Thinking outside the bowl

by Amy Healey // August 2017

Thinking outside the bowl...

Although feeding your dog from a bowl is quick and convenient, there are lots of ways to make dinner time more FUN... Let’s be honest, meal time is probably the highlight of any dog’s day but typically it only lasts them less than a minute (if your dogs are anything like mine!).

At Dog School we get asked by owners all the time how they can stop their dog “inhaling” their food, so we’ve highlighted some ideas below to help your dog slow down at dinner time and have some fun!

Here at Dog School West Midlands, we remind owners every day that dinner time is a great opportunity to get their dogs brains and noses working, this is not only great for their minds, but also elongates dinner time (the best time of day).

Using their noses to find food comes very naturally to dogs and they are natural scavengers and if allowed they will quite happily keep their nose to the ground and search for scraps of food left by other animals and (more often) humans!

Problem solving for food is a natural behavior for our dogs and there are so many ways that we, as owners, can encourage our dogs to use their brains and work for their meals. This involves us “thinking outside the bowl” and being as adventurous as you possibly can.

Why not try some (or all!) of the following:

Kongs

One of my dog’s favorite toys! I stuff her Kong with her dinner and plug it with some peanut butter or yogurt and let her lick out the contents. If I freeze it overnight, it generally takes her around an hour to empty it. Frozen Kongs are also brilliant on a warm summer’s day as they act as an ice lolly!

Interactive games and toys

There are many interactive feeding games for sale, they all aim to slow down dinner by restricting access to the food in some way. For example the blue bone in the picture hides the food on different levels and your dog has to swivel each section to get access to the grub! This one can be a little challenging make sure you show your dog how it works first. For the green one you hide the food inside and the more the dog rolls the toy around the more food drops out around the floor, a bit messy but there is never anything left at the end!

Hide it & find it

As previously mentioned, dogs love to search especially when it involves food! So let’s utilize your garden by playing search games. Please ensure all poops are scooped before you start these games. Please ensure all poops are scooped before you start these games.

  1. Scatter feeding – throw your dog’s dinner in the garden and watch them search for it. I like to leave a long section of grass to put her food in as this makes it a little more challending!
  2. Find it – hide their dinner under plant pots, cups, bowls, along the fence line or even a piece of cut up cardboard or carpet.
  3. Hide it – same as find it but use your home. Hide pieces of food under the cushions, along the skirting boards, under tables and even in the corners of the different rooms. Just remember where you left everything in case they can’t find it all!

Be imaginative, the world is your oyster. You can even play “find it” games during their walks.

Slow feeder

A slow feeder is a great way to slow your dog down and prevent them from inhaling their food. I will squash Molly’s dinner right into the corners so she has to lick out the contents. These bowls can cause frustration for some dogs, so start off making it really easy! You can also make your own slow feeders by using egg boxes or hiding food in scrunched up newspaper inside an old cardboard box – they have to use their nose and paws to get the food out.

Natural chews

Chewing is a natural behaviour for all dogs and it releases the “happy hormones” which make them feel good. It is important that we provide our dogs with the right things to chew and this can be implemented as part of their feeding routine. I love to fill hoofs and flat antler bars with her dinner. Freezing overnight also encourages her to chew the bars. 

Why not give it a go and send us a picture of how you’ve made dinner time more fun!

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