Friday, June 16, 2017

Think Outside the Food Bowl

By:  Robin Sockness©

Your dog’s feeding time is an exciting and very important part of his/her daily routine but just because it’s routine doesn’t mean it should be boring! The key is with meal time is enrichment protocols that you put into place by providing your dog with outlets for natural, dog behavior.

Dogs are natural foragers and like to problem solve.  They experience a “eureka” feeling when working on food challenges. Working on a food puzzle is rewarding to a dogs because of the tangible reward such of the food treat.

When dogs don’t get the opportunity to engage in enrichment and they lack outlets of natural behavior, they can develop all sorts of difficulties. Dogs need to chew, dogs need to chase, dogs need to sniff and track.  Dog food puzzle toys can provide all those outlets for your dog.

Dogs enjoy foraging and scavenging for food  - it’s a natural behavior for them.  How many times have you had your dog gather up a non-food item and devote plenty of time to destroying it?

Ditch the traditional food bowl!

  • Food bowls do little to encourage interaction between your dog and you;
  • Food bowls do little to teach the dog that good things come through from you;
  • Food bowl feeding wastes rewarding opportunities;
  • Your dog would prefer to work for his/her food;
  • Our typical feeding routines encourage a sedentary doggy lifestyle;
  • Using their brains is important for dogs and modern feeding practices of twice day dump it in the bowl don’t require much brainpower for your dog;
  • Food bowls are a modern day human convenience!
Think outside the bowl!

The Shell Game – Grab 3 cups or pet food bowls. Put your dog in a sit/stay, put a few pieces of food under one cup and shuffle them around. Tell your dog “find it”! When they choose the right cup, reward them with the food.

Buried Treasure –Take a couple dog blankets and layer them into a pile, randomly tossing kibble in the nooks and folds. Your dog will enjoy rooting through the pile to find the blanket pile to find the treasures!

Treat Dispensing Toys – There are great treat dispensing toys and puzzles on the market.  Nina Ottoson makes some of our favorites.

Treasure Hunt/Hansel and Gretel – Place your dog in a sit/stay.  Create a trail throughout the house, dropping kibble at regular intervals for them to follow. You want them to be close enough together that they stay interested, but far enough apart that they have to work a little to find them all. Bonus points if the trail leads to a food puzzle!!!!!!!!

Training and Socialization  If you have a puppy, then use some of the food for training!  Take food with you when you are socializing your puppy to create happy experiences.

My dogs have some favorite puzzle toys.
1.     Nina Ottosson toys – very durable and challenging!
2.     Kong Wobbler – holds a good bit of kibble
3.     Slow feed bowls made by Outward Hound, colorful and creative.
4.     Tricky Treat Ball – fun to roll around the house and it’s quiet!

Don’t just feed once or twice a day, make it fun for your dog!

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