Humans love a good puzzle or an interesting iPad app. And, as it turns out, so do dogs. The market for interactive dog toys and products is booming, with millions being spent every year on products that not only allow your dog to play and have fun, but force him to think and solve problems along the way. Everywhere you look, new dog products are showing up that put your dog’s intelligence to the test and help him exercise his instincts. There’s the automatic ball launcher, for example, which allows your dog to play fetch with himself. Or the Tidy Dog, which encourages dogs to put their toys in a toy box when they’re done playing. There’s even an iPad app that lets dogs paint with their paws. Tierra Bonaldi of the American Pet Products Association explained that interactive toys are the next big thing among pet owners, noting, “We have seen one company that was the pioneer, to countless companies now coming out with a full range, from super simple to very sophisticated. We definitely see growth.” Twenty-three percent of dog owners have been shown to purchase treat or food-filled toys, puzzles, and games.
Zanies Slide N' Seek Interactive Dog Puzzle Do these toys turn your dog into a genius? Maybe not, according to Dr. Marie Hopfensperger: “I hate to admit it but I don’t think so. What I do think is there are dogs with different skill sets and that there are some that are going to be really persistent at trying to figure out a puzzle toy and others that might not be motivated. Some dogs are a lot more persistent about trying to figure out problems and we would call those independent learners. There are other dogs who might try a couple times and if they can’t figure it out, they might look to their owners and say. ‘Hey, can you help me out here?’” In the meantime, dog owners are just happy to provide their pups with something to do. Figuring out a treat puzzle or working to discover hidden morsels of foods helps a dog burn mental and physical energy, which in turn helps him to remain calm in the home. Puzzles and toys are not a substitute for providing your dog with exercise, but they can keep him stimulated on days when the weather’s nasty or time doesn’t allow a run or park playtime.