Things Your Dog Will Love: Twist ‘n Treat

The Twist ‘n Treat is a great positive reinforcement tool to control speed eating in dogs as well as to keep them cognitively challenged.

We want to keep our furry friends cognitively exercised, and a variety of different puzzle toys will keep them on their toes.

The Twist ‘n Treat is very similar in concept to the Atomic Treat Ball. It is a puzzle toy filled with food and it’s up to the dog to figure out how to manipulate it to get the food out.

While the Atomic Treat Ball is our go-to puzzle toy to slow down speed eating (or to just keep one of our dogs busy), if it’s the only puzzle we give them it’s going to become less and less stimulating over time. In short, the name of the game is to not allow them to get bored.

It might seem as if both puzzles are exactly the same. However, the Twist ‘n Treat is much easier to learn and is usually the best first puzzle toy, especially for puppies.

The Atomic Treat Ball and the Twist ‘n Treat work differently enough that it keeps our dogs on their toes. We need to remember that canine cognition does not generalize well and that the two wildly different shapes of the toys essentially makes them two completely different skill sets for the dog.

Shaped like a flying saucer, the twist in Twist ‘n Treat refers to the rubber screw inside the toy that you twist to open in order to load the kibble or treats.

While the loading is more complicated than the Atomic Treat Ball, the fact that you can customize the size of the gap that dispenses the food means you have a lot more options in terms of what you can put in it and it makes for a great starter toy since you can make it easy at first then more difficult as your dog gets the hang of it.

While the Twist ‘n Treat is all upside for dogs, the thick rubber it’s made from tends to bounce pretty well and the shape causes it to roll – so don’t be surprised to find yourself hunting for it underneath furniture.

As with so many of the puzzle toys out there, the Twist ‘n Treat is not meant to be left alone with your dog – especially if they are a hard chewer.

Those minor quibbles aside, the Twist ‘n Treat is a really nice addition to your dog’s positive reinforcement cognitive toy box.  And for those of you whose dogs have not quite mastered other puzzle toys, this is a good learner-toy.

Things Your Dog Will Love: Atomic Treat Ball

The Atomic Treat Ball is a great positive reinforcement tool to control speed eating in dogs as well as to keep them cognitively challenged.

Atomic_Treat_Ball_mainDogs and other canids are natural problem solvers:  you can see it when wolves hunt, when the dogs in our Nose Work classes are tracking down the scent target, or when our own dogs are rooting for that single piece of kibble that fell behind their food bowls.

It’s what they’re wired to do, what they evolved to do, and it’s what they love to do, but the normal life of a dog living in a house doesn’t make for too many riddles to solve – except for the one we don’t want them to solve like how to open the garbage can lid, how to get into the closet, etc.

That’s where the Atomic Treat Ball comes in and why I’ve been using and recommending it to clients for years.

What initially drew me to the Atomic Treat Ball was Porthos had developed problems related to speed eating and I needed to find a way to allow him to get his full dinner in a measured, controlled way. It worked wonders to keep him from bloat and torsion, but after a while it became clear that although he loved the Atomic Treat Ball because it was filled with food he enjoyed it equally as much for the fun involved in getting the food out.

The trick behind the Atomic Treat Ball is in its design. If you take a look at the picture above you’ll see that it’s essentially shaped like four stacked hollow balls – in essence, a molecule – with a single loading hole in one of the balls. The pyramid shape allows dogs to easily roll the toy around without it going out of control under furniture and the single loading hole gives them a reasonably good chance of getting some food out with each go, but it’s an irregular enough reward schedule to neither bore them nor have them run out of kibble too quickly.

Also, unlike a lot of other puzzle toys the empty space inside the Atomic Treat Ball accommodates quite a bit of kibble or snacks. For Porthos we can actually fit about half of his kibble for each meal into his, which helps to slow down his eating greatly but is also really useful if you need to keep your dog busy for a while or if you want to give them a nice treat that will last if they need to spend extended time in their crates, playpens, taking a break from company or the fix-it person who doesn’t need your dog up their backside, etc.

The Atomic Treat Ball is cheap, easy, and – most importantly – it works. It’s a great tool to keep your dog cognitively challenged, which is as important to them as it is to humans as we grow older, and I believe that it’s an indispensable tool to have in our bag of positive reinforcement tricks.

Go Speed Eater, Go!

The dangers of speed eating in dogs and the best ways to get them to slow down their eating using positive reinforcement training methods.


Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

[dropcap]Q[/dropcap]:  Professor Boo, our puppy’s been with us for two weeks now and the speed at which she eats is starting to get out of control.  She’s a breed that’s prone to bloat so we purchased a stand for her bowl, but is there any way we can slow her eating?  We tried putting half of her food in her bowl at first and then the second half later but she just wolfs it down just as fast no matter how much we give her.  Help!

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]:  For as much as the super-speed eating your puppy is doing seems like a problem, it’s actually something of a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it is a problem because swallowed air can lead to bloat and gastric torsion which can be huge medical emergencies.  On the other hand, though, your puppy is telling us that she’s extremely food-motivated – which will make training her as she grows up just that much easier.

There’s a two-word answer to this problem:  Puzzle Toys.

By putting some or all of your puppy’s kibble into the puzzle toy and giving it to her you’ll not only slow down her rate of eating but you’ll also be providing her significant amounts of cognitive stimulation as she’ll have to figure out (and work at) getting her food out of the toy.

We’ve been using the Twist ‘n Treat, Atomic Treat Ball, and Tricky Treat Ball at home for our goofy black Lab, Porthos, since just about since we brought him home as a pup.  Along with being diabetic he’s also a compulsive speed eater and the Atomic Treat Ball and Tricky Treat Ball have worked like charms to keep him busy for long enough to allow his brothers to finish eating so he doesn’t try to surf their bowls as well.

In addition to puzzle toys, a good way to slow down the speed of your puppy’s eating is to set aside a portion of her kibble and use it as training treats.  She’ll not only eat as slowly as you’d like by your setting the pace of the training session, but you’ll also get a head start on using solid positive reinforcement training techniques to help her become a great dog.

Boo appetit!