Anytime I meet a new client, I always suggest doing away with food bowls and replacing them with food dispensing toys a.k.a. food puzzles. They are basically toys that have openings where you can stuff kibble, wet food, or anything else yummy so that your dog can spend a good amount of time eating his meal. This is essentially a foraging or hunting activity.
I’ve met so many dogs that have become destructive simply out of pure boredom, left home alone with nothing to do except chew on the coffee table. What food dispensing toys do is give Fido an appropriate activity to engage in so that he never feels the satisfaction that comes with eating your gym shoes or underwear.
Food puzzles can also be a useful tool for those who have dogs suffering from isolation distress or separation anxiety. Give your dog a toy stuffed with delicious boiled chicken or any other high value food and leave it with them before you step out. Your dog will start to understand that when you leave, something good happens to them and because they’ll spend at least a good number of minutes (if not more) emptying out the toy, they might actually take their mind off the fact that you’ve disappeared. (This is only one small part of working with a dog who suffers from clinical separation anxiety, but it can be helpful.)
My dog has a collection of food puzzles. She gets several each day to ward off boredom and to help keep her mentally stimulated. Below are links to some of our favorites. Remember to always choose appropriate sized toys for your particular dog.
Kong Toys (For Kong Toys, take the manufacturer’s recommended size and purchase one size up.)
Alongside commercial dog toys, you can make your own. Simply save up things like cardboard boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, and milk cartons so that you can hide food in them. The sky is the limit. Just make sure that you supervise your dog and make sure he doesn’t ingest any of the materials.
Happy foraging to you and your dog!
© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017