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Favorite Dog Toy – Atomic Treat Ball

by Keri K. on April 19, 2010

My dog Mojito is very affectionate, but not overly playful. We suspect he spent the majority of his life before us in a kennel, and never really learned how great toys can be. He also came to us needing a few teeth pulled, so I think that dental discomfort had kept him from enjoying tug-of-war or a good chew toy. However, Mo is also very food-oriented, so I’ve tried to use that treat-loving trait to show him how to have a little fun, too.

The toy that most quickly proved a good time was the Atomic Treat Ball. The concept is pretty simple: a hollow shape that can be nudged and batted about, letting whatever’s inside fall out piece by piece. The first time, I crumbled up some of Mo’s much beloved Liver Snax, got down on the kitchen tile, and rolled the Treat Ball around in front of him. The small bits fell out easily, and he followed the ball closely with his nose for the rewards. Next I let him have a go at it… and he sat and stared between it and me, obviously wondering why treats were no longer being magically produced for him. 

So, I broke up another piece of Liver Snax, and this time had him watch me drop the pieces into the ball. We got back down on the floor, and he hesitantly gave it a nudge, then pawed at it. Out fell his reward, and from then on it was easy.Since then, I’ve increased the treat size so that he has to work much longer to get a single piece out. He has a fantastic time smacking it about, chasing after it and even gnawing on it. It’s by far the most he interacts with a toy, even if there doesn’t happen to be anything in it – he’s still willing to work at it for several minutes just in case there’s one left in there.

There are a lot of variations on the “treat ball” (check out our Interactive Toy category). If you feed kibble, consider serving your dog’s entire meal in something like the Kibble Nibble instead of just plunking down a dish in front of him. Animals in the wild have a lot of mental stimulation accompanying their meals, and this is an easy, entertaining way to emulate a little creative thinking. No matter which toy, I definitely recommend starting off with a small, easy treat so that your dog doesn’t get frustrated with what is supposed to be fun. Also, be aware that your cats might want in on the game!

Next up for Mo… mastering the Tug-a-Jug.


Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen B. April 19, 2010 at 2:09 pm

My dog also loves his treat toy.I especially like to bring it out in bad weather when we can’t get outside for exercise. Looks like the cat in the video might like to give it a try, too!

Jamie April 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I had a buster cube for my dog and he wouldn’t play with it. I set it on easy but he just didn’t like it. I have been hesitant to buy a treat toy since. He does like the squirrel pull apart toy when I put a sweet potato in the center.

Joy April 19, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Our Aussie-mix, Toby’s favorite toy is his Tricky Treat Ball. He rolls it around, or picks it up and throws it (it has a dimpled surface) to get the kibble to come out of it.

Keri K. April 20, 2010 at 8:31 am

Jamie, maybe your dog isn’t as “food motivated” as mine is. That’s not a bad thing! I’ve also wedged Sweet Potato Fries into toys, which makes Mo work a little longer.

I really enjoy watching Mo swat his treat ball around, Joy. I usually end up having to retrieve it from the living room and take it back into the kitchen, because he either bounced it too far or is trying to hide it from the cats.

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