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How to teach a dog how a toy works?

820 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Bark
Honey lost her Kong, so I just bought her this new toy - it's not a Kong, but it's similar. It's a round ball (too large for her to get her jaws over) that has a hole in it for food. The hole is very small, just enough for one piece of kibble to fit through. Basically, the dog is supposed to roll the ball, and the food will come out of the hole.

I filled it halfway with kibble, and put it in front of her. She nosed it a bit, then sat back in the exact same fashion that she does when I'm doing Doggy Zen Step 1. (She probably thought that once she sat back, the "hand" would open and the food would be revealed.) I rolled it towards her, and a few pieces of kibble came out, which she ate.

Basically, I can roll the ball for her and food will come out, but she doesn't understand how to roll it herself. She did try rolling it a few times, and nudging it along the floor with her nose, but because the hole is so small, food didn't come out.

How should I "demonstrate" this toy for her? Should I just leave her with it and let her figure it out? Should I take steps to teach her how to use it? Or should I abandon the whole effort and just get her a Kong?
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With a toy like that, I would just sit back and physically do nothing other than roll it once or twice (which you already did). I'd tell her to "get it" or indicate the toy somehow, then ignore her. Praise when she approaches the toy, then when she touches the toy, etc. She'll probably bump it by accident the first time or two before she makes the connection.

If the Kibble doesn't fall out easily, you might try a smaller, higher value food first to increase her desire to get it, and make it more likely that pushing the toy results in food falling out.

Good luck :)
Thanks Shaina.

So far, I've decided to improvise by spreading plain yoghurt and mashed banana on parts of the outside, and freezing it, so that it will at least encourage her to engage the toy (and possibly accidentally get some kibble out while licking). Since otherwise when Spunky gets her frozen Kong tomorrow and Honey doesn't get one, she will give me that "YOU DON'T LOVE MEEEE" look.
That sounds like a great idea! I'll have to remember that one :)

BTW, your Beagles are two of the cutest I've ever seen.
Actually, it worked in the end... I put some kibble in the ball, and some frozen yoghurt on the outside, and as she licked it she learned that food would come out of the ball if it rolled (or at least, that by rolling the ball she could magically make food appear on the ground). She loves it now.
I'm so glad it worked in the end - well done Honey and well done to you as well for being determined to succeed!
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