Ways to Ditch the Dish and Make Feeding your dog more exciting
We all lead busy lives and our dogs are expected to seamlessly fit into our busy schedules.
Have you ever stopped and thought for a moment about your dogs meal times, about their day and what it looks like? A large chunk of their day is probably spent sleeping whilst you are out at work, some walking, playing and some eating.
How would it be to make some of that mundane daily routine more fun, more fulfilling and more exciting for your dog?
Why Mental stimulation is important for all dogs.
All dogs need mental stimulation to thrive. They love interacting with us, playing with us, walking, learning new commands, generally being around us and part of the family. Sufficient mental stimulation reduces anxiety and helps bring calm to the home. Sometimes though, life gets busy and when juggling busy lives it can be hard to give our dogs the mental stimulation they really need.
Some of the things we are going to look at today are always to passively mentally stimulate your dog whilst you are busy getting jobs around the house done, seeing to little people amongst many other day to day activities.
What Happens if dogs don't get enough mental stimulation
Lack of mental stimulation can lead to a whole host of unwanted behaviours including:
- over excitability
- separation anxiety
- destructive behaviours
- difficulty settling
- following and attention behaviours to desperately seek out stimulation
- self-harming behaviours
- inability to cope in your absence
Ensuring you are doing all you can to mentally stimulate dog will reduce anxiety and prevent more sever problems like separation anxiety from forming which can be a really hard thing to deal with.
Ditch the Dish
The bottom line is, dogs LOVE LOVE LOVE to work for food. With so many food dispensing alternatives on the market and other games your dog will love, why not DITCH the DISH altogether. Make feed times more exciting and definitely more fun for your dog and it’s a great way to keep your dog entertained.
At Happy Hounds for Life, we ditch the dish for most of our dogs most of the time. They work for their food either in activity toys, by playing food searching games and by using their daily food allowance in basic training.
we're going to look at lots of different ways you can Ditch the dish today!
“NB: This post may contain some affiliate links whereby if you purchase any of the recommended products, I receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you.”
Ten Different Ways to Feed your Dog
1. Scatter Feeding
This is literally just what it say – grab a hand full of food and scatter it around for your dog to forage for. Scatter on the kitchen floor, the patio, in the crate or safe space, in the garden and watch your dog(s) have lots of fun hoovering up. It is probably our absolute favourite way to feed.
Benefits of Scatter Feeding
- eating is a low arousal, calming activity.
- dogs love it and it releases happy chemicals in their brain called endorphins when they find the food.
- a great way to mentally stimulate your dog.
- burns of excess energy in very lively dogs.
- a great way to engage multiple dogs in a focused activity.
when to scatter feed
- our favourite time to use it is as a distraction when guests arrive to prevent jumping up and over-excitable behaviours. Whilst they arrive your dog will be more focused on finding the food on the floor and by the time they have finished , saying hello is often much more of a calm experience.
- use it if you suddenly need to go and answer the door or phone.
- it is great for adolescent dogs who can be partially trusted out of the crate for short periods when you leave the room but will give them something to focus on in your absence.
- it can help calm down multiple dogs if they are getting too lively playing together.
2. Slow Feeder Dishes
These are one of our all time favourites, they come in so many varieties and different strength rubber depending on the size and breed of your dog.
There are so many yummy Kong Recipes that you can find. They can be frozen to last longer. A really great way to keep your dog distracted when guests come round to prevent over-excitability or when you are wanting to chill and watch TV.
4. Snuffle Mats
5. Basic Commands Training
Regular short 5 minute sessions of learning and progressing with basic commands is really important and is a great way to engage with your dog whilst doing something productive and getting them to work for their food.
Benefits of Basic commands Training
Basic commands training has lots of benefits for your dog:
- improves communication between you and your dog.
- it helps on the way to having a well-mannered, well-behaved hound.
- endorphins are released when dogs learn and do something right and when this is reinforced with the positivity of food it is a hugely positive experience for them.
- they are less likely to be anxious.
- it enables you to build up a repertoire of important every day commands that are useful in every day life.
- they encourage good manners and self control.
- improved communication reduces frustration due to not knowing what you are asking of them.
You can learn all the basic commands on our Welcome Home Puppy Course Today!
6. Food Trails
Food trails are particular useful if you want to encourage your dog into a particular space or work on positively associating a particular area. For example if they have a safe space in the utility room or area under the stairs, you can lay food trails leading up to the bed and when they actually get onto their bed they get a “jackpot” of tasty treats or a higher value treat.
It can also be used as a fun searching game. Close the dog behind a door or someone hold onto them whilst another person lays a food trail. Then release them and let them follow the trail collecting treats or kibble on the way.
7. Hide and Seek
Most dogs love to play hide and seek. They can play it with you on a walk by hiding behind a tree or a bush then the other person releasing them to find you. You can play it with favourite toys in the house and garden and also with treats.
With the dog in another room or someone restraining them, hide some high value treats someone in the room. Behind things, under things, inside things and release them with a find it cue to follow their nose and sniff out the smell.
8. Treat Catch
Teaching your dog to catch is really fun. It can be done with toys but also treats or their daily kibble too. Once their catch gets more established you can work on dropping from directly above their head whilst in the heel position as this is a great way to encourage them to follow your hand and reward loose lead walking.
9. Recall Fun
Recall is one of the things that you should always keep practicing and use high value treats for. For a bombproof recall you need to make yourself more exciting than anything else on that field. There are lots of fun ways you can add food into the mix and spice it up a little with some simple recall games.
High Speed Ping Pong
Make a normal game of puppy ping pong between two people really fun with high energy, fast runs, change where you are standing to keep your dog on their toes and running back towards you and remember to use really high value treats.
Ping Pong Extra
Spice it up by adding in extra commands such as touch, high touch, twizzle, twirls, leg weaves, fast turns when they get back to you and then recall to the other person.
Ping Pong with only one person
When your dog comes running back to you reward them with a high value treat and then send them straight back out again by throwing a treat away from you. Up the value of being close to you by throwing daily kibble out away from you and high value treats such as chicken, ham, sausage when they come into you. This game is best played on quite short grass or surface so your dog can easily find the treats. Remember to use your voice to reward as well when they come in which will help build up excitement and energy.
10. Loose Lead Walking
Practicing loose lead walking is a great way to use up some of their daily food allowance. Remember once they are walking well on a loose lead to have them only on a variable treat schedule to keep them keen and walking nicely in anticipation for when the next treat might come.
When you progress with your basic commands you can add in extra commands such as TOUCH and WATCH ME to improve focus on the lead!
Hopefully that has given you lots of fresh ideas for sprucing up your dogs dinner and delivering it in a more fun and interactive way! Have fun trying them out!