Day 23 Pulleys

Welcome to Day 23 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Decker will tug on anything… (Link)


At a glance:

  • thinking puzzles that really help to get your dog’s brain working
  • by helping your dog slow down and think through, we can expand their behavioural repertoire and build their puzzle busting abilities
  • food and cognitive based enrichment
  • lots of different approaches to these ones, allowing for the development of lots of different skills
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and they can certainly help here, but it’s best that an adult supervise and guide the dog’s progress
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • each puzzle prep will probably take you about a couple of minutes and each session should last only a few minutes – thinking is hard work!

What do you need?

  • shoe lace, fine dog lead, cord, rope
  • long tug toy
  • tubes, paper, paper cups
  • a range of food rewards

Any rope will do… (Link)

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to develop the ability to think through problems
  • to reduce frustration motivated behaviour, such as destruction
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than just eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food
  • by working on different puzzles, we can facilitate carrying out a range of behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire, while also learning to apply and adapt solutions to a range of puzzles

These puzzles offer lots of cross over between categories of enrichment.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous and cognitive skills in manipulating the puzzles are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Pulleys puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the puzzle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings to get the things they like.

By carefully supervising and guiding our dogs through these puzzles, we can help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

We’ve talked a lot over the #100daysofenrichment project about making the challenge doable for our pets and never is this more important than for these thinking puzzles.

If your pet is going at this in bulldozer-of-destruction-mode, then you need to help them. If your pet is giving up, then you need to help them.
If your pet is frustration and stressing, then you need to help them.

Your dog will need time to think this through. They don’t draw conclusions like we do and if they have found reinforcement in destructive approaches, in the past, that will be their go-to here as well.
So, this is really a big challenge for the humans, to make sure that you pitch the challenge carefully.

When your pet goes down the wrong path, immediately stop and take stock; how can you make it easier for them to get it right?

This is of course important for all challenges, but I want you to think about it carefully for today’s challenge so that it’s on your radar in all enrichment.

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Tugging…even when it’s slightly scary… (Link)

Applications of Pulleys Puzzles:

I use thinking puzzles, like pulleys, a lot with dogs who become easily over-aroused as a way to help them gain confidence in making decisions, to help them think rather than react and possibly most importantly, get them practicing good stress.

The more we challenge these thinking parts of the brain, the stronger they become and the more neurological connections are formed. This makes thinking easier and more powerful throughout the dog’s life.

This is also a great primer for pet owners in supporting their puzzler, guiding them and keeping them successful.

As with a lot of puzzles and enrichment exercises, well-meaning own go waaaaay over board, coming up with the most elaborate designs to really challenge their pet.

While it’s great to go for challenge, it’s important that enrichment remain enriching. That means that the challenge must be made appropriate and doable for the individual puzzler.

These puzzles are for supervised time only and they require you active participation too! Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Even if you are both experienced puzzlers, start with the lower levels to see how wide a range of behaviours your dog offers, to solve the puzzle. Let your dog take time to think and give yourself time to think about ways to support and guide their progress.

Option 1: Treat-on-a-String

While this is your starting point today, it’s not necessarily going to be easy or straight forward for your pet.

Make it really easy at first so that they develop behavioural solutions and then you can add some challenge, but take your time and give them some time.

treat on a string


  • tie a string (dog lead, cord, shoe lace etc.) around a treat such as a piece of hotdog, chicken breast, tripe, commercial treat or a meat slice rolled up or similar
    The treat needs to be long and slender enough to make tying easy and secure.
  • slide the treat, on the string, under a ledge such as under the sofa, under a door, through the bars of a crate or baby gate, under a book shelf, under an upturned chair or box
  • at this stage, just barely hide the treat out of reach
  • have some food rewards of equal or lower value to the tied treat – this is important so that they don’t just give up on the puzzle to earn the food rewards you are delivering
  • reward your dog for showing any behaviours that might lead them to solve this puzzle; for example, this might include: them lowering to look under the ledge, touching, sniffing, biting at, pawing the string, attempting to use their front feet to reach, digging with their front feet
  • when rewarding them, toss the rewards on to the floor just beside where they are working
  • make it really easy for them to get the treat on a string and keep your rate of reward high so they will keep trying
  • let them eat the treat on a string once they get it and supervise closely to make sure they don’t chew or bite the string

Don’t have a sofa or other suitable ledge? Don’t worry, use a Pringles tube (or similar) or under an upturned box.
Hold it under your foot to secure it in place.

in a tube

Practice a few times and once your dog has a behavioural strategy for solving this thinker, move to the next level.


Set up as you did for the Beginners option, but now begin to push the treat on a string further out of reach. Incrementally. Little by little.



  • push the treat further away and allow the dog to work on it independently – don’t give up that support too soon thoug
  • add some other puzzles on a string, for example, a bowl on a string, a little busy box on a string, a paper cup or tube treat parcel


Option 2 Pop the Lid!

Instead of a treat on a string, we are going to use a tug toy or rope to help your dog reveal the goal, which might be a food reward, toy or something else they will work for.

Start simple and provide lots of guidance so that your dog is successful, and not frustrated or confused.


Start simple with this one. Provide lots of help, where needed, and keep the box in your hands and possibly a little higher up so that your doesn’t go all out to destroy it.

  • Use your treat on a string and place the treat into a box.
  • loosely close over the lid of the box
  • encourage your dog to pull at the string with their teeth – you could cue them, wiggle the string
  • remember to reward them with tossed treats for any behaviour that might free the treat



Now it’s time to increase the challenge and get those brains working hard!

  • add some food to a tube, like a Pingles can, a paper cup or cardboard tube; you could even use a small and slender box or tub
  • slide a tug toy in there, so that some of the rope sticks out
  • pack a ball or toy in the entrance
  • pack some crumpled up paper in the tube or container

Your dog will need to pull the rope to move the obstruction. When they do, tip the container so that the food falls to the floor or give it to them to get the food.

Remember to reward them with tossed treats for any behaviour that might free the treat.



Use a tub or tube with a lid. Make a hole, in the lid, and draw the tug toy or rope through the hole and knot to secure it.

When making the hole, pierce the lid from the outside in, and draw the role through that way too. This ensures that any sharp sticky-up parts don’t hurt your pet.

Add some food to the bottom of the container and fit the lid securely. Encourage your dog to pull the rope to open the container and get the food.


Option 3 Open the Door

We’ve already worked on closing the door (Day 15 Targeting) so it makes sense that we learn to open doors too!


If you and your pet are new to all this, start by teaching them to tug, pick things up and release. Day 2 covers all of these exercises, and more, in great detail!


Tie a tug toy to an appropriate door handle and teach your dog to open the door!

Be careful about your choice of door as very light doors or very heavy doors might cause injury.

This clip runs through the stages of teaching this behaviour:


Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!