Beyond Squeaky Toys (Book review and giveaway)

This post is part of the Stale Cheerios 2014 holiday gift guide and giveaways series.


Beyond squeaky toys - with gingerI have been reading a really great little book recently! It is called Beyond Squeaky Toys: Innovative ideas for eliminating problem behaviors and enriching the lives of dogs and cats (Amazon link). The book is all about enrichment and how environmental enrichment can be used to keep our dogs and cats mentally and physically happy.

The book is short, about 150 pages, but it is full of great information. It starts with several brief chapters that discuss the basics of enrichment, including what is enrichment and why it is important for pets. For those reading this post who aren’t familiar with the concept of enrichment, enrichment basically means any toy, item, or activity that provides mental stimulation and encourages natural, appropriate behaviors. Enrichment prevents boredom and helps keep pets out of trouble by providing mental stimulation, as well as opportunities to explore and interact with their environment.

Solving behavior problems proactively

The bulk of Beyond Squeaky Toys is a section that contains over 100 enrichment ideas. The really neat thing about enrichment is that it can eliminate problem behaviors or even prevent them from developing in the first place. A lot of unwanted dog and cat behaviors occur because the animal is bored and does not have appropriate ways to engage in what is really just normal dog or cat behavior. Learning about and implementing enrichment strategies helps owners be proactive, rather than reactive about their pet’s training and behavior.

The enrichment ideas in the book are divided into six big categories:

Social enrichment: Spending time with other animals and people in different environments. Examples: Visit an outdoor market, take your pet to work, or have a pool party with friends.

Cognitive enrichment: Training or other activities that encourage thinking and problem solving. Eamples: K9 nose work, teach your dog to find his toys by name, or train a new trick using clicker training.

Physical enrichment: Anything that changes or adds complexity to the animal’s living environment. Examples: Digging pit, outdoor cattery, or tactile boards.

Sensory enrichment: Items or activities that stimulate any of the five senses. Examples: Bubbles, herbs and spices, feathers, or going on a scent walk.

Feeding enrichment: Puzzles or games that make mealtime more challenging and fun. Examples: Kibble in a bottle, ice treats, or the muffin tin game.

Manipulative toy enrichment: Toys or other items that can be manipulated during investigation and play. Examples: Stuffed toys, remote and wind-up toys, wrapped gifts, or hanging toys.

Each idea gets a full page with a short description and several pictures. One thing that I loved about this book is that it includes enrichment ideas for both dogs and cats. There’s also such a variety of different enrichment ideas that I think the book could be used as well for enrichment ideas for other pets, such as rabbits, ferrets, or rats. Also, many of the ideas are things that you can easily make yourself or implement from everyday items and objects that you already have around the house.

Who should buy this book?

I had heard of many of the ideas in this book, but not all of them! I think this would be a great book for any dog or cat owner who is concerned about satisfying their pet’s mental, emotional, and physical needs. This would also be the perfect book for someone with a new puppy. New puppies are notoriously good at getting into trouble when they get bored! The book also includes a short section on safety at the beginning, which would be useful for pet owners who are new to the idea of enrichment.

As well, I think this would be a great book for professional trainers or more advanced trainers. Depending on your background, you might be familiar with quite a few of these ideas already. However, I think this could still be a useful book to keep on the bookshelf as a reference or to show to clients during lessons. The book is full of lots of great ideas that I think I will be able to use with my training clients and in my puppy socialization classes.

Would you like a copy of this book? (Book giveaway)

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

I liked this book so much that I went ahead and bought a second copy, which I’ll be giving away on my blog this week!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book, simply leave a comment on this blog post sometime between now and December 1 that answers the following question:

What do you do to keep your pet(s) from getting bored?

I’ll use random.org to pick one comment at random on Dec 2.

If you’re interested in buying a copy of this book, it is available from both Amazon (link). and Dogwise (link). I think this book would also make the perfect gift for your favorite pet loving friend, neighbor who has a new puppy, veterinarian, animal rescue group, or public library.

Beyond squeaky toys - quote

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  • Nancy Halsey

    I hide some of my blue fronted amazon parrots food in his cage so he can forage. I also have perches in several rooms for him to fly or climb on for exercise. I ask him to fly a few times a day also.

  • Carie

    We play “find it” with our 2 ridgebacks – especially on rainy days when they don’t want to go out. Started with hiding a toy and they’ve graduated to a leather glove (like you’d use in tracking.) They are asked to wait in a room, then we go to another room, hide the glove under a blanket or on a shelf or anywhere, they’re released to “find it.” Lots of treats, of course, to both, once it’s found.

  • Wendy

    “Find it” was my late lab’s favorite, and my new girl is just starting on it. We also enjoy brain-stretching training games such as “right” vs “left” and responding to compound cues. When I need some time to myself, I pull a beef bone, or a recycled femur bone stuffed with veggie puree plus a pinch of cat kibble, out of the freezer.

  • Cardboard boxes: hide toys inside and tape them. Hide this box in bigger box….dissect to find what is hidden. And then I start the wood stove with the remains of the boxes!

  • Kay

    We play lots of tug games and crate games, especially late in the afternoon when my girl is really looking for something to do.

  • Mandy

    We use food dispensing toys in place of bowls for meals. We also love the Find It game! One of my favorite quick busy- body activities is tying an old shirt into several knots and then stuffing pieces of food into every crevice I can. Keeps Miss Willow entertained and it can be reused several times!

  • We use puzzle toys, slow feeding bowls, trick training and games like tug and fetch at my house!

  • Angela Cash

    The best way I have found to keep my dogs from growing bored is to rotate their toys. They also love interactive/puzzle toys. Daily walks through the woods give them plenty of opportunities to “work their sniffers.”

  • Tenacious Little Terrier

    We do a lot of clicker games. I think I want to train him to do a head tilt on cue next.

  • LyricInTime2803

    I have two high energy, very intelligent dogs that really need to be kept physically and mentally stimulated to be happy. We do agility, get lots of exercise, play, use puzzle toys…

    • Katty k

      @LyricInTime2803:disqus
      you do agility with your dog how did you git started?

      • LyricInTime2803

        I started with one of those Kyjen agility kits about two years ago in my backyard. It’s really cheap stuff, but it was enough to have fun with Shiloh and got the ball rolling. I found other people in my area, took a class, and then became absolutely addicted. I found plans online to easily & cheaply build better practice equipment. I never thought agility existed in my area- it was just something on tv- but once I started *looking*, I realized there are classes and clubs and trials within driving distance. I now compete in AKC agility (we’re working on our championship!) and you can go on their website (same with the other venues like USDAA and CPE) and you can search agility events by state. Go to a trial, meet people, ask where they train. Just be careful- Everyone says they start just for fun, but it gets very addicting very quickly =) I’d be happy to give you more resources and links if you’re looking for ideas on where to start.

  • Katty k

    I give my dog a KONG filled with her food and a treat or just a toy and she has Zuko to play with (my 13 week old cat)

  • Jean Silva

    The Santa Barbara Zoo staff gave a great presentation on Enrichment. They divided physical enrichment into natural and foreign: adding animals, plants and objects that mimic the natural habitat or adding something totally out of place like a bright red ball. They move objects in the environment daily. They vary the diet daily and use food puzzles. They offered a variety of scent for the human participants to identify: rosemary, ginger, bobcat urine, snow leopard urine, pine sap, rabbit urine. Some of the urines were purchased on hunting sites, which was new to me. They clicker train. Most of the puzzle toys were made at the zoo, based on the physical abilities of the species: bamboo with holes for food items; plastic pipes with holes for leafy branches; folded and crumpled magazines hiding food items. In some ways everything BUNS does at our shelter is a form of enrichment; what we don’t have and would benefit from is an enrichment plan and program.

  • Angela

    My dog has a great food dispensing toy called a Foobler that keeps her entertained throughout the day when we’re at work. I have also been trying some free shaping recently to provide mental stimulation. It’s amazing watching her work out new ways to interact with an object!

  • Abby C

    I like to fill a kong with treats to keep my dogs bored. For my rats, I hide dry pasta all over their cage :)

  • Carolyn

    I have several different feeding toys (treat ball, Kong wobbler, etc) for my dog to challenge her mentally that I alternate instead of just handing her a bowl of kibble. Since the Kong Wobbler is now pretty easy for her, I have started putting 1-2 golf balls in with her food. It changes the weight balance & makes it much more difficult (ping pong balls would make it slightly slower but the weight of the golf balls changes the movement).

    • Just to clarify, you are putting the golf balls in the KONG Wobbler?

      What a cool idea for making the toy a bit different and more challenging!

  • I teach Shay tricks and freestyle. On walks, she and I play “do as I Do’ (video on youtube), and I also have her jump on benches or over fences or around objects or play with pine cones. At home, we play hide and seek with me,treats, and with toys, give belly rubs and have conversations with her:-) we do lots more, but just have fun paying together.

  • TXpups

    We take two squeaky toys, throw one down the stairs, and once the puppy gets back up the stairs, we throw the other one. They always drop the toy at the top, it’s a great and fun way to exercise indoors!

  • Denise Miller

    We play “Treasure Hunt!” (find the treat or toy wrapped up in boxes), set up obstacle course in house, learn new physical trick/skill, introduce new sound, texture or taste and keep things fun!

  • Dawn Miklich

    All my critters are pretty food driven so I try to give a lot of foraging opportunities, treat balls for the dogs, cats and bunny, treats wrapped in newspaper or coffee filters for the birds.

  • Kate from Canada

    Hiding treats in a the twisted core of a paper towel roll, using a puzzle game and practicing rally moves in the living room.