If you’re anything like me and you love your dog so much that it’s possibly unhealthy and quite likely bordering on obsession, you're sure to understand what it's like to feel that guilt whenever you leave him home alone for any length of time. Every day when you head out to work, or even worse – to go out for the evening, that well-rehearsed look on his face (it’s 8 pm – you’re going out?! There must be some mistake?!) destroys you every time.
Also if you’re anything like me, the cost of doggie treats and toys that you buy to alleviate said guilt adds up significantly every month. Especially if you do your best to always buy quality products and end up spending an absolute fortune on grain-free, rawhide-free health food (kale doggie cookies, I mean really?!). So for all of you dog lovers out there, here is a cheap, fun and easy hack to entertain your beloved fur-baby, save money on treats and toys, and help save the environment too.
So as we know, all dogs love to tear up, shred, rip, and generally destroy stuff. This can be made a million times more fun if there is a treat at the end of it. The simple idea here is to hide a treat inside of a container/box/bottle/tube/carton/anything that they have to break their way into, to get to the yummy prize. Since they have to figure out how to get inside to the treat, it's been transformed into a fun puppy puzzle and as is a great way for them to keep their minds sharp, especially for older dogs for whom it is important to keep that mental agility moving. Personally, I use these for when I'm leaving my pup alone to keep him occupied and entertained, and also as a boredom killer – for example when he is nagging me to take him out for walkies but there is a torrential rainstorm outside that there's no way I'm going out into.
Depending on the size and breed of your dog, you can make the puppy puzzle either tougher, more complicated, smaller, simpler, or more suitable for delicate teeth or mouths. For example, I have a 70-pound pit bull mix and we have been playing with junk toys for over two years, so if I was to simply place a treat inside a cereal box and throw it down for him, he would have already inhaled the treat way before I walked out the door. So for bigger breeds, or for smarter dogs who figure things out quickly, you can use tape to seal the box or use Russian doll-style layering, a toothpaste box inside of a pringles tube, an egg carton inside a cereal box – get creative! Plastic containers are ideal and last a little longer than cardboard boxes or cartons – drop a chew stick (covered in peanut butter? Whaaat??!) inside an old gallon bottle of juice and screw the lid back on tightly. You can use some kitchen scissors to make an incision in the middle so they can get to it more easily, and then eventually they will figure out how to unscrew the lid. Be careful though if you do cut plastic as it can be sharp. We don't want vets bills here. My favorites are the plastic tubs you get with butter or ice cream as they come with their own lids and as such are perfect hidey place for that chew or tidbit. The round containers often sold with hummus or other dips are great for smaller dogs.
Demonstrate to your pup what you are doing the first time so he knows what's going on – show him the treat you are putting inside the container and then get him interested by shaking it around so he knows it's a game. Soon he will be looking forward to you leaving him alone so that he can get stuck in his puzzle and use those brain cells! Have fun recycling! Your dog, your purse, and the planet will thank you. But mostly your dog though.