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Can Toys make your Dog Smarter?

By April 7, 2013March 26th, 2015No Comments

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Nina Ottosson. If you don’t recognize her name, Ms. Ottosson is a Swedish-born, pet industry entrepreneur who created interactive puzzle games for dogs and cats.

After giving birth to two children within a year and a half of each other in 1989 and 1990, Ms. Ottosson regretted that she didn’t have the time to exercise and train her two Bouvier des Flanders as she did when they were competing in herding and tracking activities. To keep her large dogs stimulated, she created interactive toys and games that would serve as canine brainteasers.

Dogs Need Mental Stimulation

“Walking is a great physical activity, but dogs also need mental stimulation,” Ottosson says. “Dogs need to exercise all five of their appendages–their four legs and their brain.”

Ottosson explained that all dogs need to use their head at times to feel good, and that some dogs have a greater need than others to be mentally stimulated. Additionally, she warned that if dogs don’t get to channel their energy in an organized and positive way with activities the likes obedience and trick training, they’ll create their own often destructive fun, such as chewing and digging, which is not always appreciated by their owners.

Avert Potential Problems by Choosing the Right Pet for You

Although Ottosson cites that lack of mental stimulation and the absence of spending quality time together as contributing factors to pet behavioral problems, she opines that the difficulties begin well in advance of the pet ownership experience.

“Selecting an inappropriate breed or mixed-breed is where the trouble ultimately begins,” she says. “In most cases, potential pet owners don’t understand the particular physical and mental needs of their selection.”

Ottosson suggests not choosing a dog or cat based on popularity, but by conducting research and by considering the best personality fit, too.

“But, once you have your pet, make time to enjoy each other’s company,” she advises.

Stimulate Your Pet by Spending Quality Time and Playing with New Toys

One way of enjoying each other’s company is by using Nina’s toys. When Ms. Ottosson first introduced her toys to the U.S. market, they were made out of wood, heavy in weight and pricey. In the last few years, she has created lighter, plastic versions that are reasonably priced and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some toys have loose pieces so supervision is required, but most toys are to be played with by pet and pet parent. Best of all, her toys can be utilized all year around, inside and outside.

Additionally, many pet owners use her toys to feed their dog and/or cats. Bringing out natural instincts to hunt for their food with foraging toys can cause fast eaters to slow down. While cat owner Joyce Saunders uses Ottoson’s Cat Pyramid to feed and to engage her active Maine Coon throughout the day, her sister and dog owner Barbara Smith uses a variety of games to prevent her Labrador Retriever from gulping his food down in a few minutes.

“Kippy enjoys eating too much,” Smith explains. “By using the Ottosson puzzle toys, his dining experience is healthier and more enjoyable. I also rotate his puzzle toys regularly to provide him various daily challenges.”

Ottosson’s games have varying degrees of difficulty and it is best to start out with a Beginner Level or easier toy. The Spinner or The Magic are two toys that dogs can use their noses, mouth and paws to ultimately get their rewards. Rewards can be dry kibble and treats, veggies and/or wet or frozen pet food.

Check out Nina’s website regularly for tips and tricks, to buy more games and to find what games she has recently created for her pets and yours.

How do you and your dog or cat play together? What toys and games do you use to play with your pets? Share with us in a comment.

This article was taken from and reposted by NY Dog Nanny


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