Dogs, for the most part, have it pretty easy these days.
They don’t have to hunt and forage for their own food. They have it presented to them two or three times a day. For many dogs, mealtime lasts, oh, maybe 30 seconds. Sure, they are happy to chow it down in lightening fast time. But they are even more satisfied when they are challenged to work for their food. It’s a concept called “contra freeloading” where your dog chooses the food they have to work for over the food that requires no work. You might be surprised to find your dog preferring effort over freeloading.
Our Teenage Terrors clients are used to us telling them that feeding their dogs out of food bowls is a wasted opportunity. Giving your dog feeding challenges uses his meal for maximum benefit:
- Mental exertion and stimulation for a more profound tiredness
- Physical activity to offset calorie intake
- Building confidence through problem-solving
There are so many interactive feeding toys on the market today. We carry a nice assortment of them at the Training Center — stop in and check them out. We particularly like the Kong, Nina Ottosson/Outward Hound and Trixie Pet Products puzzles and toys.
Are you a crafter or handyman? If so, make your own. There are so many options and you can repurpose everyday items that might otherwise be headed to the trash or recycling bin.
- Drill a few holes in a clean plastic bottle, put some kibble in and screw on the top
- Egg carton, paper tube and partitioned boxes can be turned into hide-and-find food dispensers
- Put some treats into a muffin tin and place tennis balls on top of the treats
Novel uses of purchased items:
- Make a “lickimat” out of a pyramid cone silicone mat — turn it over and smear wet food or baby food into the pyramid indentations and let your dog lick the food out
- Drill holes into PVC piping, fill with food and plug the ends; put small pieces of wadded up paper in the tube to increase the challenge of getting the food out
- Sink drain mats — turn them into snuffle mats by tying lengths of fleece fabric around the holes; check out Pinterest for directions
These are just a few ideas for getting your dog’s meal out of his food bowl and into the wonderful world of food enrichment. Have a variety of these toys and present each meal in a different one. Use that meal strategically and your dog will thank you.
We will continue to cover the five areas of enrichment in coming posts. Next up: Sensory!