There are lots of ways a pup can get his food. He can work for it. He can eat it out of a food stuffed toy. He can find it scattered about the patio. One thing this little guy won't be doing is eating food out of a bowl. That's way too easy.
Teddy needs to keep busy, he needs to problem solve, he needs to take more than 30 seconds to eat his meal.
Food stuffed toys, like the red Kong in the picture, are great food-delivery systems. You stuff your dog's dry food (kibble) into the Kong, drop the Kong on the floor (so some of the kibble drops out and grabs the dog's interest) and let the dog figure out the rest.
To make this task fun and interesting, we make it really easy at first. We put the food into a large Kong – the kibble will fall out easier this way. After a week of feeding Teddy this way, he'll get really good at getting the food out quickly and efficiently.
The next step is to add a little bit of difficulty – enough to challenge his problem solving skills, but not too much that he gives up. Peanut butter or nonfat yogurt is a great "stuffer." Simply line the inside of the toy with the peanut butter (or yogurt), fill with kibble leaving a little room for some more of the goopy stuff. The peanut butter or yogurt is really enticing for the dog, and also slows him down a bit.
The middle portion is relatively easy – it's just kibble, and the hardest part to get out is the part where the food is stuck to the peanut butter way deep into the Kong. If you spent enough time letting the dog learn how to get plain kibble out of the toy, I'll be he'll remain committed to getting the last little bit, especially if there's some gooey goodies in there, too!
After another week of gooping up the contents of the toy, you can make the game even more challenging by gooping the Kong with peanut butter and kibble, described above, and then freeze the whole thing!
The frozen Kong seems to be a favorite of Teddy's. He seems to really enjoy the challenge of getting the frozen peanut butter and kibble out. He's good at using his paws to help hold the Kong so it doesn't move around.
Why do we care about stuff like this? The whole idea of "working for dinner" is a nice one – why waste the opportunity to train by simply putting the bowl of food on the floor for the dog to eat? Use your dog's dinner as treats to reward good behavior! Or, teach your dog how to become a problem solver by letting him figure out how to get the kibble out of the food-stuffed toy. The longer it takes the dog to eat his dinner, the more time you'll have to get stuff done without your dog sticking his nose into whatever it is you're doing! You'll keep your dog mentally challenged. You'll tire your dog out. All these things are GOOD things and can help a manic, overactive dog become calmer.
Mary Hunter says
Wow. Cute picture! He is absolutely adorable!!
I agree! Eclipse gets a frozen Kong with half his breakfast in it every morning (most mornings he gets almost all the rest on walks as we work through his leash-reactivity) and that’s one of the only ways I can ensure he’s not going to bark in his crate when I’m gone, since once he’s done cleaning out his Kong (takes him 45 minutes to an hour if I stuff it tight enough) he’s ready for a nap! Food dispensing toys are priceless!