Ditch the Bowl – How to Use Your Dogs Daily Meals to Enrich Their Life

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One of the easiest things you can do to bring enrichment into your dogs life is to make mealtimes exciting, challenging and rewarding. Unfortunately, us humans have followed suit down generations when it comes to feeding time for our dogs. Because our parents fed our furry friends from a bowl once or twice a day, their parents did it and I’m sure there are some cave paintings somewhere of Zug feeding his sabertooth tiger from a coconut bowl….. It’s possible.

As we learn more about these magical creatures we call dogs, the more information we gain on how we can improve their day. Something as simple as replacing your dog’s food bowl with food toys, training, food scatters and more can improve their day and possibly even reduce unwanted behaviours.

Did you know:

Undesirable behaviours such as digging, barking and chewing can be brought on by boredom. So by simply changing up your dog’s food routine you can work their brain and in turn reduce destruction.

Below are a few simple ways you can improve your dogs meal time:

Kongs:

kongs enhance dogs meal time
Kongs are a great place to start. They have different types for everything from a puppy to a strong chewer. You can adjust the skill level and a little bit of prep work can actually make dinner time way easier for you.

When introducing a Kong, you want to make sure it’s quite easy so you can set your dog up for success. If it’s too hard and they are not getting rewarded by the tasty treats inside often enough they will most likely give up. But as they get the hang of it you can make it harder and harder for them so they have to use their brains to figure out how to get to the food inside.

Another great thing is you can meal prep at the beginning of the week and put them in the freezer so when you’ve had a long day the work is already done and your pup still gets a challenging mealtime.

How to:

Check out this awesome video from Dog Training Nation: How to introduce a kong to your dog

Snuffle Mats:

Snuffle mats get your dog using their superpower nose. Snuffle mats help to slow down mealtimes, provide a fun scent game and can also be used in training.

By hiding treats in a snuffle mat you are encouraging your dog to use their nose to sniff out the treats. Allowing your dog to sniff not only works their mind, but studies have shown it reduces their heart rate (this is why allowing your dog to sniff on walks is so important, you can read more about it here). This is really cool when using snuffle mats to help desensitise and train your dog.

For example, if your dog has a fear of storms, you can place a treat in the snuffle mat each time there is thunder or lightning. This not only helps make a positive association with the lights and noises but by hiding the treats in the snuffle mat you also encourage your dog to sniff which will lower their heart rate and in turn help calm them down.

sniff out the treats with snuffle mats

We sell snuffle mats made by Pawz n More at BEBT, they are made with upcycled material which we love!!

Check out Pawz n More’s Facebook page for videos of pups loving their mats! Pawz n More’s Instagram is worth a follow too.

Slow feeders:

Slow feeders are good for slowing down dogs who forget to chew their food, however, it’s still pretty dull. Enter, one of my daycare dogs very clever mum who told me how she adds a little bit of liquid to her dog’s food in the slow feed, such as stock or yogurt and then freezes it. This means it turns into a tasty iceblock with chewy treat surprises and lasts way longer than it normally would. Brilliant!!

Even a cardboard box can be turned into a fun food puzzle!

Enrichment ideas with a box

Just Charlie with a box full of treats to start off your week the right way 🐾💕

Posted by Bright Eyes and Bushy Tails on Sunday, March 22, 2020

Training time:

Mealtime is a great time to do a training session. There are just so many benefits to small daily training sessions. Mental stimulation, learning new behaviours and tricks, increased bond between you and your dog and much more.

There is some cool research showing that dogs would rather work for their food instead of just eat it out of a bowl, so really you’re making mealtime something to look forward to. You can even dish out their breakfast on your morning walk to reinforce polite walking behaviour.

If you are new to training check out Zak George, he has some awesome force-free training content to get you started, and it’s all completely free!!

TIP:

Don’t feel obligated to feed your dog in the morning and night. You can measure out their daily amount of food and dish it out throughout the day using all of the methods above and more.

So now that you’ve got the tools, get on pinterest and turn your dog bowl into something useful, we turned ours into a plant holder (we believe everything has a second life at BEBT). Make mealtime rewarding for you and your dog, it’s really a win-win when you ditch the bowl.

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