Friday Fun: DIY Holee Roller Dog Puzzle

Spring days and weeks are often loaded with rainy days!  If you have a puppy or higher energy dog, those are days to dread!!  A rainy day, plus a puppy or high energy dog equals misery for an owner and often a day filled with naughtiness!  When our dogs are under-exercised, and when we don’t provide enough mental stimulation for them, it can add up to trouble in living with them!!  Here’s an easy and fun idea for you to help give your dog something to do when you’ve got the rainy day blues!

Many of the dogs that I train have a popular dog toy called a “Holee Roller,” made by JW Pet.  I have to admit that when I first saw these toys years ago, I refused to get one for Rugby!  I saw that the rubber wasn’t all that thick, and the toy was easily flexible, and I made the assumption that Rugby would chew through it in a nanosecond!  But….after seeing so many of them, in so many homes, with dogs who were big chewers, I never saw only a part of a Holee Roller!  They were always intact, and dogs seemed to really like playing with them.

This is a toy that’s probably eight years old…and it’s just about like brand new…except for the dog spit and dirt!

So I broke down, and I found one that was in an appropriate size for Rugby, and I brought it home.  For those of you not familiar with this toy, it looks like a rubber geometrical object used to teach shapes to kids!  It has a sort of waffle pattern, and it’s hollow, and it is a wonderful fetching toy. It’s lightweight, so it goes a good little distance, and it rolls really well.  It’s big enough to be easily seen in the yard or house once it’s thrown.  In Rugby’s younger days, he loved to play fetch for hours at a time, and he did enjoy fetching his Holee Roller toy!  But….it doesn’t make noise, and Rugby is honestly all about toys that make noise!  So….it often sits in the toybox at my house….waiting for a dog to play with it!

At a lesson recently, I saw that a client had taken this same dog toy, but she had stuffed two dental chews inside the webbing in an effort to keep her Boxer puppy entertained!  Her puppy was just fascinated with trying to figure out how to get those chews out from this toy, or how to chew the chews while still inside the toy!  I could see her using all sorts of problem solving skills!  I put my thinking cap on, because I really think that this is a great idea that can be fun for all kinds of dogs!

My regular readers will remember that Rugby has “Bubba teeth” in front!  He had a growth on his gum in front that meant that he lost four of his tiny teeth on the bottom in the front when the growth was surgically removed.  He lost two tiny teeth on top when he aggressively went after one of his beloved piggie toys on the basement floor….and the basement floor won.  He knocked a third tooth loose, and it has reattached itself, but it’s crooked!  So…he has “Bubba teeth” and it’s really goofy and cute all at the same time!  However, not having those tiny teeth limits what he can grab and pull, because there are spaces there and no teeth!  I wasn’t sure that he could grab a dental chew to pull it out of the Holee Roller.  No game is fun if it’s only frustrating to a dog.

So….I put on my thinking cap, and came up with another version that will work for Rugby….and any other dog as well!!  The supplies are simple, and things that you likely already have in your home!  It was fast to put together, and kept Rugby very engaged, so that scores extra points in my world!  There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to make it, so let your own imagination soar and you can create something similar that will also be lots of fun for your own dogs!

Rugby knew that I was making something new for him, and he was very interested and curious about what I was doing!

If you want to make one like mine, here you go!  I started with my Holee Roller, and cut 5 strips of polka dotted fleece fabric into long strips that were  approximately 18″ long by 2″ wide.  I chose fleece because it’s soft and thick, could be easily washed, didn’t fray, and guess what? I already had some on hand, so I didn’t have to go buy anything else!  Really any sort of fabric will work, a bandana or scarf, for example, but you want your fabric choice to fill the puzzle so that the treats don’t easily fall out.

Once I had the strips cut, I rolled up treats in them.  You can use any kind of treat that you like, or even dog food kibble.  You can make your food or treats any size that you like.  I used Wellness Soft Wellbites treats.  They were treats that I had on hand, and I love that they are scored so that they can easily break into much smaller bites.

Once the treats were broken, I rolled about five tiny tidbits per each strip of fabric.  I’m guessing that I used less than one whole treat per strip, so in total, I know that I didn’t use more than four to five whole treats.  You can add additional or fewer treats as you like.  If you want to keep calories down, you can grab a handful of your dog’s kibble from his bowl before you feed him, and use that as the snack for the puzzle.  That won’t add any additional calories to your dog’s diet for the day if you’re watching weight at your house.

Once I had the strips rolled up with treats inside, I stuffed the rolled fabric inside the toy.  I found that with the fleece fabric, and the size of the Holee Roller that I used, three strips really fit fine, and five strips made it very snug inside.  The tighter the fabric, the harder it’s going to be for your dog to pull it out of the toy.  If you want to start with a smaller number of fabric rolls, it can be easier for your dog to learn the puzzle, and then you can add extra strips once your dog has the puzzle figured out.

Once Rugby saw me getting the bag of treats, he was suddenly very interested in what I was doing!  He really loves games and puzzles, and we play them frequently in my house, so he’s always keeping one eye open for some fun!  When I gave the puzzle to Rugby, he was very pleased, and his nose started working overtime!  He wasn’t sure what to do with it.  There were a few corners of the fabric peeking out through the holes, and with Rugby’s “Bubba teeth” I wasn’t sure if he could grab those to pull them out.

Once he had sniffed the puzzle over really well, he started problem solving.  He poked his nose at the puzzle to see what would happen.  When that didn’t produce any treats, he started to roll the puzzle and checked the floor for treats.  By this time, he was a good minute into the puzzle, and I knew that he would frustrate if I didn’t help him along.  So I pulled out a bit of the fabric to make it easier for him by having something that he could really grab.  Once I did that, Rugby quickly figured out how to pull the fabric, and once he found success doing that, he seemed to understand that this was how the puzzle worked.

The first time I worked the puzzle with him, he was engaged for four to seven minutes, and by then, the puzzle was empty.  When I loaded it back up for him, he lost interest after another five minutes or so, and by then, I just don’t think he was all that hungry, since I had played with him just after his breakfast.  He had pulled four of the strips out, but walked away from the last one, and typically, he doesn’t do that! This would be a better game for mid afternoon or before bed, when he is more hungry, and bored.

Just remember, this is a game that is intended to be played with supervision!!  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED!!  Dogs and puppies are naturally curious, and remember that the fabric will smell like treats!  Depending upon what treats you use, oils and crumbs may attach to the fabric, and I can easily see any dog potentially chewing on the fabric once it is out of the puzzle!  Be sure that you are watching your dog, and coaching him when he works!  Interactive puzzle play is a wonderful way to bond and play with your dogs!  Have fun!!





What Happens When I’m Sick….or Rugby’s Stealthy Sofa Stealing!

Recently I had the misfortune to be sick for a couple of days.  It was nothing serious, just a really bad sinus issue that wouldn’t drain.  I’m not sick very often…in fact, my last cold was about a year ago.  But, when I get sick, I’m usually pretty sick, and typically need to rest and recover for a few days.

Enter Rugby James.

On normal, healthy days, I rarely hang out on the sofa in a prone position.  I generally keep going like the Energizer Bunny, until about 9:00 pm, and then I start to crash!  At that point in my day, I simply go to bed, and Rugby couldn’t be more pleased with that.  He often likes to go to bed around 9:00, so when I suggest going and he doesn’t have to bark me to bed, he’s one happy dog!  He’d rather not nag, but when pushed into it, he can bark me off to bed like a champ!

However, when I’m sick, I’m often laying either in bed or on the sofa.  Rugby looks at these situations as prime snuggle opportunities, so I know that I’m going to be inundated by a twenty-three pound furry heating pad with long legs!  There’s a delight that I see in his eyes when he observes that I’m getting into a prone position, and he springs into action!  He’s not a little dog who lets any kind of wonderful snuggle opportunities slip past his ever watchful eyes!

I appreciate the sentiment!  I really, truly do.  It’s sweet, thoughtful, and completely self serving on Rugby’s part, but he is a little dog, after all, and I can’t blame him for wanting to capitalize on a good thing when he sees it!  And to be perfectly honest, when I’m sick, it’s nice to have a family member who dotes on me and wants to make me feel all loved up. (I know that Rugby is truthfully only caring about how he feels in these situations, but I can fantasize right along with the best of them!)

I typically choose the sofa when I’m sick, because I know Rugby feels very strongly about snuggling me back into good health, and I would rather not have to deal with being sick and also dog fur in my bed!  (Because of Rugby’s aggressive issues, I also keep my bed as a dog free zone).  Rugby is extremely vocal and persuasive, and that comes with lots of grrrrring and barking, so I generally move to the sofa when I’m sick just to help keep the peace at home!  I honestly don’t mind if he gets on the sofa with me, as long as he asks permission first.  The bed…not so much!

Rugby says “Please may I get on the sofa” by sitting and quietly waiting for his invitation.

He can hardly wait for me to get the soft, fuzzy, snuggle blankie out before his bright little eyes light up and he starts the pleading looks.  It’s ridiculous the way this dog has mastered that sweet, soft beg in those two little dark chocolate drops peeking out of mountains of fluffy, marbled fur.  He’s almost become a professional beggar, and my show dogs had nothing on Rugby’s pleading looks!  He caps off his generous snuggle offer with a gentle brushing sweep of his fluffy tail, which slowly wags over his back to and fro like a metronome keeping precise beat for a musician.  How can I saw no to such sincerity?  Besides that, he knows he clearly has a strong advantage because he’s playing to my compromised mental and physical state.  I’m too weak to fight him off, so I succumb to the power of the paw and those beautiful, drippy eyes!


And who says that dogs are just dumb animals?

This is the face that starts it all! I’m powerless against those beautiful, sweet eyes!! I’m just putty in his paws!!

In my mind and dreams anyway,  I have this image of a sweet, dutiful puppy, who sleeps at the foot of the sofa, carefully making sure that I have all the room that I require, and looking up at me with adoring eyes from time to time.  However, when dreams and reality collide, sometimes the results aren’t pretty!!  Let me just say that we both have really great intentions, and the dream that we both share is a good one.  But that’s really where the similarities end!

The honest truth is that Rugby James is a sofa pig.  He is.  He just is.  Yes, the sweet, fluffy dog with those killer eyes and sincere angelic look is actually simply plotting a way to take over the sofa.  I’m convinced that is his ultimate goal in life when I’m sick.

He knows that the house rules require that he has to ask permission to get up on the sofa, and he’s extremely good about using his manners.  He can say, “Please” just about better than any dog I know.  That’s part of the issue for me.  When he’s so sweet to ask, and when he uses such wonderful manners, I sometimes feel like a Grinch if I tell him no, especially when I don’t feel well. So I cave in, and generally live to regret that decision, because it’s the exact same scenario played out each time I’m sick.

Every. Single. Time.

When I invite Rugby to get up on the sofa with me,  I always direct him down to my feet where there is extra room for him.  He gleefully jumps up at the far end of the sofa, no problem whatsoever.  But he quickly tries to maneuver his way to the middle of the sofa, where he can score a nap laying right on top of me, successfully pinning me to the sofa and ensuring that I can’t leave or easily boot him off.  In his heart of hearts, Rugby just loves a “puppy pile” where he can wallow all over his humans as he naps!  And, if he’s wallowing on me, he’s successfully stealing a large part of the sofa at the same time!  He’s stealthy, this one is!!

This is a mild “stink eye” because he genuinely wants to move up the sofa, but I have told him that he has to stay put right where he is!

I have to be quick to make sure that I prevent him from plopping down where he wants, because if I wait that extra nanosecond, he anchors himself in place and then there’s no winning in the battle for the sofa.  He’s not only adorable, but he’s cunning and quick like a fox!  He always looks a bit disappointed that I’m not allowing him to wallow all over me, but trust me on this one:  this story always has the very same ending, and it’s not a good one!

This was one of the most hopeful looks I saw from Rugby while I was sick. I think if you look up “HOPE” in the dictionary, this is what you will see!

At the foot of the sofa, he generally curls up in a ball, filling the adequate space quite nicely and he settles right down…wistfully looking at me from time to time.  It’s blissful for a while….maybe fifteen to thirty minutes anyway.  I look at him and smile, and in a few short minutes, I watch my little love sponge close those little chocolate brown eyes of his, and drift off into a sweet nap and I think to myself, “Life is good.”

After time goes by, Rugby starts to make his move.  He’s ninja-like….quiet and sneaky….stealthy and cunning.  He yawns….and stretches…..a big yawn, and a bigger stretch!  And so it begins!  As he stretches, he invades my space, and begins a systematic takeover of the sofa!  And he’s so stinking cute while he does it!  It’s genius!!  I’m completely disarmed by his good looks and that’s a brilliant plan!

The stealthy Ninja dog plots his next move….beginning with that charming face and sincere eyes….

What I really don’t understand is why Rugby thinks that he needs two sections of the sofa for his naps.  There are three sections to the sofa.  Clearly I need at least two of them.  I’m five foot four inches tall.  My full size doesn’t easily fit on one section unless I’m simply sitting on the sofa, which I rarely do when I’m sick.  I prefer to lay down, or at the very least, assume some similar position with my legs fully stretched out on the middle and third sections. Rugby clearly doesn’t think I should be entitled to that much sofa real estate.

He starts out on mostly one cushion section, but you can see the slow, steady progression as he is silently spilling over….

What really doesn’t make sense to me, is that we have a matching loveseat on the opposite wall of the den.  If Rugby really wants two comfy sofa sections for napping, he could ask for permission to nap on the loveseat!  He could easily have the entire thing all to himself!  But noooooo!  Rugby wants my two sofa sections, he wants his little puppy pile, and he is pushy and rude to get it all!

As the afternoon progresses, Rugby ends up laying on me in some form or fashion.  He is a master of  attaching himself like Velcro to human body parts! After a while, twenty-three pounds of a sleeping dog on your legs or feet will actually cause you to lose all feeling in them.  And really, who ever wants to disturb a sleeping dog?  Rugby looks so cute while he’s sleeping!  He is so angelic as he takes one deep breath after another.  My heart always sighs a big awwwww when I see him blissfully napping on me.

Eventually, I simply have to wake him up because I can’t feel my legs or feet, and I’m starting to cramp up after laying in the same position for too long.  When I wake him up, I always get his stink eye as I tell him that he simply has to move.  He often gets up and hops down on the floor, giving me a dirty look as he goes.  When I’m sick, I move his dog pillow bed so that it’s right next to the sofa to give him a cozy spot near to me, but the honest truth, is that when I’m sick, Rugby seems to think that his snuggles will make me well again!

Rugby offers an over the shoulder stink eye about having to sleep on his dog pillow!

Fortunately, I’m not typically sick for very long, which is a blessing in more than one way!  I can only take so much fighting over sofa real estate with Rugby James!  However, at the end of the day, these memories will be filed away into a very special spot in the file cabinet of my heart.  His sofa stealing behavior is both an annoyance and endearing, and it’s something that has always made Rugby a unique dog in my world.  All of my dogs have been so very special to me, but the memories I will have of Rugby’s Stealthy Sofa Stealing will earn him a very large trophy in my heart and smiles from ear to ear!


Friday Fun: A New Type of Puzzle!

Anyone who has followed Rugby’s Facebook page or this blog for long, knows that Rugby really enjoys playing with puzzles.  They are a wonderful way to challenge him mentally, and it also gives him a little problem to solve, which he really loves!

Dogs on their own in the streets spend their days problem solving:  finding food, water and shelter every day.  Our pets have absolutely everything provided for them, which leaves them nothing creative to do.  It gives them no problem to solve in their day to day.  No wonder they make mischief in any form that they can find it!

While I was driving one day, I thought about what new fun activity I could do with Rugby.  He loves to dig in his blankies, so I thought of how much fun it might be to hide treats in his fluffed up blankies, and let him go to town digging and nosing around to discover all of the goodies that were hidden in all of the folds.

I started out with Rugby on his placemat, and I hid treats in a small towel, tucking them here and there among the folds of the towel.  I always let him watch me when I start a new game, so that he understands what to do.  I started with a small towel, and made sure that it was light colored so that Rugby could have an easier time seeing and finding the treats.  I also didn’t hide too many treats, to overwhelm him with work.


Then I gave Rugby a release so that he could start working.  He already knows the phrase “Find the Cookie” from a previous game that I taught him, (see my previous post  We’ve played “Find the Cookie” a lot at my house, and it’s a game Rugby just loves!  So hunting for the treats hidden in a towel was an easy extension of that game.

Here’s a video of our first attempt.  I didn’t think that he had gotten all of the treats out of the towel when he kept walking away, but when I picked the towel up and shook it, no treats fell out!  No wonder he walked away!  He knew he had found them all!!

Next, I tried making it harder by hiding the treats in a big, dark colored blankie of Rugby’s.  Not only were there more places to hide treats for him, but there also more folds, so smelling them was harder.  I chose a dark color, because the treats would blend into the blankie, and Rugby would really have to work his nose and eyes to spy the hidden treasures.  Here’s the video of our second attempt:

When working puzzles of any kind, initially Rugby often walks away to clear his thinking a bit, but he comes back…sometimes with a little encouragement, to keep working.  I used standard dog food kibble in both of these trials.  It honestly would probably be more fun and easier if I use a stinky bait, like his very favorite Salmon treat.  I think he would probably stay engaged better, and want to work harder to find his treats!

I think I’ve found a big hit at my house!  This is a game that is easy to transport to a new place or work on the patio or house for rainy days. To be honest, I would recommend that you carefully supervise your dog in play with this game!  If he gets too frustrated, he may decide to chew the blanket to get to the treats!  And, if you have a fabric chewer of bedding at your house, you might want to skip this game altogether!  If the bedding smells like treats, it’s an open invitation to your dog to chew on it!  However, if you use a special blankie or towel only for this game and take it away afterwards, you might be able to give it a successful try!

Rugby loves play of any kind, and thinking games are among his very favorites!  Even playing small games like this make Rugby so happy and satisfied.  His little eyes just shine after we’ve had some fun play together, and it’s really great quality time with my best friend!


In Celebration of National Dog Day!!

Today is National Dog Day, and that’s going to mean different things to different people.  If I know anything at all, it’s that everyone feels very passionate about their breed of dog!  It doesn’t matter what the breed is, people are just sold on their specific type of dog!

I remember the days of having our purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  I was such a dog snob in those days!  I liked other dogs to be sure, but I loved my Corgis like nobody’s business and I don’t think anyone could have ever convinced me that a better dog existed!

To this day, Corgis are without a doubt my very favorite breed of purebred dogs, but because I train all breeds, I have really come to love and appreciate the various different breeds of dogs for the wonderful attributes that they bring to the world.  And I have to say, I absolutely love the passion I see in my clients for their dogs.  It warms my heart at every lesson that I teach.

Today….I want to celebrate the All American Mutt!!  My sweet little Rugby James doesn’t have a fancy pedigree behind him, and to be honest, his gene pool is dubious at best!  But he’s my little guy, and as cute as a button, and I love him to the moon and back.  For a little nutter of a dog, he has a huge heart, and never gives up trying to learn, and that makes up for a whole lot of other shortcomings in my book!

Happy National Dog Day to the pooch at your home that makes your own heart skip a beat!  Extra snacks all around!

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This is the face that I come home to every day….*sigh*…be still my heart!!