Is your dog constantly begging for food? Does your dog appear to be sniffing around for food all the time? We may have something for you to keep your dogs engaged and also keep misbehaviour at bay.
Dogs, as you may know, have descended from wolves; natural predators and can also be scavengers when required. This basically means that they have inherent instincts to hunt and work for their meals. If one looks at zoo innovations around feeding, one will realize that more and more zoos are adopting the approach where the habitat provides the food, not the handler or the zoo keeper. Dogs, according to the latest research also appear to be more foragers, rather than hunters. But wait, foraging is meant for cattle, horses and other livestock; dogs, really? In fact, canine researchers are also beginning to see the effects of better dog behaviour when there is a foraging activity for the food in effect.
What is foraging then? It is the process of searching for food in the animal’s habitat. Many believe that the purpose is to create a mechanism where energy gained is spent by energy drained (i.e foraging). So if these animals naturally take to foraging to keep their energies in check and to “be on their toes” without getting into any trouble, then maybe we should try the same with our furry buddies too! In this blog, we have a list of a few ways we can have our dog “earn their eats” regardless of breed, size, age, etc (although we strongly recommend puppy parents get started on this asap)
- Basic Foraging:
- Scavenger hunt around the house and yard to excite their searching traits while eating their meals. While your dog is out for her walk, hide the food around in several nooks and corners of the home so when the dog returns, she has one final sniffing game required to earn her meal.
- Baking sheets: For dogs with low resistance thresholds, start simple by spreading the food on muffin tins, across cookie sheets or strew food in the grass too (if you have access to it). By sniffing, we are activating their neural pathways that feed their species instincts and bring them to a state of calmness
- Maze bowls. Use these puzzle toys to feed their meals so they do have to sniff and solve the puzzles to get to their food
Other ways to stimulate the dog’s eating enrichment are below
- Kong: Great to get the dog thinking on how to get the food out and to learn patience, persistence while eating (more in our blog). Other food dispensing toys are also good alternatives to the kong.
- Dissecting jobs:
- Use their instinct to tear/rip by filling up egg cartons, paper bags with their kibble/boiled eggs or any other food they eat, shut them close and offer it to them. Let them rip these apart to get to their meals..messy, but effective!
- Use empty toilet paper rolls to stuff their food and cover both ends of the roll with cardboard or the ends of the roll itself. Once done, offer it to the dog for him to rip it apart. Especially good for dogs like pitbulls, rotties, dobermans too
For all these, remember to start easy, then slowly add complexity to these methods. Many times our clients tell us their dogs get bored of these activities, but we always see success when we slowly start adding complexity to the enrichment activities. Let’s get started then!!