Enrich Your Dog at Meal Time
Mealtime is a great opportunity to stimulate your dog, which is often missed by offering dry food in a bowl. There is no rule that says you need to feed your dog in a bowl, and many behaviorists and trainers would absolutely encourage you to ditch it in favor of methods that provide more interaction or mental and physical stimulation for your dog. Here are some ways you can make mealtime more fun for your dog:
- Use mealtime as an opportunity to work on training. Mix some cheese, hotdogs, or other yummy treats in with their regular food, bring out the clicker, and get to work. Use this as a chance to brush up on the basics or teach fun new tricks. There is no end to the number of behaviors you can teach your dog, so get creative and have fun.
- Make your dog use their nose. If you have a dog who loves to sniff, make mealtime an opportunity for them to do that. Hide food around the house or throw the kibble into the yard. You may need to teach your dog the game first. Start by throwing a piece of food by your feet and having them find it, then a couple more pieces, and so on until they understand they are supposed to sniff out the food.
- Let your dog make a mess to get to their food! Hide food in a cardboard box or paper bag and let them tear into it. Again, you may have to teach your dog the game, start with having the box or bag slightly open then gradually close up the box or bag so that the only way they can get the food is to break it open.
- Use puzzle feeders. There are a wide variety of puzzle toys on the market that are perfect for providing mental stimulation at meal times. If your dog is not used to puzzle feeders, it might be good to start with a simpler model, and then as they learn, provide more complex feeders.
- Place part of their meal in a stuffed or frozen Kong. This encourages your dog to chew on the Kong and work for the food for a prolonged period of time, keeping them actively engaged.
- Mix up the meals by adding fresh food. There is plenty of human food that is perfectly safe for dogs, so add a small amount of new food items into their food. You can provide fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. Just be sure you check what is toxic for dogs beforehand and monitor how they feel afterwards.
- Get creative! You know your dog best. Think about what they enjoy doing and use that as a way to provide food enrichment.