Toys as Mental Stimulation
How it started: My husband had a plastic blow-up base-ball at work, that she grabbed when we picked him up one day. Dali would wrestle it – hugging, rolling, pinning it down and then carry it around triumphantly, when half deflated. It had to be repaired a lot. Then Dali found a plastic bag that had held bedding – that one came from the closet. It was bigger than she is and because it has to be supervised so she wouldn’t eat the plastic, it is now history – it was fun while it lasted. Then of course on laundry day she loves to wrestle the bags I use, once they are empty. This is how we started the ‘Naughty’ game. Whenever she finds something that’s OK but wasn’t given to her – we ask her, “Are you being naughty?”. This will get her very excited and off she runs with her prize, expecting to be ‘chased’. It is a great game. When she finds something ‘bad’ it is serious and after she drops it I thank her and off we go to the garbage.
The newest find: I use a lot of rags for my art clean-up and they come from old T-shirts and Hoodies. They are kept on my art shelf. Recently my Chihuahua found them. She is always checking out my art bag and my art supplies – so training is in progress. Getting back to this new toy idea, I see that a rag about 12″x18″ is perfect wrestling material for my pup. This is a T-shirt with the sleeves and neck removed. When you cut down the sides you can make it into 2 rectangles. I think that one of the reasons this is so interesting is that the T-shirts are from our old ones and they still must smell of us, although they have been laundered.
The Games: Dali brings me the rag and I loosely knot it and throw it as far as I can. Off she goes to retrieve it and worry it into submission [or whatever is going on in her imagination]. She even brings it to her bed to wrestle. After it is open again she brings it back to be rebuilt. Once tired of the loose knot I add the ball. The ball is rolled inside the fabric – leave it possible for the ball to come out. Dali loves to hunt for her ball – any ball. The knot throws better too and bounces a bit, adding to the excitement. When she gets the ball out she nudges it in my direction so I know she wants me to try again. This is a good opportunity to offer praise and join her in her happiness.
Mental, creative and physical play all in one. I really like this toy – it is simple and at the same time the dog gets to use its brain to figure it out. I believe it encourages fantasy play as well. Besides the ball I have added her chew antlers, the toilet rolls and scrap paper she loves. Now I have to stop her from searching for more ‘rags’ to wrestle.