Category Archives: Dog Enrichment

Beat the Heat: Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Summer Months

As the summer heat rolls in, it’s crucial to prioritize the well-being of our furry friends. Dogs are highly susceptible to overheating and heat-related illnesses, which is why it’s essential to know how to keep them cool during the scorching summer months. In this blog post, we will share valuable tips and refreshing treat recipes to ensure your beloved canine companion stays comfortable, happy, and safe. Let’s dive in and discover the best practices for keeping your dog cool in summer.

We live near Toronto, Ontario, Canada where summer temperatures range anywhere between 20°C to 35°C (68°F to 95°F).  It’s a humid place.  When it’s 35°C , it can often feel like 41°C (105°F).  Sienna, who is a black lab mix, adores the heat.  She lived the first few years of her life near Puebla, Mexico (southeast of Mexico City) and came to Canada when she was about 3 years old. 

In stark contrast, Willow, our Bernese Mountain Dog mix, was born near Toronto and can’t handle the heat.  She seeks out shade even in the teens.  As we discuss heat and warm weather throughout this article, it’s important to keep in mind the differences and preferences of different dogs. 

Understanding the Heat Sensitivity of Dogs

Dogs have a limited ability to regulate their body temperature, making them more vulnerable to heat-related issues. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the same ability to sweat in order to cool themselves down.   They mainly sweat through the glands in their paws.  They also rely on panting to help cool themselves.  It’s important to be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in dogs, such as excessive panting, drooling, weakness, and collapse. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Signs of Stress or Heat Stroke

Overheating or heatstroke can be extremely dangerous or even fatal to pets.  It can happen when it is just warm out, not only when it’s hot.  While certain factors may increase risk such as short-snout, elderly, overweight, or thick-furred, it’s important to be aware that ANY dog can be at risk.  It can even happen from just sitting outside.


If you notice some or all these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention:

  • Excessive panting and or drooling
  • Loss of coordination or disoriented
  • Shaking, weakness and/or lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Dry or sticky gums

Creating a Cool and Comfortable Environment

Provide your dog with a shaded area, ideally under a tree or a canopy, to protect them from direct sunlight. You can also use portable shade options like umbrellas or canopies in your backyard or when on the go. Ensuring proper air circulation and ventilation in your dog’s living area is vital. Consider using fans or opening windows to maintain a cool environment.  It should go without saying that you should never leave your dog in a parked car, even with the windows open, for even a few minutes. 

A raised bed is another great idea to help keep your dog cool.  These are made with a mesh that allows the air to fully circulate around your pet, helping to keep them cooler. 

Some dogs also love a cooling vest, cooling mat or even a wet towel to lie on.  Even a damp bandana can help cool your pup!

Hydration and Water Management

Keeping your dog properly hydrated is crucial during summer. Always provide access to fresh, cool water. To entice your dog to drink more, try adding ice cubes to their water bowl or using a pet water fountain. You can also make homemade electrolyte-rich ice cubes using a mixture of water and low-sodium chicken broth. These icy treats will help keep your dog hydrated while providing a refreshing cool-down.  Most dogs also love ice cubes!  It’s a fun summer enrichment activity. 

You can also use some cooling (frozen) treats for your dog to enjoy in the heat of summer. There are some great pupsicle and dog ice cream ideas out there. We’ve posted a few recipes on this blog including Frozen Cranberry Coconut Dog Treats, DIY Dog Delights: Blueberry, Strawberry and Kefir Pupsicles and Frozen Yogurt and Applesauce Dog Treats. You can also try a frozen Kong or other stuffable.

Water Fun

Water can be a fun way to help cool your dog down, especially if your dog loves to swim.  Even if your dog doesn’t enjoy swimming, they may enjoy playing with a sprinkler or hose, or even a small kiddy pool filled with water. 


Our girl Willow LOVES her kiddy pool and will often use it several times a day to help cool off.  She enjoys bobbing for her toys, and even just splashing around. 

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with lots of lakes, streams and rivers, this can be fantastic for your dog.  However, we ware of certain potential dangers:

  • Blue Algae – a toxin-producing bacteria that is often fatal to dogs.  It is often found in still-standing lakes, ponds or rivers and can only be seen with the naked eye when it clumps together.  If you think your dog may have been exposed or ingested it, contact your vet immediately.  It can also be dangerous to other animals including humans
  • Parasites or Bacteria – for example, giardia or leptospirosis can be found in bodies of water
  • Water toxicity – too much water at once (swimming or drinking) can lead to water toxicity.  Symptoms can include nausea, dilated pupils, lethargy, and light gum colour.  If you suspect water toxicity, seek veterinary assistance immediately

Exercise and Activity Management

Adjust your dog’s exercise routine to cooler times of the day, such as early mornings or late evenings, to avoid the peak heat. Be mindful of hot pavement, as it can burn your dog’s paws.  If you can’t stand on the pavement in your bare feet, your dog shouldn’t either. Opt for grassy areas or use protective booties to keep their paws safe. On extremely hot days, engage your dog in mentally stimulating indoor activities, such as training games, puzzle toys or treat-dispensing games, to keep them active and entertained.

Grooming and Coat Care

Regular grooming plays a vital role in keeping your dog cool. Brushing your dog’s coat removes loose fur and prevents matting, promoting better airflow and heat dissipation. Keeping the fur around and between their paws trimmed will help promote airflow and help to keep your dog cool.

Resist the urge to shave your dog’s fur too short, as their coat acts as insulation and protects against sunburn. Instead, opt for regular trimming to manage their fur length.  You may think that your dog would feel cooler with a short shaved cut, but in actuality it removes the insulating fur, making them more susceptible to sunburn and even heat stroke. 


Travelling and Outings with Your Dog

If you’re planning a trip or outing with your dog, ensure you have a well-ventilated and shaded area for them. Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car, as temperatures can rise rapidly, leading to dangerous heatstroke. Plan your activities in dog-friendly places that offer shade and access to fresh water for your furry companion.


With these essential tips and practices, you can ensure that your dog stays cool, comfortable, and safe throughout the summer season. Remember to provide a cool environment, and ample hydration, and adjust exercise routines accordingly. By being mindful of your dog’s well-being and implementing these strategies, you’ll create a summer experience that both you and your canine companion can enjoy to the fullest.

While you’re here, check out some of our other articles like Navigating the World of Dog Treats: The Importance of Reading Labels, What Makes the Perfect Dog Training Treat? and From Boredom to Brilliance: Discover the Magic of Mental Stimulation Games for Dogs.


Stuffable Toys and Enrichment Activities: Unleashing Fun and Engagement with Kongs, Toppls and other Stuffed Dog Toys

Stuffable toys such as Kongs, Toppls, Honeypots and more bring incredible fun they bring to your furry friends. They can help provide hours of entertainment and mental stimulation for pets.   When we first brought Willow home, her anxiety levels were pretty high.  We struggled to tire her out and keep her entertained.  Our previous dog, Kimo, had only been fed out of a bowl and we knew very little about dog enrichment.  Our trainer taught us about calm protocol and introduced us to stuffed Kongs.  This, coupled with other training, led us to our house motto: chewing (or licking) is calming. 

Kongs are no longer my favourite stuffable, but they still make regular appearances.  There are numerous products available on the market including Kongs, Toppls, Honeypots and much much more, as well as natural options including hooves, antlers, bones, trachea and even vegetables and fruit like peppers and apples. See our blog post on Healthy Treats for Your Furry Pal: How to Make Stuffed Apples for Dogs.

Benefits of Stuffable Toys

Stuffable toys have become increasingly popular among pet owners and for good reason. These toys offer a range of benefits for dogs. They provide mental stimulation, relieve boredom, promote problem-solving skills, and offer a tasty reward. Stuffable toys, like Kongs, allow pets to engage in interactive play, which is crucial for their physical and emotional health.

They provide dogs with an appropriate outlet for their natural chewing instincts, provide enrichment and mental stimulation as well as helping to keep jaws strong and teeth clean. 

They are a great training tool and can help with numerous struggles including:

  • Inappropriate chewing
  • Teething
  • Weight issues/portion control
  • Crate training
  • Digging & barking
  • Separation anxiety
  • Boredom/enrichment

Stuffable toys and treats can be used with almost any type of food:  fresh, frozen, raw, human food, canned, kibble, etc.  You can give one to your pup right after you assemble it, or you can freeze them to add to the challenge!  In fact, if you find your dog becomes Kong-obsessed, you may want to consider buying several of them and stuffing and freezing them in batches so that you can easily pull one out of your freezer for breakfast (or dinner)!  Meal planning and prep for dogs made easy! 

What is the Difference between a Kong and a Toppl?

We have several of each for our dogs.  There are a lot of similarities between the two:

  • Strong, durable, and generally considered safe
  • Helps train calmness
  • Helps with crate training
  • Encourages your dog to slow down while eating
  • Deters boredom and prevents bad behaviours
  • Both are dishwasher safe, or easily cleaned with a bottle brush. 

There are, of course, some differences between the two as well:

KongWest Paw Toppl
Comes in several sizes and strengthsComes in several sizes
Less costlyMore costly
Narrow opening, good for experienced dogs or dogs who love a challengeLarge opening, good for less experienced dogs or dogs who are likely to get frustrated easily
Usually requires bottle brush to cleanEasier to clean
Slightly more challenging to fill and layerEasier to fill and layer
 BONUS – 2 sizes can be fit together, creating a new level of puzzle

Are stuffable toys and treats safe?

Nothing is completely without risk.  However, Kongs and Toppls are designed to be strong and durable. There are many other good quality products coming to market every day. As with anything new, make sure you observe your dog carefully the first few times they use it. Some dogs may be able to chew off a small portion and swallow it.  My in-law’s old Jack Russell would eventually chew his Kong into disks (it was one of his only toys and he had full access to it; they did not use it with food). 

Consider your dog’s chewing style, and monitor your dog closely the first few times with a Kong or Toppl. Also ensure that you have the appropriate size for your dog.  A Kong or Toppl that is too small can pose a risk.

How to Introduce Stuffable Toys and Food

Not all dogs take to these toys and food immediately.  Some dogs are easily frustrated, less food motivated, or less eager for whatever reason.  For these dogs, it’s really important to consider levels of difficulty, especially when using Kongs, which have a smaller opening.  Other dogs will take straight to it and be able to enjoy a frozen item at their first introduction!  Regardless of which type of dog you think you have, is to start off slow at a low level of difficulty.  You don’t want to turn them off food-stuffed toys on their first try!

Levels of Difficulty

How quickly you increase the difficulty will depend on you and your dog!  If your dog starts to get frustrated and refuses to go back to it, it’s likely time to go back down a level for a while.

Beginner Level

At this level, you are just introducing your dog to food-stuffed toys.  Keep it super easy and make it rewarding.  Place the Kong or Toppl in a cup or a small bowl to keep it stable, and add loose filling only.  This might mean just adding kibble, or perhaps a mixture of kibble and treats such as cheese cubes, cubed meat, any homemade treats or even any commercially available treats.    Make sure to keep it easy.  Nothing moist at this stage.  Your dog will finish it very quickly, but that’s ok!  Once you think your dog is comfortable and confident with this step, it’s time to move up a level.  This may be only a day or two, or could be a week or more, depending on your dog.

Intermediate Level

At this level, we want to start making it a little bit more complicated.  Stuff the Kong or Toppl the same way you did in the beginner level, but this time add a bit of liquid to moisten the kibble so that it will expand and be a bit more difficult to get out.  The liquid can be just water, or you can get fancy and add some bone broth or homemade chicken or beef broth.  Let the Kong or Toppl sit for a few minutes to give the liquid a chance to absorb before giving to your dog.  Repeat this step until your dog is comfortable and confident getting out almost all of the moistened food.

Advanced Level

This is where we can start to spice things up a bit.  The possibilities are almost endless, but I recommend starting with something your dog really loves.  For most dogs that is peanut butter!  Layer it up as you go – a few liver treats at the bottom, a layer of peanut butter, some kibble, a few treats, some more peanut butter.  There are tons and tons of combinations.  See for Kong recipe ideas (which can be applied to any other stuff item), or experiment with your own!  Once your dog is acing Advanced Level (it won’t take them long!), you can stay here or move on to Expert Level.  Added bonus: if your dog is on medication, you could consider adding their medication to the mix at this stage.  Just watch them carefully the first few times to ensure they are taking it all. 

Expert Level

Prepare the Kong or Toppl as above, but up the ante even further by freezing it for a couple of hours, up to a few days!  Some people even batch their food stuffed toys, making a week’s worth on the weekend.  While many medications and supplements can be frozen, it is best to check with your vet if you are unsure.


How to Clean

Both Kongs and Toppls are top-drawer dishwasher safe or can be hand-washed with warm, soapy water.

If handwashing, rinse with warm, soapy water.  Use a bottle brush to remove any stuck-on treats (like dry peanut butter)

If using the dishwasher, you may still need to use a bottle brush to remove any stuck-on treats.  Place in the top of the dishwasher and remove before the drying cycle. Remove before the heated dry cycle.

How to Stuff a Toy and What to Use

You will find endless recipes and instructions on how to stuff Kongs, Toppls, tracheas, hooves and other items.  Here is the secret – there is no right answer!  It’s a good recommendation to put something yummy at the very bottom so that your dog will be enticed to reach the bottom and not give up, but otherwise, be creative!  Use any food that your dog can eat and finds appetizing: kibble, wet dog food, meat (cooked or raw), veggies (cooked or raw), dog-safe peanut butter or nut butter, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, fruits (cooked or raw). The options are literally endless.  Remember that dogs have a better sense of smell than humans, but a worse sense of taste, so combinations that may not be appetizing to you may be amazing to your dog!

It might be easier to place the item you are stuffing in a mug, bowl, or egg carton to hold it upright while you are adding ingredients.  If the item you are stuffing is open at both ends (like a trachea or bone) you may need to wrap one end in plastic wrap before you start.  Layer items until you’ve reached an appropriate amount of food for your dog, or until you’ve reached the top.  Freeze or serve immediately! 

Creative Stuffable Recipes

Looking for some creative and healthy-filling ideas? Try these mouth-watering recipes that will keep your pets entertained and satisfied:

  1. Banana Bliss: Mash a ripe banana and mix it with a spoonful of plain yogurt. Fill the stuffable with this delicious blend and freeze for a refreshing treat.
  2. Chicken Surprise: Shred cooked chicken and mix it with cooked rice. Stuff the stuffable with the mixture and seal the ends with a dab of peanut butter.
  3. Veggie Delight: Steam and puree a variety of vegetables like carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes. Fill the stuffable with the vegetable puree and freeze for a nutritious snack.


Stuffable toys, particularly Kongs, provide a fantastic opportunity to engage your pets in interactive play. These toys offer mental stimulation, alleviate boredom, and provide a rewarding experience. By incorporating Kongs into your pet’s routine, you can promote their overall well-being and strengthen the bond you share. So, unleash the fun and watch as your furry friends happily tackle the challenge of a stuffed Kong!

Remember to experiment with different fillings and recipes to find what your pet loves the most. Let the joy and engagement begin with Kongs, the ultimate stuffable toy for pets!

While you’re here, make sure to check out some of our other articles including Navigating the World of Dog Treats: The Importance of Reading Labels, and delicious homemade treats recipes like Irresistible Carob Apple Dog Treat Recipe and Pyramid Pan Beet Turkey Dog Treats.

From Boredom to Brilliance: Discover the Magic of Mental Stimulation Games for Dogs

As dog owners, we all want our furry companions to lead happy and fulfilling lives. One essential aspect of their well-being is mental stimulation. Dogs, just like humans, thrive on mental challenges and stimulation. Incorporating mental stimulation games into their daily routine can provide numerous benefits, keeping their minds sharp and content. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of mental stimulation for dogs, the benefits of engaging in these games, and provide you with some exciting DIY game ideas to try with your canine friend.

We’ve all seen it in our own dogs – boredom can lead to anxiety, behavioural issues, increased restlessness and anxiety, hyperactivity, attention-seeking behaviour and ultimately to a strained relationship between you and your pup.  It is crucial to address and prevent boredom in dogs through regular mental stimulation, physical exercise, and interactive play. Providing a variety of engaging activities can keep dogs mentally and physically fulfilled, leading to a happier and healthier canine companion.


What is Mental Stimulation?

Mental stimulation for dogs refers to activities that engage their minds and challenge their cognitive abilities. It involves providing dogs with tasks, puzzles, and games that require problem-solving, learning, and focus. Mental stimulation aims to keep dogs mentally active, prevent boredom, and provide opportunities for them to use their natural instincts and intelligence.  This will differ based on the dog’s breed, life stage,  health, and personality.  Feel free to experiment and add variety!  It’s ok if your dog doesn’t love a particular activity: your dog determines what they find enriching, not you!

Mental stimulation can take various forms, including:

  1. Puzzle Toys: These toys are designed to hide treats or food, requiring dogs to figure out how to access the rewards by manipulating the toy in different ways.
  2. Interactive Feeding: Instead of feeding dogs from a regular bowl, interactive feeding methods involve using food-dispensing toys or food puzzles that make dogs work for their meals.
  3. Obedience Training: Basic training exercises, such as teaching commands or tricks, can provide mental stimulation by challenging dogs to learn and follow instructions.
  4. Scent Work: Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell, and engaging them in scent-related activities, like hiding treats or having them search for specific scents, taps into their natural abilities and keeps their minds engaged.
  5. Problem-Solving Games: These games present dogs with challenges that require them to think and solve problems to obtain a reward. For example, hiding treats under cups and having the dog find the treat by figuring out which cup it’s under.
  6. Novelty and Enrichment: Introducing new toys, objects, or experiences can stimulate a dog’s curiosity and keep their minds active. This can include providing different textures, sounds, or scents for them to explore.
  7. Agility and Obstacle Courses: Physical activities like agility courses can also provide mental stimulation as dogs navigate through the course, following cues and solving challenges along the way.

Mental stimulation is important for dogs of all ages and breeds. It helps keep their minds sharp, prevents boredom, reduces the likelihood of destructive behaviours, and enhances their overall well-being. Providing a variety of mentally stimulating activities on a regular basis is key to keeping dogs mentally engaged and happy.

Benefits of Mental Stimulation Games for Dogs

Engaging our dogs in mental stimulation games offers various advantages that contribute to their overall well-being. By providing cognitive challenges, these games stimulate their brains, leading to enhanced learning and problem-solving abilities. They can also help alleviate boredom, reduce anxiety, and prevent destructive behaviours caused by excess energy. Additionally, mental stimulation games create opportunities for bonding and strengthen the relationship between you and your furry companion.

How Much Mental Exercise Does My Dog Need

It depends on your dog, but a good goal is at least 20 minutes a day.  On a day when you’re exhausted, this might mean a puzzle toy or a stuffed Kong that your dog can work on independently.  On other days that might mean going on a sniffari (a slow walk where your dog leads the way with the goal of allowing them to sniff and be stimulated by the smells they discover). 

Remember, mentally stimulating activities are tiring!  Often dogs find them even more exhausting than physical exercise.  Monitor your dog closely and split up enrichment activities throughout the day, if possible. 


DIY Mental Stimulation Games for Dogs

Interactive Feeding Toys and Treat Dispensers
  • Kong Classic: Fill it with your dog’s favourite treats or kibble, challenging them to extract the rewards by rolling, bouncing, and chewing.
  • Snuffle Mat: Hide treats in the mat’s fabric strips, encouraging your dog to use their nose to search and find the hidden treasures.
Hide-and-Seek with Treats or Toys:
  • Start by having your dog sit and stay.
  • Hide treats or toys in different locations around the house or yard.
  • Release your dog and encourage them to find the hidden treasures, using their scenting abilities and problem-solving skills.
DIY Puzzle Toys and Games:
  • Stuffed Toilet Paper Rolls: Place treats or kibble inside a toilet paper roll and fold at both ends to seal.  Your dog will need to unfold or tear the cardboard to get to the treats
  • Muffin Tin Game: Place treats or kibble in a muffin tin, then cover each cup with tennis balls. Your dog will need to remove the balls to access the rewards.
  • Toilet Paper Puzzle Box: Stuff a shoe box of container with toilet paper rolls (facing upwards) and place treats or kibble inside the centres.  Your dog will need to remove or crush some of the rolls to access the treats
  • Plastic Bottle Treat Dispenser: Cut small holes in a clean, empty plastic bottle, fill it with treats, and watch as your dog figures out how to get the goodies out.
Nose Work and Scent Games:
  • Scent Trail: Dab a small amount of a favourite scent (such as vanilla extract) on various objects around the house or yard, and encourage your dog to follow the trail using their nose.
Agility and Obstacle Games:
  • Use items found around the house to set up agility-style games and challenges.  Be creative, for example, you can have your dog walk over the rungs of a ladder (lying flat on the ground), wrap around a garden planter or set up a variety of items with different textures and sizes as a “dog walk”.  

For additional ideas, check out Dog Enrichment by Pawsitive Relationship Training

Choosing the Right Games for Your Dog

It’s important to consider your dog’s breed, size, energy level, and individual interests when selecting mental stimulation games. Some dogs may prefer more physically demanding activities, while others might enjoy games that involve problem-solving or scent detection. Always ensure the safety of your dog during playtime and supervise them to prevent any accidents.

For more information on breeds and instincts, see Dog Enrichment Toys For Instincts And Senses by



Incorporating mental stimulation games into your dog’s routine is a wonderful way to provide them with the mental challenges they need to lead fulfilling lives. By engaging their minds, you can enhance their cognitive abilities, prevent boredom, and strengthen the bond between you and your four-legged friend. So, get creative, try out some of these DIY games, and watch as your dog’s excitement and intelligence shine through.

Remember, mental stimulation games should be a part of a well-rounded care routine that includes exercise, socialization, and love. Keep your furry friend happy and mentally sharp with these enjoyable activities, and witness the positive impact on their overall well-being.

Navigating the World of Dog Treats: The Importance of Reading Labels

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to ensure that your furry friend is receiving the best possible nutrition to lead a happy and healthy life. One way to achieve this is by feeding them high-quality, nutritious dog treats that are safe and appropriate for their dietary needs. However, not all dog treats are created equal, and it’s crucial to read labels on dog treats before making a purchase. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of reading labels on dog treats and what to look for when selecting the best treats for your pup.

There are a lot of dog treat options out there.  Unfortunately, before I knew about reading labels, we tried a few that did not agree with our pups (and our dogs do not have very sensitive stomachs!).  Recently, my cousin got a new dog and as a first time dog owner, she was adamant that she would only feed her dog healthy treats and no human food.  My aunt brought a bag of cute, Halloween themed treats for the dog to our family weekend.  The treats were from a brand with a reputation for being high quality and very good for dogs.  The treats were size appropriate to the little dachshund.  When I read the label, the 2nd ingredient was sugar!  Mot of the ingredients were highly processed and less than ideal for dogs.  Would I give my dogs these treats?  Sure, a couple once in a while wouldn’t hurt, but it would not be something I would want them to have a lot of. 

Why Reading Labels on Dog Treats is Important

Reading labels on dog treats is essential to ensure that your furry friend is receiving the best possible nutrition. By reading labels, you can identify any harmful ingredients that may be present in the treat. For example, some dog treats contain artificial colors, flavors, fillers and preservatives that can be harmful to your pup’s health. These additives may cause digestive issues or even allergies in some dogs.  By taking the time to read the label, you can avoid these harmful ingredients and choose treats that are made with high-quality, whole food ingredients.

Another reason why reading labels on dog treats can also help you find the right type of treat for your pup’s specific needs. For example, if your dog is on a special diet or has certain dietary restrictions, you can look for treats that are specifically designed to meet those needs. Similarly, if your dog has a sensitive stomach or is prone to allergies, you can find treats that are made with limited ingredients and are less likely to cause a reaction.

What to Look for When Reading Labels on Dog Treats

When reading labels on dog treats, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients list, as well as any additional information provided on the packaging. Look for treats that are made with high-quality, whole food ingredients, and avoid treats that contain by-products or fillers. You may also want to look for treats that are made in the USA or another country with strict quality standards, as this can help ensure the safety and quality of the product.

Here are some things to look for:

  1. Ingredients: Look for treats that are made with high-quality, whole food ingredients. Avoid treats that contain by-products, fillers, or artificial preservatives.
  2. Calorie Count: Treats should be given in moderation to avoid overfeeding and potential weight gain. Look for treats with a lower calorie count and serving size.
  3. Allergens: If your dog has a known allergy, make sure to read the label carefully to ensure that the treat does not contain any ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction.
  4. Brand: Look for brands that have a good reputation for making high-quality, safe, and nutritious dog treats.
  5. Manufacturing Country: Choosing treats that are made in countries with strict quality standards can help ensure the safety and quality of the product.

What to avoid or minimize in dog treats:

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid dog treats that contain ingredients that are known to be harmful to dogs. Some common ingredients to watch out for include:

  1. Artificial preservatives: including BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin. These have been linked to cancer and other health problems.
  2. Artificial colours and flavours: These are often added to dog treats to make them more visually appealing (to the human purchasers!) and palatable, but they provide no nutritional value and can be harmful to your dog’s health.
  3. Sugar and sweeteners: Many commercial dog treats are loaded with sugar and other sweeteners, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.
  4. Fillers and by-products: Some dog treats are made with low-quality fillers and by-products, such as corn, wheat, and soy.  Fillers can be difficult for dogs to digest and may contain harmful contaminants.
  5. Rawhide: This popular dog treat is made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides, which can be difficult for dogs to digest and may pose a choking hazard.

It’s important to read the ingredient list carefully and look for treats that are made with high-quality, natural ingredients that provide nutritional value and support your dog’s health. If you’re unsure about whether a particular ingredient is safe for your dog, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian.


While treats can be a great way to reward your pup or add some variety to their diet, they should be given in moderation to avoid overfeeding and potential weight gain.

In conclusion, reading labels on dog treats is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. By taking the time to read labels and make informed decisions about what you feed your pup, you can help ensure their health, happiness, and wellbeing. So next time you’re shopping for dog treats, take a few extra minutes to read the label and choose the best option for your furry friend.

In conclusion, reading labels on dog treats is essential to ensure that your furry friend is receiving the best possible nutrition. By taking the time to read labels and make informed decisions about what you feed your pup, you can help ensure their health, happiness, and well-being. Choosing high-quality, nutritious dog treats is one of the best ways to show your furry friend how much you care, and with a little bit of effort, you can make delicious homemade treats that will be both healthy and nutritious, and that your dog will love!

For more information on how to choose healthy, appropriate training treats, see our article on What Makes the Perfect Dog Training Treat? 

Also take the time to check out some of our homemade dog treat recipes that are easy to make and your dog will love, including Sweet Potato Honey Dog Treats, Pyramid Pan Beet Turkey Dog Treats and Frozen Pumpkin Blueberry Dog Treats.

What Makes the Perfect Dog Training Treat?

What is the perfect training treat?  It can be hard to find a treat that is cost-effective, appropriately sized, easy to handle and healthy.  When you’re training, you want treats that are small enough to be able to use a high rate of reinforcement.  The right treats can make a big difference when between an unsuccessful training session and a successful one. 

Choosing the right training treat for your dog is a personal choice, but there are several factors that come into play (pun intended!) including:

  • Size
  • Value (to your dog!)
  • Nutrition
  • Ease of use
  • Cost

You don’t need to use the same treats all the time.  In fact, it’s a good idea to switch it up!  Your dog will have different value for different training treats, so depending on what you’re asking them to do you may need a higher-value treat than just kibble.  Mixing it up is also important because you don’t always want to feed the same thing as you want to ensure that your dog will perform for various types of reward.  For example, your dog will likely find that cheese is a particularly high-value treat and will likely perform very well for it.  However, it’s a high-calorie treat and may not be something that you want to carry around with you regularly.  Kibble, on the other hand, is easy to keep in a bag in your pocket. 

It’s also important to mix up your treats because dogs like and need variety!  They may become bored with the same old treat, and something that was once high value can lose it’s value over time. 

When considering training treats, make sure that it is part of your dog’s daily food allotment.  In fact, it can be a meal! 

Factor 1: Size

The size of the training treats you choose is extremely important, especially if you’re doing a longer training session, attending a class or just want to maximize your training opportunities throughout the day.  The size of the training treat may also vary depending on what type of training you are doing.  For example, if you’re teaching your dog to catch you may want something large and light (like plain popcorn), or if your dog will need to find the treat on the grass you may want something larger and light-coloured.  For most training, in order to be able to give your dog a high rate of reinforcement, you generally want to make sure that the treats are small.  For most dogs, pyramid pan treats are great for this (see Homemade Dog Treats), but you can also cut treats or kibble in half if needed (depending on the size of your dog!) or purchase smaller treats. 

Factor 2: Value

The value your dog places in the treat is extremely important.  Dogs will naturally find some treats more rewarding than others.  If you’re asking your dog to do something particularly difficult or that requires a lot of attention, you’ll likely need a higher value treat, especially when they’re first learning.  While each dog will have their own opinion of the value of a treat, it’s also important to note that you can also build value in a particular treat over time through the experience you are providing your dog. 

There are 3 categories when it come to treat value: high, medium and low value treats.  Experiment with each!

High Value Treats

These are treats that your dog places a lot of value in and generally finds delicious.  They may be the treats that your dog will do almost anything for!  High value treats are often soft, moist and smelly.  High value treats should be used when:

  • You’re first introducing a new trick or behaviour
  • You’re in a very distracting environment, like the local park when it’s busy or a training class
  • When working on complicated tricks or behaviours, such as anxiety or reactivity

What your dog considers high value may vary compared to other dogs, but some examples of high-value training treats include:

  • Dehydrated liver bites
  • Cubes of meat (cooked or raw, whatever you would normally feed)
  • Cheese cubes
  • Peanut butter on a spoon
  • Dog meatballs

Remember that if your dog receives this treat too often, it will lose some of it’s value.  Make sure to mix up your treat values and give them some variety!

Medium Value Treats

Medium-value treats are often semi-moist or dry.  They are treats that your dog does not get all the time, so they still hold more value than their regular food.  Medium-value treats should be used when:

  • You’re training a trick or behaviour that your dog is already familiar with
  • In enrichment activities, like puzzles boxes or noise box games
  • You’re in an environment which is low-distraction or not overwhelming

Examples of medium value treats may include:

Low-Value Treats

Low-value treats are something that your dog receives fairly regularly.  It may even be your dog’s regular kibble.  They tend to be lower calorie and are usually dry.  You’re probably asking why you would ever expect your dog to work for a low-value treat.  Dogs can find the experience you’re giving them rewarding, and a low-value treat as a reward is just the icing on the cake.  In general, you would use a low-value treat when:

  • Your dog knows the trick or behaviour you are training
  • To encourage good behaviour throughout the day
  • In enrichment activities, like puzzles boxes or noise box games

Examples of low value treats may include:

  • Kibble
  • Store bought treats
  • Dry and crunchy treats

Factor 3: Nutrition

It is important that any treat you chose be part of your dog’s daily food allotment.  This means that you would subtract the treats that you are giving your dog from their regular meals.  When purchasing treats, make sure to read the label just as you would with your own food.  Many commercial treats have ingredients that are not ideal and high amounts of sugar.  We prefer to choose a more natural treat like dehydrated meat or vegetables.  We also prefer to bake our own treats so that we control what goes into them.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for commercial treats, just consider using them in moderation!

Factor 4: Ease of Use

How easy the treats are for you to use is also a pretty important factor in what you chose, and it will differ by activity, location and other factors.  For example, if you’re planning a training session in the park, you may not want a pocket full of sausage.  In that case, you might opt for freeze-dried liver instead.  Similarly, if you’re going to be out all day you may not want a pocket full of cheese.  Choosing the right treat for the situation can help make your life a lot easier! 

Factor 5: Cost

This one is a no-brainer.  You don’t want your every day training treats to cost you a fortune.  This is one of the many reasons that we LOVE pyramid pan treats.  Most recipes make over a thousand treats (that’s over a thousand reward opportunities!  Talk about a high rate of reinforcement!) and have a fairly minimal cost.  The important thing is that whatever treats you choose as high, medium and low value training treats, you don’t need to spend a fortune. 


The perfect dog training treat will change depending on many factors including the dog you are training, the situation, what you are training, the value your dog places in the treat and many other factors.  There is no answer that is right for everyone, and no treat that’s right for every situation!

Don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside the box.  If your dog is not food driven, don’t hesitate to use toys as reward!  If your dog is obsessed with bully sticks, consider giving them a few chomps on a bully stick as quick reward. 

Likewise, if your dog is on a special diet (restricted ingredients / feed raw / whatever the case may be), this can certainly be accommodated with a little ingenuity and maybe a little extra effort.  For example, consider blending your raw food with a little bone broth and adding it to a squeezy tube. 

Easy Homemade Free Puzzle for Dogs

When considering your dog’s enrichment, thinking outside the box (or in this case, in it!) can result in some huge savings.  This puzzle is so easy to put together and fun for almost any dog that you will never throw out your toilet paper rolls again! 

Providing your dog with enrichment activities can help to make them calmer and improve their overall lives.  Mental stimulation is for a well rounded dog, and can be more tiring than a long walk. Providing the right type of stimulation can also help impact other areas of their personality too.  For example, this puzzle may look like something that is cheap and easy to put together to entertain your dog for 10 minutes.  However, in reality, you’re not only entertaining them but also helping to build their confidence and optimism. 

Your dog should be supervised with this puzzle, especially if they are not used to having cardboard puzzles, to ensure that they do not eat the cardboard. 


  • Grab a box or container.  It could be a cardboard box, Tupperware,  a basket, a shoebox or any other container you have lying around
  • Place in the toilet paper rolls
    • For an easier game, pack them loosely
    • For a more difficult game, pack them in very tightly
  • Sprinkle in treats!  It doesn’t matter where they fall
  • Give the box to your dog and watch them figure out how to get to the treats!

Stuffed Toilet Paper Rolls

With the rising cost of, well, everything, we could all use a little bit of free in our lives.  There is so much around the house that we can use for our dogs without spending any money at all (except a few treats or food that you already have around the house). 

This was a trick we discovered in one of the Facebook groups we’re in – I can’t take credit for it!  If you’re looking for a new (and free!) enrichment tool for your best friend, look no further than your bathroom. Or maybe your recycling bin.  Or the kitchen!  Remember, your trash is your dog’s treasure!

For some reason, dogs love destroying cardboard.  One theory is that they like to shred cardboard because it feels like feathers or fur in their mouth.  Not a lovely thought, but it could explain why almost all dogs love to do it.  Cardboard certainly doesn’t TASTE like an animal or bird though, thank goodness!  No animals will be harmed in the destruction of this toy. 

Dogs need enrichment and variety.  Enrichment activities help exercise them mentally, making a calmer, more well-rounded and even tired dog.  Mental enrichment is exhausting!  As everyone knows, a happy, enriched, mentally stimulated dog is a dog who is less likely to chew your shoes, couch, door frame, etc. 

The process of making these stuffed cardboard rolls is incredibly simple.  Save up some paper towel or toilet paper rolls.  Fold in one end, and put treats and/or kibble in the other end.  I recommend using dry treats and food, not moist or raw.  You don’t want to tempt your pup to eat the cardboard with moist food.  Next, fold up the other end.  That’s it!  Time to let your doggo destroy your handiwork. 

You can make a bunch in advance for when your pup needs some enrichment, or you can quickly throw one together in next to no time.

Reminder: dogs should be supervised with any enrichment activities. 


  • Get some toilet paper or paper towel rolls.  Remove any remaining toilet paper or paper towel
  • Fold one end.  It doesn’t really matter how you do it, as long as it’s closed.  You could crush it, fold two sides inward then the other two sides inward, fold it like a chip bag – whatever works.  Just don’t use tape or adhesive as you don’t want your pup accidentally ingesting it
  • Put some treats in the open end!  Any treats will do, and feel free to use a combination or even add in kibble.  It might be best to avoid any mushy treats as that could lead to your dog eating the cardboard, not just ripping it.  Use as few or as many as you like.  It’s best if it’s not jam-packed and has a little rattle to it once closed.  If you’re making these in advance, be sure to use treats that will be ok in open air for a few days (not meat or super soft treats)
  • Fold the other end.  Again, it doesn’t matter how you fold it
  • Give it to your dog, and watch them enjoy destroying it to get at the treats!  Make sure you watch them closely the first few times they have this treat to make sure they are not ingesting the cardboard.

Healthy Treats for Your Furry Pal: How to Make Stuffed Apples for Dogs

When we first got Willow, she had very little calmness.  She was either super aroused or dead to the world sleeping.  There was absolutely no in between.   We were working with a trainer 1 on 1 and one of our main focuses was calmness.    It took quite awhile before we got to a place where Willow could be between hyper aroused and dead to the world.  A mantra in our house became “Chewing/licking equals calming”, and it’s true!  Not only is chewing or licking a great enrichment activity that helps with boredom, but it can also relieve mild anxiety, stress and frustration.  For more information on the benefits of chewing see this article from Bark Post

Enjoying a yummy stuffed apple

I usually tried to plan ahead to make sure I had activities to keep her busy, but one day I stopped at my parents with Willow unexpectedly and ended up staying for dinner.  This meant Willow’s evening dose of anxiety medication was delayed and she was a bit wilder than normal.  I had no toys or treats with me.  What could I do?

I looked through my parents fridge and didn’t see anything that would last Willow more than a minute.  There was cheese, meat, various fruits and vegetables that she probably wouldn’t eat…  Then I saw the apples!  I scooped out the core and some of the flesh, making a big well.  Then I stuffed it with layers of peanut butter and kibble.  I put it down on a large towel for her (I knew it would be messy!) and she happily licked away for a good 10 to 15 minutes, helping to calm her down and lick away some of the anxiety.  Best part was that if she wanted to, she could eat the entire apple!

Stuffed apples are a great treat for your dog in a pinch, or even as a regular addition to their enrichment routine!  Another great aspect of stuffed apples is that you can fully customize it to your dog’s diet, allergies and taste preferences.  See below the recipe for possible variations.

Benefits of Stuffed Apples for Dogs

Apples are a great source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for your dog’s health, and they help support their immune system, digestion, and overall well-being. Stuffed apples for dogs are a fun and easy way to incorporate these nutrients into your pup’s diet. Plus, they make a great alternative to commercial dog treats that are often high in calories and preservatives.

What you will need:

  • Apple(s), any kind
  • A small knife
  • A cutting board
  • The filling(s) of your choice
Peanut butter and kibble stuffed apple


  1. Wash apples and be sure to remove any stickers
  2. Using a small knife, carefully core the apples to make a well in the middle of the apple.  I tried to leave a small layer at the bottom of the apple to decrease the mess factor.  To do this, I started by taking out a chunk at the stem and turning my knife in the core to take our chunks at a time.  Remember, it doesn’t need to be pretty!  Make the well for the filling as large or as small as you like
  3. To fill the apple you have 2 options: you can mix your ingredients in a separate bowl then fill the apple OR you can layer within the apple, adding ingredients as you build up the layers.  I prefer the layering approach for pure laziness alone!  Why dirty another bowl?  I add some peanut butter, then add some kibble, squishing it in, then some more peanut butter, then maybe some treats, etc. until the apple is full
  4. You can feed the apple to your dog at this point or you can freeze it for a couple of hours.  Freezing will make it more complicated but will also make it last longer!
  5. Be prepared, this is a messy treat.  I recommend giving it to your dog outside or putting down a towel or a dog blanket
Cored apples

Filling options:

Pretty much any thing you can think of that your dog will enjoy!  These are fully customizable.

For an easy chew (for beginners or dogs that are easily frustrated), keep the materials loose and dry, such as kibble and treats that will basically fall out of the apples.

For a more complicated chew, up the ante with a sticky or wet filling such as peanut butter, yogurt, honey (only a little bit!) or wet food as a binder, then add in other fruit, veggies, kibble and/or treats.  If you want to up the ante even further, freeze it for a few hours before serving!

Suggested fillings:

Peanut butter, a little bit of honey, dog food (kibble, canned or raw), yogurt, oatmeal, pumpkin (puree or cubed), dog safe veggies or fruit, dog treats, or literally any dog safe ingredient!

Tips for Making Stuffed Apples for Dogs:

  • Make sure to remove the seeds and core of the apple, as they can be harmful to your dog’s digestive system.
  • You can substitute the peanut butter with almond butter or sunflower seed butter if your dog has a peanut allergy.
  • If your dog is on a grain-free diet, you can omit the yogurt or use a dairy-free alternative.
  • You can also experiment with different fillings, such as blueberries, bananas, or sweet potatoes.

Stuffed apples for dogs are a healthy and delicious treat that your furry friend will love. They’re easy to make, and you can customize the filling to suit your dog’s taste preferences and dietary needs. Just remember to always supervise your dog while they’re eating and to consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about their diet. With this recipe and tips, you can start making stuffed apples for dogs and give your pup a nutritious and tasty snack!