Does your dog scarf down meals in mere seconds? Then both of you are missing out. For dogs, eating should be work. First of all, because searching and hunting for food is natural for canines whose ancestors spent the majority of their time this way. And second of all—and here’s the major benefit to you—switching to a work-to-eat strategy keeps your dog wonderfully occupied during your absences or while you’re trying to focus at home. That means he won’t be splitting apart the couch cushions or getting into the trash or barking up a storm at the birds outside the window, driving you and your neighbors crazy.
Instead of just serving up your dog’s meals, try feeding him in treat puzzles or Kongs that he gets when you’re not home or when you have a particularly important work meeting to attend from home. This way, your dog will spend half his day retrieving his food and the other half sleeping off the mental effort. The result? A calmer, more content dog and a less chaotic household.
The key to a successful work-to-eat program is to start simple and only gradually increase the level of difficulty. You can go low-tech by hiding your dog’s food under a laundry basket or cardboard box, or inside an empty cereal box. Or you can use interactive food toys like treat balls, Kongs, or lick mats.
Kongs in particular are great because you can easily make the food retrieval task more difficult—and more rewarding—by varying the type of stuffing and the tightness of the layers. An easy Kong might contain loose kibble and chicken bits and be plugged by peanut butter or wet food. An advanced Kong might be a many-layered masterpiece that includes food log cubes, dog biscuits, wet food, and your dog’s favorite table scraps if you indulge him in such culinary delights. (For recipe inspiration, visit kongcompany.com)
“A dog can snap you out of any kind of bad mood that you’re in faster than you can think of.” – Jill Abramson
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