For years we’ve been using dog bowls to feed our dogs. What a waste. In the modern day dog’s often lead quite boring lifestyles. The majority of collies are no longer working on farms, labradors aren’t retrieving game, terriers aren’t killing rodents. So why do we insist on squandering the opportunity to enrich our dog’s lives twice daily?
Food is intrinsically rewarding to our dogs. Thousands of years of evolution has been geared towards the task of obtaining it. Lets stop wasting this resource and use it to ignite our dog’s brains with activities.
The idea of using food to enrich an animal’s life is not exclusive to dogs. Zoos caught on years ago. Check out this video by Tallinn Zoo which shows some of the methods they use…
A Few Things You Can Do Instead…
Puzzle toys are an excellent way of feeding your dog. They’re easy to use and there are so many variations and new ones to try out that keep it exciting for the dog. Here are some of my favourites…
No list of puzzle toys would be complete without the classic Kong, and it truly is a classic. I recommend these so frequently and use them all the time myself with my own dogs. There are whole reams of recipes online for ingredients that people have stuffed their Kongs with.
If you have a dog that finishes them quickly, you can make them last longer by using something like natural yoghurt, wet food or peanut butter and freezing it.
Here is one lesser-known puzzle toy. I discovered this recently and have loved it. It has six compartments which you fill with your dogs kibble. You can then set it to release food when the dog pushes it around at timed intervals.
It chimes a little bell when food is available to be released. The dog should eventually learn this and start playing with the toy again in order to get the food out.
Nina Ottosson does so many great puzzle toys for dogs. There are a large variety of different toys but photographed above is one of the most popular, the ‘Dog Tornado’ activity toy.
The simplest way to get rid of the bowl and enrich your dog is to just throw the kibble all over the floor. Let your dog use his nose to find each individual piece.
You can make it harder by taking the kibble and hiding pieces all throughout the house. Then let them search the house for their food.
I really like doing this as it’s great to see a dog’s nose go to work looking for all of the food.
The Towel Puzzle
Another really easy way to add some challenge to your feeding times is to put the food in a towel, fold it up and then let the dog try to get it out. This sounds like it would be really easy but it’s quite the opposite.
Your dog doesn’t have thumbs to simply unfold the towel. They have to work hard to dig and push it about to get the food out.
[Check Out ‘5 Things I Learned from Craig Ogilvie‘ to see how Craig makes D.I.Y Towel Tug Toys]
Training (No, it doesn’t have to be boring!)
I think a lot of people have the misconception that training your dog is boring. It doesn’t have to be! Thousands of people have found enjoyment in trick training through Youtube tutorials by people like Emily Larlham (Kikopup) that make it really fun. Check out this one below…
Helen Zulch & Sian Ryan – No Walks? No Worries! (Amazon US) and Claire Arrowsmith’s Brain Games for Dogs (Amazon US). I haven’t had a chance to check out either of these books but have heard good things about both.