The convenient food bowl

The convenient food bowl – why you need to start feeding your dog using enrichment!

We serve our dog’s food in a way that is convenient for us. Drizzle some kibble into the bowl and put it in front of our dogs but by doing that we are actually doing our dogs a disservice!

Humans tend to always find the easiest and fastest solution for things. In some cases that benefits us tremendously but when it comes to feeding our dog we need to stop and think about if the benefit for us also serves our dogs – Is drizzling kibble into a bowl and placing it in front of our dogs, really the best and most beneficial way to feed our dogs?

Dogs, as you probably know, do not run after a clock, they normally have all the time in the world and they would like to work for their food. They appreciate getting the challenge of searching for a treasure and then finally after a lot of sniffing, scratching and looking get the price.

Reasons why dogs would rather search for their food then get it served

dog sniffing for food

One of a dog’s core emotions is the need for seeking. Dogs have a natural urge for seeking. You might have noticed this when you are out walking with your dog and they find a scent to follow and nothing else can distract them until they finally find that yummy hare poop that they must eat.

With seeking comes the expectation and the thrill, just like we feel on Christmas right before opening a present. There is the expectation and excitement of what might be behind the wrapping. The thrill sends a rush of dopamine to our brain, making us feel good. The same thing happens in dogs when their seeking system is activated.

By serving their food in a bowl right in front of them we are taking away the seeking for our dogs. It is like getting an unwrapped present. It is nice but we do not get the thrill of expecting. We do not get that dopamine kick from our brains.

For dogs seeking is essential and if we as humans do not let our dogs seek our dogs become bored and we all know what boredom brings…trouble! Our dogs will start finding other ways to get their need for seeking covered and that might be in ways that we do not particularly appreciate. But we can avoid that by implementing seeking in our way of feeding our dogs, yes you guessed it, by using enriching and mentally stimulating games and toys (Get 30 ideas on how to enrich your dog here).

enrichment toys for food
Enrichment Toys

Activity or enrichment toys forces our dogs to use their brain by seeking for their food. When your dog is mentally stimulated and get to seek you automatically decrease the risk of them developing problem behaviours (Read more here about why mental stimuli is important for your dog).

Enrichment toys also triggers learning, as our dog must learn how to solve a problem before getting the food. By learning to solve a problem by themselves their confidence is boosted, which again can help either eliminate or decrease problem behaviours.

I think it is time to remove your dog’s food bowl and instead replace it with different activity toys and games.

Take the time to feed your dog in fun, mentally stimulating ways and you will probably find that the time you spend enriching is actually gained in the long run, as you end up with a more tired, content dog, that will be less likely to grab your favourite pillow and shred it to pieces to search for that one feather that smelled delicious or who jumps at you non stop out of frustration of not getting their basic needs met.

If you want to read more blogs about enrichment and the benefits it has for your dog, then go check out these blogs:

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Mental stimulation

Mental stimulation – Why is it important?

Enrichment and mental stimulation is something you hear a lot about in the dog world these days.

But why should you give your dog mental stimulation.

What is all the fuss about?

The benefits of mental stimulation

Scientific studies have shown that by providing your dog with enrichment and mental stimulation on a daily basis you decrease the risk of them developing problem behaviors and even decrease current problem behaviors in your dog.

Mental stimulation or enrichment tires out your dog in a different way than physical exercise. It also keeps their brain strong which is important both during their development as a puppy, but also to keep their brain sharp during their golden senior years (Read more here about how to keep your senior dog’s brain strong).

Mental stimulation also strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Your dog sees that you are the creator of fun things and that you are helping them, which makes them grow closer to you. Spending time with your dog is also good for you as it creates a higher feeling of happiness. Read more about how happy your dog makes you here.

But what exactly is mental stimulation?

Mental stimulation can be anything stimulating from play sessions, to searching for items or dog training. Anything where your dog have to use his/her brain to figure out a problem.

Dogs are individuals and stimulated and motivated by different things. As a dog owner you will quickly learn what your dog finds motivating and stimulating. Just like humans, dogs need stimuli in order not to grow bored. If a dog is bored he/she will find ways of entertaining themselves which might interfere with your idea of what a fun time is.

Before I started studying animal behavior and learning about dogs’ needs I would be so frustrated with Chester sometimes completely destroying my apartment. Once I came home and was greeted by the happiest dog completely covered in feathers along with the rest of the apartment.

mental stimulation

He had decided to destroy all pillows within range. He had had a blast creating his own feather party, whereas I viewed the remains of my pillows a little different. I know now that it was completely my fault. I was not providing what Chester needed – I was not making sure he was stimulated, so he found ways to do it himself.

Many expect their dogs to be fine being left alone for an entire day without any stimuli of any kind, and then get frustrated with their dogs when they come home to a destroyed house.

One of the first things I always do in my consultations is to make sure that the dog in question gets enough stimuli on a daily basis. Most of the times that solves half the behavior problem. A tired dog is a happy dog right.

Get ideas on enrichment here.

What mental stimulation toys should I choose for my dog?

The dog world is filled with different puzzles and toys to stimulate your dog. You can basically get anything and for many that creates confusion about what to choose.

Dogs, as mentioned above, are foremost individuals. It is therefor important that you find mental stimulation toys that your dog will use and enjoy. That being said, you should also expect a learning curve for your dog if they have never seen an enrichment toy before.

When I first got Belga, she had never seen an activity ball before and just looked up at me completely puzzled by this artifact I had put in front of her, not knowing what to do to get to her food. So down on the floor I went, pushing the ball around, until she finally one day started doing it herself.

Many tell me that they have tried different enrichment toys but their dog is simply not interested. What they have missed is the learning curve that comes with a new toy. They simply haven’t taken the time to introduce the enrichment toy to their dog and shown them how to work it out.

Dogs trust us to teach them about our world and introducing different mentally stimulating toys is part of that learning. I should mention that the key rule with mental stimulation is to make your dog think it is a game. Make it fun and light and don’t be disappointed with your dog if they cannot figure it out right away. Set yourself down on the floor and help them work it out.

Another reason as to why you should mentally stimulate your dog is that it gives them a confidence boost. That is IF they are successful in solving the challenge. This is why both when it comes to enrichment toys and dog training in general you should always make sure that your dog leaves the game with a feeling of success. That way they are more likely to come back to it and try it again (More about happy associations here). If you get angry or disappointed with your dog, he/she will sense it immediately and the stimulation will become a negative and something your dog will avoid.

MUST HAVE enrichment toys

But what should you choose? From my experience the 3 best activity toys to have for your dog is:

Kong enrichment
Mental stimulation - Why is it important? 1
Mental stimulation - Why is it important? 2

These activity toys I have found most dogs to enjoy, but again every dog has specific tastes and likes. Some are happy with the toy as long as they can get treats or food out of it, others are more selective and prefers search games for their food.

Finally, I would like to give you a challenge.

Challenge: Remove your dog’s food bowl for a week and only feed him/her using different mentally stimulating toys and try to observe if you see a change in your dog’s behavior.

If you need help getting started with enrichment ideas for your dog, or you have a problem with your dog then contact me for a consultation.

Don’t forget to download our FREEBIE 30 enrichment ideas for your dog !

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Kong toy

Kong toy – 3 super fun ways to use one!

This weeks blog will give you 3 super fun ways to use a Kong toy. A Kong toy can be used to enrich your dog’s daily life and can be made more difficult as your dog learn how to figure it out. This will keep your dog engaged in their Kong Toy and give you a well balanced happy dog.

Kong toy

Here are 3 ideas for how to use your Kong Toy:

  1. Put your dog’s kibble meal inside and let your dog roll the Kong around to get the kibble out. This is a great way to get your dog started with their Kong Toy. If you have trouble getting your dog interested with just using their kibble then start out with putting some treats in the Kong Toy and then as your dog has grown an interest mix in some of his/her kibble.
  2. Put your dog’s kibble either soaked in water or with some wet food in the Kong and let your dog lick it out (to make it harder and last longer, freeze the Kong for a couple of hours before giving it to your dog).
  3. Smear peanut butter or wet food on the outer side of the Kong and let your dog spend time licking it off (this will also last longer when frozen first).

If you are interested in more enrichment ideas then go download our 30 FREE enrichment ideas and start enriching your dog today! 

Enrichment is a great way to keep your dog from developing problem behaviours and should be given to all dogs on a daily basis.

If you are having some problems with your dog don’t hesitate to contact me for a consultation – the faster you get the problem solved the happier both your dog and you will be.

Contact me here!

Happy enrichment to you all!

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