Boonhoh, W., Saramolee, P., Sriphavatsarakom, P. et al. 2024. Preference of dogs towards feeding toys made of natural rubber, and their potential to improve canine behaviour: A study based on owners’ observations. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 270, 106142.

Improper feeding methods can be linked to canine behaviour problems, as the conventional bowl-feeding approach fail to mimic natural behaviour and is associated with obesity. Feeding toys can potentially contribute to the enhancement of dog behaviour by mimicking natural hunting behaviour and promoting increased canine activity. Para rubber is a natural rubber with high flexibility and is tolerant of animal teeth, making it safer for animals compared to plastic and silicone. This study had two main objectives: firstly, to examine dogs’ preferences for the scent and colour added to a para rubber toy; and secondly, to explore the impact of using para rubber feeding toys on dog behaviours. The feeding toys were produced from natural rubber, with added scents and colours incorporated during their production. Subsequently, these toys were distributed to dog owners for evaluation. Owners completed the Thai version of the C-BARQ questionnaire, which evaluate canine behaviour both prior to and following a month of interaction with the toys. The findings indicated that dogs exhibited a preference for yellow toys over blue ones, as well as a preference for vanilla-scented toys compared to those with a beef scent. Following one month of consistent use of the para rubber toy, dogs tended to reduce various undesirable behaviours. Notably, excitation behaviour showed a nearly threefold decrease, and this reduction was statistically significant (p = 0.003). These outcomes emphasise the potential of natural rubber feeding toys in mitigating excitation-related behaviours, while also highlighting dogs’ preference towards specific colours and scents. Consequently, there is a suggestion that enhancing toys with appealing scents or colours might foster greater interaction between dogs and their toys, potentially leading to a positive influence on their overall behavioural welfare.

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