Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Make ‘em work for it

With no children (yet) to buy for, Sensi is a spoiled dog on Christmas morning.
And like kids, he often finds the box his toys are wrapped in to be more entertaining than the toys themselves.
One year, after he had finished destroying the boxes, de-stuffing the stuffed animals and shredding the tennis balls, I tried to focus his attention on the expensive toy I’d bought him: The Buster Cube (usually $10 to $15, depending on the size).
The Buster Cube was made by someone who is a genius, I swear.
It’s a cube made of hard plastic, designed to be difficult to carry and nearly impossible to chew. There’s a hole on one side of it. You put dry food in the hole, and then the cube spits it back out for the dog a couple pieces at a time as he rolls it around.
Sensi wasn’t sure what to make of this odd toy and he avoided playing with it — after all, he couldn’t carry it or chew it or throw it around, so what was he supposed to do?
Well, I had to show him.
For about an hour, I crawled around my house on my hands and knees, pushing The Buster Cube around. The dog was interested in my strange behavior, so he followed me. He got excited about the pieces of dog food that were coming out of the cube when it was turned over just right.
After a half-hour, the knees of my jeans were wearing thin and I thought he’d never catch on. I’d stop pushing the cube and encourage him to do it, but he’d just stare at me in anticipation.
“Do it again Mom!” he would’ve said if dogs could talk. “Do it again! Do it again! Do it again!”
I kept working with him at it, even pushing the darn cube with my face to see if maybe he’d catch on.
In a split second, a light bulb clicked on in that dog’s head and he was off.
He raced around, pushing that cube so hard it flew in the air, banged against the walls and made all sorts of racket.
No matter about the worn out knees in my jeans — teaching him how to use that cube has been priceless.
It’s healthy for dogs to work for their food, it’s natural to them and it stimulates them and gives them exercise. Bonus, bonus, bonus.
My message: get a Buster Cube and invest a little time teaching your dog how it works.

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