Every time we interact with our dogs they are learning from us – for better or worse. And every time we provide them with a resource such as their daily meals, we have an opportunity to use it as a reward or as a job to keep them occupied. This article is to help you get the most out of the food you’re already feeding.
When I meet someone and their dog for the first time, I always ask about the dog’s diet. This is because diet affects behaviour, just like it does for us. But it’s not just about what the dog is eating, but how.
The first thing we eliminate is free feeding. Allowing dogs to graze has some serious downsides, especially in relation to training. Being able to use food as a reward in training is a great advantage and free feeding can cause dogs to become fussy with their food and full all the time.
A dog should eat what is provided by the owner and hold a value for that food. If it’s sitting out to graze on all the time, that value decreases.
So no matter what time you feed your dog, when he or she walks off away from the bowl and leaves food in it, pick it up and put it away until the next meal.
Food For Pay
The other thing you can do with a dog’s normal food is use it as a training reward. This will only work well if the dog is actually hungry so train before meals, not after.
We hear all the time how dogs need both mental stimulation an exercise. As well as physical exercise for their jaws, food puzzle toys help keep the mind busy and once finished, the dog is often tired and ready for a snooze. This is a great solution for busy people and to keep your dog occupied while you’re at work.
One of the best kinds of food toys are Kongs. When I first recommend using these I often hear things like, “We tried a Kong and our dog just left the food in there,” or, “She had the food out in 2 seconds and it was over.”
The key with Kongs or the like, is that the dog needs to be hungry and the food needs to be really stuck in there. You can do this by using sticky mince as a sort of glue for the food or use mince or stock and freeze it inside the Kong with any other food mixed in as well. Dry food on it’s own will fall out too fast.
Once the food is in there firmly, it becomes a challenge and requires real work from the dog to get it out. But why would a dog bother to do all that work if they’re not hungry?
One of the biggest mistakes people make that causes them to think their dog doesn’t like Kongs is that they feed the dog breakfast out of a bowl and then give the dog a Kong. The dog is already full and can’t be bothered. Instead, the Kong should BE the breakfast! This way, it’s way more worth it to the dog to put in all that effort, keeping them occupied and quiet and stopping them chewing your furniture.
There’s so many benefits to feeding this way and all it takes is five minutes to stuff the Kong with food and freeze it the night before.
We fill our Kongs with the nutritious Raw4Paws from Debbie at Raw Fur Sure at Bargara – look her up!
When you think about a wild dog, they really do have to work for their food whether they hunt for it or scavenge for it. They don’t have it so easy as a meal in a bowl. If your dog had to work at least somewhat for every meal, they could be much calmer and more satisfied from fulfilling their instincts this way. You really don’t even need to feed from a bowl again.
For more tips, visit dogmatters.com