How To Make Mealtimes Fun
Whatever you feed your dog there are ways to make their mealtimes more enjoyable. It's easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to your dog's mealtimes, it's also very easy to pop the food in a bowl and give it to your dog. Think about it, that whole experience may only last less than 1 minute, there was no fun and certainly no challenge when food comes in a bowl. 5 reasons why I believe ditching the food bowl is great
If your dog eats quickly then feeding them in a more creative way will slow down their eating.
It gives your dogs brain a little workout, perfect to beat the boredom and provide the all-important mental enrichment.
Mealtimes will become more of a memorable event.
Mealtimes are a great opportunity to help your dog overcome something that they aren't sure of. For example, let's say your dog isn't sure about the shower or bath, try feeding their meals in the shower or bath (without running water) the aim is to create a new emotional response to that experience.
'My dog isn't food motivated!' this is something that I hear quite often, so my response to this is to ditch the bowl and use their daily food allowance to use throughout the day for rewards or make food more challenging to get access to rather than getting two free meals a day. Just because we love getting a big plate of food for doing nothing, dogs would, given the choice prefer to eat from something a little more exciting and novel. Try it, place a bowl of food down and an interactive feeding mat and see what your dog rushes to first?
So what Can You Do Instead?
Interactive Food toys and puzzles- There are so many different interactive food toy and puzzles on the market. I love feeding Luna's meals in Kongs, on a Lickimat, in a puzzle which range in difficulty.
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, it's 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 daily food portion.
Scatter Feeding In The Garden or on Walks- this is great for any dog, especially those with high energy. This is exactly how it sounds, scatter their food in the garden, either on the patio or in the grass or both, it doesn't matter where but it just has to be scattered. This will stop the dog gulping their food quickly, it encourages the dog to use their nose and it's mentally stimulating.
Personally, Luna is never fed from a bowl, she is raw fed so it's important that her mealtimes last longer otherwise she'd gobble it up in seconds. We rotate between lickimats, puzzle toys, kongs.