Throw away the dog bowl, you (and your dog) will thank us for it!
We're currently in lock down with the dogs. And kids. And needing to work from home.
The chances are, if you are feeling a little stir crazy your dog probably is too.
Dogs are absolutely the winners of this pandemic. With so much quality time to spend with their pet parents. But after six days of living in your bubble, you and your dog might be starting to get a bit bored of the old walk around the block. With the kids home too it's a balancing act trying to make the most of this time together and not go crazy trying to keep everyone happy.
Here is one big tip to get a few extra moments of peace whilst keeping your dogs and the kids happily busy in lock down!
This one simple tip is what every dog owner needs to know: Use feeding time as enrichment time!
Throw away the dog bowl and use feeding time as enrichment time. Instead of giving Fido his breakfast and dinner in a bowl that gets demolished in under 10 seconds use feeding time as enrichment time. Meals will last longer and your dog will get more stimulation out of it. The idea is to get your dog using his amazing nose and problem solving skills to eat his breakfast or dinner.
Dogs love searching, scavenging and hunting food out with their nose. Some dogs love to rip, tear and destroy things. Some dogs love decapitating squeakers from toys (they will LOVE these exercises). Giving your dog a positive and healthy outlet to do those doggy things during the COVID-19 lock down will make for a very happy and content dog.
Feeding like this stimulates your dog mentally, physically and it's so much fun. Your best fur friend will be satisfied and relaxed, he will totally thank you for throwing away the dog bowl. Woof!
Instead of feeding your dogs food in a bowl try one of these enrichment feeding ideas:
Treasure Hunt (a.k.a Kibble Trail)
Create a trail of dog biscuits (kibble) that your dog finds to follow and eat his food!
This is a great way to get the kids involved too. And for young children or young puppies a fun way for them to be able to be a part of the daily routine. Kids love making treasure hunts for their dogs and watching them find the food! It's easy and fun. How to do it:
With your dog securely away in another room or in his crate so he can’t see where the food is being placed. Give a handful of dog food each to your kids and instruct them to put the biscuits on the floor / ground in a line for your dog to find. Make it easy for your dog by keeping the biscuits close together to begin with. As your dog gets better at finding the biscuits you can start to make the treasure hunts harder and harder by placing the individual biscuits further apart as well as under or over obstacles etc. This is an awesome easy enrichment game that will keep the kids and the dog happily busy for at least 10 minutes! For extra fun, split doggies breakfast and dinner up into multiple treasure hunts, the kids can have competitions to see whose treasure hunt took doggie the longest or shortest time to finish eating all the biscuits. You can also make it even more exciting for your dog by having a prize at the end of the treasure hunt! You could use your dogs favourite treat or long lasting chew like a deer antler as the prize! Eating meals like this your dog will take much longer to finish his food as well as being physically and mentally stimulated. This is way more fun, more rewarding and more satisfying for your dog, helping him to be a relaxed, happy dog.
Always supervise children with your dog.
Doggy pass the parcel
My favourite way to feed dogs dinner!
This is a great way to reuse (and get the most fun out of) your cardboard before putting it in the recycling bin. Any old cardboard or paper will do! How to do it:
Place some of your dog's food inside a small cardboard box. Then put that inside a larger cardboard box. Fill the large box with more dog food. Wrap up some dog food in paper and put that in the box. Fill the large box with some yummy treats and some extra paper. You can use any cardboard and be as creative as you like! Give the parcel to your dog and watch him absolutely destroy the cardboard and boxes to find his dinner! This is one of my favourite ways to feed dogs dinner. They LOVE it! Tearing and ripping and destroying. It’s another great way to involve the kids with looking after the family dog. Kids love wrapping the food up and watching the doggies make such a mess with the cardboard it brings squeals of joy.
Have fun and get creative, feeding dinner like this means it lasts 15 minutes instead of it disappearing in two seconds! The dogs will make an epic mess ripping up all the cardboard but it is so worth it! Some dogs do not like ripping etc, they might be a more gentle sweet heart. For those gentle dogs you can make it nice and easy for them by using one box (wine box is a great example) and leave one end open so its fun and simple for them to find their dinner. As your dog gains confidence and speed at finding the biscuits you can increase the difficulty to match their ability. If your dog is struggling, help them, make it easier or show them how to find the treats. If you dog is a sensitive kind of doggy that likes to be delicate with things, try wrapping up some of their food in a tea towel and placing that on the ground for them to gently unroll. Please supervise your dogs to make sure they are not eating the cardboard.
Here's some favourite treats:
If you know, you know.
If you don’t, well, you want to know!
Kongs are absolutely amazing and every dog trainer has at least three in their household. Kongs are the original enrichment feeder. They have a great range of toys to put food in, for dogs to push, chew, lick and work out how to get the food out. The Kong Classic is the most commonly used dog food puzzle toy and I can’t rate it highly enough. How to do it:
Stuff the kong with your dogs normal food and some healthy treats. Watch them lick and push and throw the kong around to get it out.
One of my favourite ways to stuff a Kong for my best dog friend Axl:
One handful of Acana dog biscuits go in first, then one raw meat pattie in the middle and then half a banana gets squished in. That takes Axl (a 45kg Rhodesian Ridgeback) about 15 minutes to devour. Which is awesome in comparison to the 2.5 seconds it takes him to eat it from a bowl! Not only does it take him more time but it is more satisfying for him. He gets joy out of eating this way and is content and relaxed afterwards.
Kong Wobblers are one of my favourites. Simply pop your dogs biscuits inside and watch them push it around the floor to make the biscuits jump out.
If you already own a Kong, get creative with what you put it in, where you place/ hide it for your dog to find.
If you are ready to take your enrichment feeding to the next level you could combine a couple of these ideas to make an extra fun enrichment feeding time. For example: Fill your Kong, place Kong in a box, fill the box with paper, make a treasure hunt of kibble to find the box at the end! Boom!
Have fun making feeding time enrichment time! I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to since throwing away the dog bowl.
P.s. Be a tidy kiwi, instead of throwing away the dog food bowl, simply turn it into another water bowl.
Article by Samantha Jackson, Howlictic Help - Dog training
View her website here