This game is very popular and often recommended by Dog trainers such as Tip Top Dog School and best of all it is cheap and easy to do
I am sure you are aware there are so many games that you can play to entertain your dog in the home, often using the simplest of props to do so. The lazy, but expensive, way is to go down to a pet supermarket and buy one or two ready made entertainment pieces. These will do the job alright, but you could be seriously out of pocket for some of them. Apart from that obvious point you will lose out on the opportunity for a bit of fun making something, not to mention the extreme dose of self-satisfaction that will wash all over you when you create something that really works.
Your dog will appreciate the opportunity to play with something different and you will have a big smile on your face watching him trying to figure out your fiendish but ingenious invention. You really can make it easy or hard – it’s up to you and your imagination. By hard, I mean hard for you to make and/or hard for the dog to solve the puzzle. However, this definition can definitely NOT be levelled at the “Muffin Tin Game”. You literally need a muffin tin, some tennis balls (or similar) and some treats – easy as that!
Setting up the game
A standard, shop-bought muffin tin will probably come with 12 equally sized indentations. Each little muffin space is about the right size for a tennis ball. The best way to do this is to engage your dog’s attention immediately. Getting down on the floor with him would be a perfect start. He will know straight away that playtime is about to start – it is just a case of which game are we going to play today! It’s important, of course, to let him see what you are doing while at the same time keeping him sitting there quietly until you are finished. He might be reluctant at first – depends how well he responds to “Sit!”
So, into each muffin slot goes a small treat. This needs to be very small and flat and, preferably, with a strong enough scent that he will pick up immediately. It could be meat, could be something sweet or it could even be strong smelling cheese (provided your dog actually likes cheese of course). On top of each treat goes a ball. Do this deliberately, talking to him constantly. You can even explain what it is you are doing, just in case he understands you perfectly! Then the game starts.
He will use paw or nose to nudge a ball out of the way, thus revealing something tasty. He should soon catch on that there will be something similar under each one – it’s just a case of shifting the ball. It would be interesting to see how he does it. One by one, or knocking them all out of their slots with one sweep of the paw – either way he will get something out of the exercise. You could play this a couple of times perhaps and, the more you play, the more his tail will wag during the setting up and the execution of the game.
I think you will agree that this is truly a simple, inexpensive but potentially very rewarding game for your dog to play while you are there to join in. Perfect owner/dog bonding really!
This game can be scaled down to smaller breeds of dogs or cats by simply using smaller muffin tins or even an egg box and scaling don the balls to say ping pongs