Canine Enrichment Cruel? Or Is It Crucial?

I write this today because it was recently brought to my attention that I make my dogs work too hard for their dinner. My parents think it seemed more cruel than appropriate that using a dog’s food for enrichment and feeding activities is cruel because it’s forcing them to do things against their will in order to eat. This blog will discuss various ways to stimulate your dog’s brain and mental. The majority of the the products will be canine enrichment through the use of food.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of enrichment is to make something better, more rewarding or more meaningful.  The purpose of canine enrichment, therefore, is to make a dog’s life better, more rewarding and meaningful.

In the twenty-first century, the majority of our dogs are kept as pets and companions to our families. The majority of our dogs don’t have a job working alongside us.  They can’t usually go to the office with us. The majority of families in the United States believe a dog only needs the emotional affection of the family members. Few families supply physical enrichment such as running, fetch, play dates with other dogs. How many of us have even thought about the mental stimulation needs of our dogs? I wish I remembered where I read the following comparison. They compared the life of a dog to the of a rug; day after day dogs lie around the house and occasionally trip us over.

Dogs are unique because they have learned to be completely dependent on us to provide for them.  Dogs are not rugs; they still have the most amazingly complex brains which like all brains, requires stimulation to make it work properly.  As owners, we more times than not just plonk the food down in a bowl. 30 seconds of something to do and then… nothing.

We have split this blog into four sections. Canine Feeding Devices, Treat Puzzles, Electric Remote Dispensing Devices, and finally the Do-It-Yourself Homemade Devices.

Canine Feeding Devices & Slow Feeders

The following examples of Canine Feeding Devices that make the dog work in some way for their food. These devices are also useful for our dogs that love to eat in “Super Speed Mode.”

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Kong Wobbler

An action-packed treat and food dispensing toy. It sits upright until pushed by a dog’s paw or nose and then periodically dispenses tasty rewards as it wobbles, spins and rolls.



When a dog pushes the RePlay, this next generation of treat-dispensing toy rolls away, then rolls back on its own. It is completely paw powered, and the irresistible return motion engages the savviest of pups, inviting them to push again, fueling more rollback fun. As it rolls, it dispenses treats to reward the fun while providing healthy mental and physical stimulation.


KONG Tiltz

As your dog tilts, spins and rocks the toy, treats are erratically dispensed for added engagement and enticing fun.

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Kong Gyro

With the center spinning orb and static outer ring, this dynamic toy encourages dogs to push, paw and roll the gyro, delightfully dispensing tasty treat rewards along the way. Ideal for Independent play, stuff with Snacks or kibble for added fun and extended playtime. Available in large and small sizes.

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Dog Pyramid by Nina Ottoson

There's no telling which way this fun toy will go, but there's always a tasty treat guaranteed. Fill the top hole with treats or kibble and watch your pup paw and nuzzle the Dog Pyramid for hours on end.

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Treat Tumble


Nina Ottosson

Nina Ottosson's Treat Tumble is a rolling, bouncing, treat filled ball your pup will love! Fill the ball with treats or kibble through one of the two holes and watch your furry friend bat, push, and roll the ball for tasty rewards.

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The OMEGA Ball

This challenging ball entertains big dogs for hours. Insert dry food or treats in the Tricky Treat Ball and as a pet plays, treats are dispensed.

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Busy Buddy

The Twist ‘n Treat is the first and only 2-piece adjustable rubber treat dispensing toy. The rate of treat dispersal can be adjusted to suit the interest and ability of the dog. Coming in four sizes ranging from Extra-Small to Large

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Pet Stages Challenge Ball

Made with 100% natural rubber that is great for occupying and challenging your dog. Made with 3 adjustable levels for increased difficulty. Great for chase and fetch, this ball is ideal for 2-in-1 play acting as a treat dispenser and ball all in one


Fun Feeder


IMPROVES DIGESTION - These dog bowls naturally improve digestion by allowing dogs to forage for their food through the fun patterns and mazes

PROPER PORTIONS- The Large Fun Feeder Slo-Bowl holds up to 4 cups of dry kibble, the Small holds 2 cups & the X-Small holds 3/4 cup.


JW Treat Tower

Treat Tower wobbles and out comes treats. The treats are easy to insert and the difficulty level can be adjusted as your dog learns how it works. Available in 2 sizes.


Orbee-Tuff Snoop

Snoop is translucent and squishy with a deep crevice that conceals the treasure. Filled with treats, dogs will pounce, nudge, nose, and nibble to release the hidden reward. This interactive puzzle toy offers hours of long-lasting, brain-stimulating entertainment for dogs of any size. For extra credit, insert any 2.5" toy ) for a double puzzle.

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Our Pets IQ Ball

You can put a portion of your dog’s meal in the ball, only allowing them to eat what is dispensed when the ball is rolled. It can be filled with treats or kibble and set to a desired difficulty level using the ball’s adjustable interior disc. This toy promotes active feeding, giving your dogs the exercise they need and then rewarding them for it!

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The Odin by


Make food even more interesting to your dog by giving them The Odin filled with treats. They'll work off their energy rolling and tossing it around and get rewarded for their effort.



The following are simple devices you can find on the market:

Lets face it, dogs are not free to do as they please. Lets face it, they are basically captive animals similar to those exotic animals in zoos.  Even in the modern zoos, they are expected to offer some sort of enrichment activities for their captive animals. These activities and enrichment programs go some way toward improving the animal’s lives and replacing activities they might do in the wild, such as foraging for food.  Its purpose is to maintain physical and mental health.  It helps prevent boredom and behavioral problems which often stem from a lack of mental stimulation.  This is of course is the very least we can do for animals kept in captivity.

Now don’t our pet dogs deserve the same?  Don’t they deserve to use their brain? Our dogs are part of our family. What would you think would happen if you left a three in the kitchen with a pack of Crayola Markers, a coloring book, and you walked away for three hours? Eventually that child will become bored and begin to use their artistic freelance skills on your kitchen table and walls. Why? because they were not given ample opportunity for stimulating enrichment.

Dogs, just like children and animals in zoos, need something interesting to do with their day.  Without any sort of mental stimulation, our dogs can often develop behavior problems, depression, stress and general poor welfare.  Doesn’t our pet dogs also deserve enrichment? Shouldn’t our dog’s life be as interesting, stimulating and worthwhile as possible?

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Smart Beginner Dog Puzzle Toy

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Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Puzzle Toy

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Nina Ottosson Puzzle Brick Dog Toy

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Nina Ottosson Puzzle Hide N’ Slide


Now a days, dogs are kept safely indoors and the lucky ones might get to go for a walk with their human each day.  But what do they do for the rest of their time?  How do they fill the activity void?  Where do they get their mental stimulation?  Look at the work ethic of some of the working breeds such as the Border Collie or Springer Spaniel.  Is it really likely that our pet dogs are so far removed from the working lines that they are happy to do absolutely nothing with their life.

We don’t live in a perfect world and most dogs don’t get the stimulation or exercise they need.  Approximately 45% of all dogs are thought to be overweight. Instead of feeding from a bowl, use that food to get their mind working.

Some very simple things can make a real difference. Weigh out the daily food (so you are not under or over-feeding) and….

  • You can hide around the house and play find

  • You can wrap it in a towel

  • You can use it for training

  • You can take it on your walk

  • You can scatter it across the floor

  • You can make a food trail, stuff it in a Kong® and let them eat when you eat

  • You can put it in your empty food boxes and let the dog rip it open.

  • You can place your cushions on the floor with a piece of food under each one

  • You can use a stack of plastic cups with food between each cup

  • You can save the empty toilet rolls and hide food inside.

Allow them to stop and sniff and be interested in things; it doesn’t have too be difficult or immensely time-consuming, let them chill-out when they want to but make life interesting and make it worthwhile.

The vast majority of animals spend a huge proportion of their time trying to acquire enough food; you could say, it’s what they live for.  No species in the history of the world has ever needed food placed in front of them in a bowl. Dogs are no different.

Canine Enrichment does more than just alleviate boredom. Animal Shelters have reported that enrichment use can make actually dogs more adoptable. It can also help dogs live a longer, happier life, and even improve your bond. Enrichment doesn’t take a lot of time or money. Many of these tips are low maintenance and take just a few minutes, but will go a long way with your dogs.


Kongs are so useful that we had to make a section just for this product. Fill your Kong with anything, and stick it in the freezer. You got yourself a device to occupy your dog’s time. The photos below are courtesy of AS.




Treat & Train

The Treat & Train remotely dispenses kibble, dry dog food, or treats of uniform small sizes (round tends to work best). Most dogs will readily learn to earn their meals and it’s great for them! It is an incredibly useful positive dog training aid. With the Treat & Train you will be able to:

Reward your dog’s good behavior by remote control even while you are out of sight. Up to 100 ft away, and even through walls!. It has settings to automatically feed a treat every few seconds or minutes.

Train obedience commands such as "down", "stay", "sit" and "come". Train your dog to be calm when guests arrive and to stop jumping up on or barking at guests. Crate train your dog or teach your dog to be calm when alone. The Treat N Train is great for preventing and working with mild separation anxiety. Train your dog to lay down politely instead of begging at the table. Train your dog to calmly accept grooming such as nail trimming and brushing. Prevent your dog's boredom while he recovers from an injury or surgery and cannot exercise much.

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Treat N’ Praise

Very similar to the Treat & Train, this device is a little bit less expensive that the first one. The Treat N’ Praise can only be used to reinforce your pet's good behavior from up to 25 feet away. Use for activities such as stay, to stop barking and other training activities as stated above. It also comes with a handheld remote that activates treat dispenser. Unlike the Treat & Train, this device can be mounted to the wall or inside of a crate. It works with dry kibble or treats up to 1/2 inch in size (slightly smaller than a dime).


PetTutor by Smart Animal Training

PetTutor is the cream of the crop device on the market today. It comes with all the bells and whistles if you so desire. Crate Adapter, Wall Adapter, Bowl Adapter, Bluetooth Remote capabilities of up to 500 feet away. Just insert two D-Batteries and take it on the road with you. Plug it into the wall and use it in your house. This device even has an app that is so simple to use even a caveman can do it.

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ARF Pet Dog Puzzle Dispenser

Designed for memory improvement and exercise, the versatile activity trainer encourages your pet to run and play by rewarding with treats: Each time your dog presses the remote release button, an exciting sound plays, and treats dispense into the feeding tray. Increase the difficulty level by placing the remote release unit in another room. Give your dog a healthy dose of daily exercise and a doggone good time with the activity trainer from Arf Pets.

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All For Paws Interactives

EVER PLAY A SLOT MACHINE??? This is a slot machine for dogs with a 100% chance of winning every time.

A Smart way to teach your dog new tricks.Place the wireless button a few feet from the lucky treat, when its light turns on ask your dog to push on it. when he does he will be rewarded with treats that comes out of the lucky treat base. Your dog will always be the winner.


CleverPet Hub

Long Story, Short… A video game for dogs.

This device truly exercises your dog’s mind and body. CleverPet has 12 levels or “challenges” that advance automatically depending on your dog’s progress. The levels start off easy, but they remain just difficult enough to keep your dog busy and out of trouble for hours each day.

So, is canine enrichment cruel? or is it crucial?

Each and every product shown and discussed on this page has been tried and tested by one of my four legged friends. A special thanks to you for continually encouraging me and supporting me over the past year or so. Your words and actions will never be forgotten. BYE FELICIA!!

Disclosure: I am not an English major so grammar is not my best attribute. Please email me if you find any grammatical errors. Please email me if you have any comments, concerns, or questions. I can be reached at

Sam Valenza

Check out some of our other Blogs!

Confidence Building with your dogs

Have a dog that is overly frighten or fearful?

A year ago I met Lola, a scared frightened Beagle mix.  I remember seeing her for the first during a nosework practice. Any noise, and movement from anyone would distract her and pull her off odor. As she progressed through the sport of K9 Nose Work I gradually saw her confidence build.  I saw her handler begin to trust her dog more, which then built more confidence in Lola. 

Lola’s handler wanted nothing more than get her dog working and stimulate her mentally. So along came the idea about using a slowfeeder. A slow feeding device is any device that prohibits the dog from inhaling the food. Forces them to work and slows them down. 

Side Note: Eating too fast can cause larger dogs to become more suseptible to Bloat.

I remember introducing Lola to a her first slow feeder. It was an Outward Hound Slow Feeder. From here Lola’s handler was hooked on the aspect of getting Lola to think and work for her food. Her handler took it to the next level. A level I never saw coming. Her handler would go to TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Home Goods on a weekly basis and began searching and collecting any ball, toy, or device that slowed her eating down.


Lola’s handler was thinking outside the box, being a Lateral Thinker. What we discovered was never thinkable. Lola’s confidence again hit another high. She was continuing to build all this confidence. She was now able to go shopping with mom to all these pet-friendly department stores. The more socialization, the more confident Lola became.

In October 2018, Lola’s handler and I spent the weekend away together competing together in the sport of Nosework. Lola hit another high achieving her Nose Work 1 Title and being honored with the Harry Award for the best rescue dog to achieve the title at that specific Trial.


In December 2018,  I mentioned to the handler about a K9 fit to work class where the dogs learn to balance and use muscles they never realized were there. A K9 fitness class uses balance beams and is designed like the below picture.

Heavenly Hounds Facility in Trenton, NJ

Heavenly Hounds Facility in Trenton, NJ

The handler brought her bigger dog for fear Lola was not confident enough yet to participate in class. The class started in  January, and she immediately fell in love with the aspect of working your dog on this agility equipment. The handler took this game and begin applying it now to Lola. She just wanted to continue to build Lola’s confidence.  Lola’s mom knew that she could get the same equipment cheap.


From left to right. Lola’s mom was able to the buy the Series 8 Step-Up Riser from Five Below. Lola has her paws on a Fit Paws FitBone.  Lola is seen eating out of an Outward Hound Slow Feeder . On Amazon they go for as high as $12.99. If you go to Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Marshall’s you can find them for as low as $3.99. The Wobble Board can be found on Amazon for as high as  $134.00. Lola’s handler went to Marshall’s and found one for $9.99.

Lola started out on the wobble board like pictured below. 


From there Lola began working on the FitBone made by Fit Paws. Lola got 15-20 minutes every other day working on her stabilizing muscles. The equipment can be bought cheap. Be sure to check out your local department stores for discounted items 

Lola working on her hind leg stabilizing muscles.  

Lola working on her hind leg stabilizing muscles.  

Today Lola continues to work hard everyday at playing games while working on building confidence. She is almost a complete 180° dog that I met a little less than a year ago. She is no longer that shy dog. She is confident and getting better each and every day. Credit Lola’s Handler for the amount of time and consistency put into her training for getting her to be the way she is today!!!

Disclosure: I am not an English major so grammar is not my best attribute. Please email me if you find any grammatical errors. Please email me if you have any comments, concerns, or questions. I can be reached at

Sam Valenza


Pet Friendly Department Stores


I encourage everyone to check out 🐾Ollie on Instagram. Ollie was just a puppy when he began his socialization at TJ MAXX. Department stores everywhere are becoming more and more pet friendly. Even though Ollie was in the cart, he was still being exposed to all the different smells, sounds, strangers, and scary novice objects.

Socialization is such an underestimated tool these days. 

Did you know stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, & Homes Good’s are all pet friendly stores. These three stores all have a designated pet area that offer toys and treats at discounted rates. Some of my best dog toys were bought at Home Goods. Don’t wait any longer, start proofing your dog’s behavior and using the skills you learned during training at department stores today.

Listed below are Department/Chain store across the country that permit pets or leave it up to each store to decide whether to allow them. If your dog enjoys meeting new people then grab your MAK9 Dog Leash, some treats, and head out on a shopping adventure. Please make sure your pet is not scared of other people. It is okay for the dog to not be comfortable in public, but over their threshold of fear is not helpful.

Ollie is one of our first ambassadors. If you Want to be a #MAK9er and be featured like Ollie, click here. Visit us at MAK9.COM to order your leashes.