As I’ve written in previous posts, my diva dog Kyra is a demanding, pushy, loving, loyal, active canine. The world revolves around her, and all must bow to her requests. These requests often seem particularly sharp when I am having an extra busy or tired day and would frankly just like to lie on the couch for a while and vegetate.
While I’m often annoyed by Kyra’s insistence on being active while I’m especially sleepy, I’m also grateful for it. She was one of the major motivations for me to have bariatric surgery. Since the surgery has probably doubled my life span and significantly improved the quality of my life (both past and future), I have Kyra to thank for a long and happy life. The least I can do in return is give her a long and happy life while she’s with me. So inevitably on the occasions when Kyra is sticking a slimy toy in my face and huffing at me from 3 inches away, I get up and come up with something to tire her brain out a bit.
Whenever I see a “how to keep your dog busy” post on Facebook I read it immediately. I came across this video link for a Bottle Dog Toy I immediately wanted to build one. Kyra is very good at figuring out treat releasing puzzles, and I thought this one would stretch her brain a bit.
With the help of my excellent father and his basement stash of scrap materials, we assembled this one with only a minimum of swearing.
- Broad (wide), heavy, flat base long enough to allow 2-4 bottles next to each other with a small amount of space between them (Kyra’s toy base is about 2 1/2 feet long and a foot wide)
- A dowel rod thick enough to withstand an energetic dog’s pawing
- Two sturdy upright pieces of wood
- One piece of wood for across the top (optional)
- Two-three-four bottles (depending on how long your base is); these can be anything from large soda bottles to small water bottles depending on the size of your dog and how challenging you want the game to be.
- Scissors or razor knife
- Pipe insulation (optional)
We followed these basic steps:
- Cut vertical slats about 1 foot higher than the dog’s height.
- Screw vertical slats to the base.
- Cut dowel to length, measure it against the dog’s height – we thought about shoulder height was appropriate for Kyra, though this will depend on how challenging you want to make it for the dog.
- Mark and cut holes the width of the dowel in each bottle, about 1/4 of the way from the top. The holes can be wider than the dowel and should allow the bottle to swing freely without letting small bits of treats to come out around the dowel.
- Thread the bottles on the dowel and attach the dowel to the uprights at the appropriate height. If you want to be able to switch out the bottles for ones that are larger or smaller, you can drill a hole the width of the dowel into the uprights and thread the dowel through instead. In that instance, I’d make the dowel several inches longer on each side than the length of the base to make sure the dog can’t jostle it out of position.
- This is totally optional but we thought it wise – we added a crossbar across the top of the top to make it more stable.
- Add kibble, treats, whatever your dog fancies that is hard and small, and sit back to watch the action. Once Kyra figured out that she had to use her nose or paw to roll the bottles around, we realized that we needed to add pieces of pipe insulation between the bottles to keep them apart from each other. The darned dog figured out that she could squish the bottles up next to each other and flip all three of them upside-down at the same time to make all the treats pour out at once.
For Kyra, this is one of those toys that I have to pull out and then put away again. She figures it out, enjoys her kibble, and then doesn’t want to play with it again for a while. Six months go by and it comes out again, and she’s thrilled for another 30 minutes or so. I have some fanstastic videos of her trying to figure it out when we first built it that I’ll post someday if I get a premium subscription to WordPress. It was well worth the scrap pieces and 30 or so minutes it took to assemble.