How to make meal times fun....
There is so much that we can do to give our dogs the mental and psychical enrichment that they need and deserve. Dogs are genetically hard-wired to hunt and forage for their food, unlike us humans who enjoy the ease of dinner served on a plate.
Rather than giving your dog the standard two walks a day, a nap on the sofa and 2 meals from a bowl, we can make mealtimes into fun games. Choosing to ditch the food bowl has many benefits, it prevents the dog from devouring their food in seconds, it enriches their natural behaviour and of course it's more fun for the dog. Giving your dog a time consuming activity can prevent them from practising unwanted behaviours due to boredom.
There are many fun feeding products already on the market that can be bought from pet shops and online, alternatively you can make them yourself for free or at a low cost. Snuffle Mat
A Snuffle Mat gives your dog the chance to use their nose, their paws and their tongue. The Snuffle Mat allows you to hide treats and kibble inside the mat, for your dog to scavenge. Snuffle Mat's provide your dog a fun alternative to their regular meal time, as it taps into their primal instincts to forage for their food.
A Kong allows your dog to work for their food, stimulating their mind and enhancing their fun. There are hundreds of recipes online that you can use to stuff inside the Kong including; peanut butter, cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, banana and dog kibble. If you have a dog that demolishes the Kong, you can make it harder for them by compacting the ingredients and freezing the Kong.
Dog Food Puzzle The dog gets rewarded for problem solving, they have to figure our how to attain the food. These puzzles can include sniffing out, pushing, pulling, flipping and spinning. These games can come with different levels of difficulty, they provide your dog with entertainment and mental stimulation.
DIY Food Scavenge Box Collect toilet and kitchen roll tubes, cereal boxes, plastic bottles etc. Create little pockets in the toilet roll tubes and fill with treats or kibble, place these inside the cereal box and close the box. Allow your dog to sniff and shred the cardboard to find the food. A word of caution, its best if this game is supervised to make sure the dog does not ingest anything other than the food.
Muffin Tin Food Game All you need is a 12-hole muffin tin and 6 to 12 tennis balls. To set up the game, place a treat in each hole of the muffin tin and then place a tennis ball on top of the treat. For standard size muffin tins, the tennis ball fits perfectly. The goal of the game is to encourage your dog to sniff for the treats and try to dislodge the tennis ball so they can get the treat. Once the muffin tin is set up, place it on the floor and encourage your dog to check it out. You may have to slightly lift a ball so they can see and sniff the hidden treat. When they see and smell it, drop the ball again and encourage them to find the treat.
Reward Good Choices Set aside a portion of your dog’s meal to use for rewarding throughout the day. We often miss opportunities to reward our dogs for making great choices and instead we give them lots of attention for unwanted behaviours, so try to capture these moments and reward using their kibble.
Luna my 10 week old puppy using a Snuffle Mat for her meal time.