The world of dog training has changed massively since 2019. Since Absolute dogs introduced their “#DitchTheBowl” movement, more and more trainers, owners, and behaviorists have turned away from conventional feeding to feeding in ways that promote mental enrichment and physical activity.
There are many alternative ways to feed your dog. Here are our recommendations on how to feed your dog more creatively.
Why throw away the bowl?
Throwing the bowl away may seem very backward – why get rid of something that makes life so easy for you and your dog?
Dogs have a naturally stronger search system that dates back to their time as scavengers. Dogs were bred by wolves who lived on the edges of human settlements and often lived within them as scavengers. This desire to find food is still present in dogs to this day.
As a result, when dogs work for their food, they get the rush of a neurochemical called dopamine, which is a reward chemical. This makes it more likely that dogs will work hard for their food and enjoy their meals more. This scientific principle is also known as contra-freeloading, in which animals work for feed even when feed is freely available.
While it is incredibly important to be more creative with feeding time for all dogs, this is especially important for food-motivated breeds like Labradors, Beagles, and Bulldogs.
Throwing the bowl away and feeding your dog this way can also reduce the risk associated with quick eaters! They can also slow down your dogs’ feeding process and help control their weight!
- Puzzle feeder
Feeding your dog meals in an activity toy can be a great way to mix up meals. Toys that will stretch and challenge your dogs and get them to work for their food, thus encouraging them to slow down and enjoy the challenge of working for their food.
While you can buy puzzle feeders online, you can also make your own at home using a variety of household items. A classic example of this is placing treats in a muffin bowl and covering each opening with a tennis ball. This means your dog will have to sniff out which opening to uncover! There are many household enrichment options online that you can try with your pup!
- Litter feeding
Litter feeding is another great option – especially if you are on a budget! If your dog is eating nibbles, having breakfast spread out on the floor and encouraging him to sniff it is a great way to start the day.
If you have multiple dogs at home, you can do so in separate rooms to avoid conflict with feeding. This is also important if your dogs eat different foods!
Litter feeding also works well on walks! If you have a dog who can get overwrought on walks, getting them to sniff the outdoors and work for their food can be helpful! Using the grass to hide the treats adds a new level of difficulty and really makes your dog work for his food.
Training with your dog’s daily amount of food is very important if you are concerned about your pooch piling on the pounds!
As mentioned earlier, it makes your dog more excited when he works for his food! The training is also a great way to work on your relationship with your dog as it will encourage you to work towards a common goal.
While training your dog’s life skills is important, training for fun is just as important. If you or your dog no longer enjoy exercising, it becomes a duty! A great trick to exercising for fun is a rollover. This trick is best taught using a technique called curling. Place the treat on your dog’s nose with a small treat between your fingers and your dog lying in front of you and encourage them to do so. If they don’t quite make it the first few times, that’s fine. You can break it down into an even smaller move for your pup.
- Activity toys
Similar to puzzle toys, activity toys are items designed to keep your dog occupied. These toys will get your dog to work on activities like sniffing, which are naturally strenuous for dogs. Another benefit of sniffing is that it helps release neurochemicals like dopamine that help make your dog feel more relaxed and happier.
Although you can buy many excellent toys online (such as Kongs, Lickimats, and K9 connectors), you can also make activity toys for your dog at home. One toy that you can make is a snuff. To do this, you need felt and a rubber doormat with holes. Just cut your felt into 2 inch long strips and tie around the doormat. Once the entire doormat is covered, you will have an activity toy to hide goodies in for your dog to find!
- To hide!
Teaching your dog to find things on cue can help keep your dog busy and up and running! As mentioned earlier, sniffing is very important in promoting feel-good hormones in your dog’s life, and encouragement to do it on cue has a multitude of uses.
For example, if you are going for a walk and you notice something you don’t want your dog to see, being able to ask him to bow his head and sniff is a great distraction from the surroundings.
To teach this, start by saying, “Find it!” To your dog and dropping a treat in front of you. After repeating this process several times, you can put two treats at a time, one in front of your dog and one to the side. Encourage your dog to sniff the second treat. As your dog gets better, you can add increasingly complex elements to the training. For example, when you put a treat behind the dog or throw it away so that the dog has to cover more distance.
- Freeze it!
On particularly hot days, giving your dog the chance to cool off is a godsend. Freezing some tasty treats for your dog is a great way to keep them occupied while keeping them cool and hydrated at the same time.
If you are planning on giving your dog ice cream, it is important to always do so under supervision first. This is especially important with small dogs or puppies, whose teeth can break if not treated properly!
Throwing away the dog bowl sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! The best thing to do is to gradually change your dog’s daily routine and take the dog bowl out of circulation!
Do you use a dog bowl at home or does your dog live his life without a bowl? Leave us a comment below that will tell us all about your dog’s everyday life at home!