top of page

This is related to the food toys blog, with a bit of a twist. This is focused on letting the dog use their nose to find the food.

Dog noses are remarkable things and most humans simply can’t appreciate how remarkable those noses are. One description that stuck with me: A dog can smell a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic sized pool. Impressive, eh?

Blanche and Jo playing a sniffing game

So one game that can be very useful in engaging the brain and get them busy is having them search for food or toys. You can hide food in small containers and hide them around the house. You can drop kibble around the yard and have them search for it. You can practice “stay and release” games where you place your dog in a sit-stay or down-stay, throw a bit of kibble down a hallway and then release the dog to go and get it.

The limits on this are up to you. My only caution is that you make sure to hide the food or toy in places where the dog can actually access it and that you remember that some dogs will try to dig it out if it’s stashed in a sofa or under a pillow. So don’t set yourself or your dog up for frustration by placing food or a toy some place that could get damaged as the dog strives to access it.

I do scent classes with my pug, Josephine. In scent class, she has to find the location of a specific scent and then tell me where it is. If she’s right, she gets a food reinforcement for this. The finding game is similar except we aren’t training an “alert”, we are just engaging their brains for fun.

Jo playing a scent game

I’ve included some photos of Jo’s scenting. As you can see, the scent is hidden in a variety of different things…..Christmas stockings, luggage, purses, etc.

Last word of caution….I do this with one dog at a time. Doing this with all three of mine might set them up for a fight over found treasures. Just be aware that resource guarding a valuable thing (like food) isn’t aberrant behaviour. If someone ran in and tried to steal something you valued, you might react, too. So be aware that you don’t want to create a situation where a fight might result.


Let’s talk about how to entertain our dogs while we are all dealing with the social distancing. I have a number of ideas that I think might be useful. And since most of us are dealing with pugs, this blog will focus on using food toys.

First things first…..portions. I take part of my dog’s meal and use that for this entertainment. I’ve used some of these methods to slow down a fast eater as well. BUT because I don’t want fat dogs, I make sure that whatever I put in the food toys is subtracted from their meals. This can be a bit harder to do if you are feeding soft foods. My crew are mostly raw fed so when I’m using food toys I either use single ingredients treats in the toys or I use kibble and subtract the approximate calories from what they would be getting in a meal. Make sense?

Food toys!

I have more food toys than any sane person should… I don’t often have to resort to DIY ones, but I will focus on DIY for this blog…but will include a photo of the purchased food toys I have just as an FYI.

Muffin Tin Food Toy

I use two different muffin tin sizes for this….and this you CAN do with wet food. This is often how my “eat so fast you choke” dogs. I put a little bit of food in each section of the tin and then put a ball on top of it so they have to figure out how to get the food by removing the ball. For dogs that are easily frustrated (or are going to get so distracted by the ball that they will forget to eat---yes, I’m looking at you, Mabel), I use my bigger muffin tin with smaller muffin spots…..still engaging without the distraction.

Toilet Paper Roll Toy This one requires a bit of care. If you have a dog that is likely to eat the toilet paper roll, then you may want to find something less fragile. And come on, what a cool way to use up those rolls from all the TP you hoarded! You don’t fool me! I take a plastic food container appropriate to the number of rolls I have, then put kibble or treats in each roll, in the food container and let the dog play with it. Some distraction issues can crop up here in that some dogs will be too focused on “Kill The Roll” to eat…so you will need to gauge what works best for your dog.

Homemade Snuffle Mats Snuffle mats are great for entertaining a dog. This really can ONLY be used with a dry food. I tend to avoid the mats made from fleece since I do have some concerns about them inhaling fabric fibres….but here’s one I made. I found a dirt cheap bathmat at Home Sense or Winners….I cut it in half, put Gorilla tape along the cut end to avoid unraveling. I then scatter kibble or treats in among the loops of the mat (this will be clear when you see the picture). This can keep a dog entertained for a LONG time….and may set you to giggling as well.

Next blog will be on exercise for your dog while you are social distancing.

bottom of page