Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction can still have enriching lives! The trick is to choose activities that do not include difficult problem solving or complex motor skills. For example, some food toys, especially those designed for puppies, are perfect. There is evidence that enrichment can help delay the progress of dog dementia.
My dogs have tested and enjoyed all of the following toys. They are all simple toys based on the premise that most dogs will naturally sniff and nudge something that smells like food. The toys are designed to let the food fall out very easily. None of them requires that you buy a special kind of food.
But even toys this simple can have a learning curve. You can help your dog be successful with toys. Check out my movies: Old Dogs Can Learn to Enjoy Food Toys and Kongs for Beginners, (also embedded at the bottom of this page). They demo how to teach dogs to play with food toys.
The Twist N Treat can be adjusted to be super-easy to get food out of. Kibble or small cut up treats work well with this toy.
The Barnacle will eject food from inside, and also the bone designs on the outside can also be filled with peanut butter or spray cheese.
The Busy Buddy Chuckle makes a weird noise and also ejects treats! It can be adjusted a bit to make it easier or more difficult.
Another toy that works like this: you put the food in, the dog knocks the toy around and gets the food out. The Atomic Treat Balls are tough but the rubber is pleasant to the touch.
This is a very versatile toy, especially if you buy both sizes. Each on its own is easy, but you can connect them to raise the difficulty.
The Tux is very flexible. You can fill the opening with kibble or other treats in small pieces. You can wedge a larger treat in there. Or you can even fill it with something moist and freeze!
The Buster Food Cube is a little more difficult than the above toys, but if your dog has mastered a couple of those, the Buster is worth a try. Caution: it is noisy on hard floors.
One of my dogs eats most of her meals out of the Pyramid. She is a power chewer but couldn’t find a way to destroy this one. The Pyramid also is best for dogs with a little food toy experience.
If your dog has experience with food toys and finds the above very simple, give these puzzles a try:
Teaching Your Dog How to Get Food Out of a Food Toy
This movie uses Kongs, but the principles can be applied to any type of simple hollow food toy, such as the West Paw toys above.