Making Meal Time Mental
Updated: Apr 12
While your dog might get very excited to eat his dinner, the ease with which we hand over a days worth of food to our pets might be leaving a valuable opportunity on the table. with a little creativity, your dog's breakfast and dinner can provide nutrition AND mental simulation.
Anyone who's ever had a dumpster diver, knows how exciting it can be to a dog to work for food. The fun of searching, the challenge of busting through whatever you have put in place to deter Pup, and then scattering and devouring the spoils can keep a dog active for hours while you are out. He may not like your reaction when you get home, but you better believe he had a good time while you were gone.
While I don't recommend trashcan feeding your dog (although I bet they'd love it), I do recommend finding ways to make them work a little harder to get those calories. There are many ways to do this. There are a ton of interactive dog toys made just for this purpose, and I will be taking a deep dive into all of them over the next few months, but you don't have to hit the pet store to start making meal time mental. Here are three things you can try right now to get your dog thinking and moving at mealtime.
Here it is!
This is a great game to play with dogs of all ages. It gets them moving AND it helps them learn to come when called. This one is best when there are two or more people playing. It's great for families to get the kids involved in training.
Start by dividing up your dog's food among all participants. Add in a few bonus bites of chicken or cheese to keep pup really excited about the game.
Decide on an order for taking turns and then everyone spreads out around the house or yard.
One at a time, when your dog isn't looking, make a little pile of a few pieces of kibble and then start calling out excitedly, "Here it is!" while you tap next to the food.
Keep acting excited until your pup comes to see what you've found.
When he's done eating the next person goes, and the person who just fed pup moves to a new location to start over.
When you first play, stay in the same room, but as your dog gets better at it you can spread out. Just yell, "Next!" when your dog finishes, so the next person can begin calling him.
This game teaches pup to pay attention when you say, "Here it is!" because he learns that you are really good at finding treats!
Hide and Seek
This one is really simple.
Put your dog in a stay (or tether him to a person or object) and go and hide some treats around the house.
Make it easy at first, you may need to leave them right where he can see them when you first start out.
Go back to your dog and tell him to "Find it!" If he just stares and doesn't start sniffing, lead him over and show him the treat. Then make it easier for the next batch of hidden treats.
As your pup gets better sniffing things out, make the hiding spots more difficult.
This this easiest of all. Grab some stuff out of the recycling bin and make a big mess to hide treats in.
If your dog is highly motivated, nest boxes together and hide treats between all the layers.
Try filling some empty plastic bottles with treats and give it to your pup to figure out.
Combine the above for a mega challenge! Fill the bottles and then box them up!
By passing up the food bowl and feeding your puppy like this, you maximize the benefits of his food, and even get some training in! Don't feel like administering fun and games for feeding? Check out our Top Ten Treat Dispensing Toys and let them do the work for you.