Welcome to Day 88 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
At a glance:
- puzzles that require the dog to move an item to reveal hidden food
- today, we are going to suspend them too to add an extra dimension, literally
- food and cognitive based enrichment
- adjusting the difficulty is easy so these are very adaptable puzzles
- get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best teasers for their pets.
Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
- prepping teasers will take 5-10 minutes and you can use lots of the bits and pieces we use in other puzzles
What do you need?
- a base for each teaser puzzle is anything that has slots or hollows such as bowls, eggboxes, muffin pans, cup holders, plastic inserts from biscuits/chocolates
- blockers are items to fill each gap such as paper cups, toilet roll tubes, paper, balls & toys
- a range of food rewards
- a fabric or paper shopping bag
- cord, dog lead or similar
- to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
- to do more feeding related behaviour than eating
- to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of the boxes
- to help the dog develop skills in thinking through puzzles
While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.
Working out how to manipulate the teasers to get to the food and developing dexterous skills are examples of cognitive challenge.
Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value, and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.
Teasers encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the puzzle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.
By offering a variety of teasers, we can help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!
What goals can you add to this list for your pets?
How can we achieve these goals?
- give your pet plenty of space for working on teasers and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
- the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
- if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours
What adjustments will you make for your pets?
Applications of Suspended Teasers:
Teasers, just like many of our homemade ‘rubbish’ puzzles, can keep dogs occupied as they offer different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively. They are truly adaptable and again you are only limited by your imagination!
Suspended puzzles are a great to expand your puzzling-arsenal and carefully increasing the challenge will really stretch the dog’s puzzling abilities.
Our job is to adjust the puzzle difficulty so that our dog uses a range of behaviour and gets to the goal pretty quickly.
This is the true way to improve the dog’s confidence in puzzling (and in life) and help them expand their behavioural repertoire.
Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in teasers, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Many eggboxes and other cardboard bases like cup holders, are made of pulp, which makes for a crumbly cardboard. This likely feels quite novel to many dogs and they may investigate this texture with their mouths; it also makes it very easy to eat.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, teasers may not work for you and at the very least, careful supervision will be required. Using a metal muffin pan might be a better option!
If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the puzzle.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.
Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fasteners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!
The level of difficulty with Teasers is set in how well the blocker fits into the base. If the ball, cup or tube fits snugly, it will be more difficult for the dog to get to the food.
- choose a base such as a box, basket, muffin pan, eggbox, plastic insert, cup holder, small bowls
- scatter food rewards so that every gap is filled and there is a good covering over the base
- add blockers on top, over the food
- larger blockers
- shallow bases
- loosely fitting
- variety of blocker sizes
- variety of base depth
- more snugly fitting
Add paper treat parcels to each space, as a blocker, to add further challenge and manipulation.
- smaller blockers
- deeper bases
- snugly fitting
Add toilet roll treat parcels to fill each gap to increase the challenge and manipulation required.
Suspending puzzles increases challenge suddenly and drastically. It’s important to work incrementally to help your dog develop skills (behaviours) to solve these puzzles.
Increase or decrease difficulty by lowering and loosening the line, and by working against a wall or surface or have the puzzles freestanding.
To solve a suspended teaser puzzle, it will need to be suspended at a height that your dog can get their head into the bag to move the blockers and reveal the food.
If you don’t have a muffin pan, eggbox or cupholder, you can use bowls with food and blockers:
And for a real suspended challenge, place food rewards under each upturned bowl, suspended in a bag:
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!