Another snuffle toy we bought at the Animal Event was this “snufflestack” (my name for it, because it didn’t have one). Basically, it’s a pile of double layered fleece squares with a hole in the middle, stacked up in a fleece rope.

There are lots of ways to use this depending on your dog’s experience and drive – the recommendation is to allow your dog to familiarise themselves with it first by laying it flat on the floor and placing some treats in between.

However, I know my intense hunting drive dogs will just dive straight in to get the food so they don’t need that stage – in the video below you can see Nell starts straight from the tight stack.

This is the second time she is playing with it, and because the first time she pretty much pulled all the squares out of the rope, I decided to tie it quite tightly this time. I should note that Nell has a lot of experience with snuffle toys and is a very nose driven dog which means she quickly figures out toys like these – sometimes too quickly for my liking!

I also tried this with Grace and it was definitely more difficult for her, and thanks to her slightly gentler sniffing style I suspect this toy will have a longer life if she plays with it instead of Nell…

All in all, this is a nice little addition to our toy box!

Toy tip: Starmark Tetraflex as a mealtime toy

Today breakfast was served from Starmark Treat Dispensing Tetraflex – one of my absolute favourite mealtime puzzles.

It’s soft plastic so no noise on hard floors; the size and shape allow dogs to pick it up and most importantly, unlike many other treat balls, it has a little funnel inside the opening which reduces the likelihood of treats falling out which means the game lasts longer than with a simple treat ball.

It’s also relatively durable but I’d supervise heavy chewers as they will be able to shred it.

I’ve had this ball for years and it’s simply one of the best toys we have. Because the design of the ball means it is statistically difficult for the treats to fall out, this toy remains difficult however many times the dog plays with it – you could feed every meal from it.

The added bonus is that by playing with this ball, dogs also improve their proprioception (body awareness) because they learn to handle the ball with their paws and nose.

Toy tip: frozen Kong Quests for lowering arousal levels

I often give the dogs a chewing or licking activity after an active walk that has raised their arousal levels, like a beach trip is guaranteed to do.

Nell took 20min to finish her Kong Quest Star Pods and Grace 80mins her Kong Quest Foragers Flower because it contains more food and Grace is younger. These were filled with Ziwipeak canned food, apple chunks, frozen raspberries and some dabs of yoghurt or peanut butter – the fruit fills up space without adding calories and especially the apple chunks are tricky to fish out.

Highly recommended if your dog finishes a regular Kong very quickly!

These, and other toys suitable for freezing food are reviewed in this post.

Grace meets agility

Our agility class had only a few participants around last night so the teacher invited Grace to join too (adapted to her age of course).

This is Grace’s first time experience of agility equipment and she was totally unfazed by it – even the bendy tunnel that some dogs fear because you can’t see the exit. She also immediately understood sitting down, waiting and jumping over objects – all things the rest of us have been practising for 3 weeks now!

It wasn’t a huge surprise to me she loved it – the way she moves naturally in the forest and her intense handler focus have already suggested to me that she will also eventually enjoy agility.

I am definitely seeing the benefits of a thoughtful, responsible and focused breeding programme because she has only been with us for two months so what we see now is her innate ability and genetic makeup. We also have a comparison point of a similar breed with our working cocker Nell, who has bags of enthusiasm, similarly intense handler focus and a keenness to work, but mostly lacks the calmness and composure that Grace has which is a huge advantage in training.

I’m just in awe of this little lady and the grace with which she handles things thrown in her way – she is definitely living up to her name!