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How to keep a smart dog occupied

Ajay, being a pretty smart dog, is always difficult to keep occupied and mentally challenged. He doesn't really have a "job" like herding sheep or retrieving ducks, so giving him a task that he has to learn and then accomplish is important.

One of the biggest successes there has been a dog toy called a Buster Cube. It's kind of a three-dimensional maze inside a small plastic cube, with an exit hole on one side. You put treats inside it, close it up, and then the dog's job is to roll it around on the floor to move the treats around until they pop out of the hole. There's even a difficulty setting to make it deliver treats more or less often.

The inconsistent reward schedule does wonders to keep his attention; from watching him I'm not sure if he's actually learning anything about HOW to SPECIFICALLY roll the cube around to maximize treat delivery (even my human brain isn't sure there is such a pattern anyway), but he sure did learn quickly to keep it on a rug, how to drag it back onto the rug when he pushes it off, and how to get it out of corners. And, of course, that rolling it around delivers treats and how to find them when it does.

He totally recognizes it when we get it out:

And it's kind of fun to watch him work at it. Distracting, though... we have to take it away from him if we want to have a conversation or watch TV.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Comment )
struggler
Jul. 1st, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
He's so cute!

I mean... ahem.... for a dog.

:)
signsoflife
Jul. 1st, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
Our vet (not the awesome one) recommended one of those for Oscar. We can't do it in our current apartment without rugs, but maybe we'll try when we move to Indiana.
jphekman
Jul. 1st, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
I tried this for Kai. I found a round ball which worked on smooth surfaces. I couldn't get Kai to use it; he would look at it mournfully and then look at me. My girl cat figured it out right away, but she didn't really want the food; she would mess with it and food would come out and then my dog would eat the food. It turned into a whole thing and I gave up on it. Bet it would work great for Oscar, though, and there are round balls with little holes in them that work fine on floors.
( 3 comments — Comment )

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