Throw away your food bowl! Make your dog work for her food! That’s what I heard at the puppy class I took at the SPCA.
I was intrigued. I’d used Kong toys before as a distraction or reward. But it never occurred to me that every meal could be an enrichment activity for my dog. So I vowed to avoid feeding Honey from a bowl. Unfortunately, an eight week old puppy doesn’t have the coordination or mental ability to figure out a tricky food toy. What to do?
First, I put her kibble in an empty, plastic soda bottle. Although she liked playing roughly with the bottle when it was empty, Honey didn’t play vigorously enough to make the kibble fly out. My husband found the solution.
He turned the soda bottle upside down and balanced it on its mouth. All Honey had to do was knock it over with her nose. While she was eating the kibble that went flying out, Mike set up the bottle again. Honey was very proud of herself and enjoyed touching the bottle with her nose.
My idea was to have her search for her kibble. On a lovely spring evening, I placed kibble on flat rocks piled up in my garden. Honey had to watch her balance as the rocks shifted under her weight and use her sense of smell to find every bit. She loved it and it gave her a sense of accomplishment.
Our last cheap feeding toy? A plastic milk jug. I used scissors to cut openings in the jug and checked for rough edges. Honey experimented with putting her nose into different openings to rescue all the kibble.
Dinner that challenges a pup and stimulates her mind–what a great idea! I’ll be getting rid of my old food bowls at my next porch sale.
<<Update 4/21/10 — Lisa the volunteer who runs Puppy Kindergarten at the local SPCA told this story recently: She also fed her dog from a soda bottle. One day she returned to the house to find the floor sticky, the fridge sticky, the dog sticky. Apparently puppy had gotten hold of a full bottle of root beer and did his thing! The lesson: be careful what you teach!>>