We all know that our dogs need and enjoy physical exercise every day, but mental stimulation is often something that we overlook. Our friends at All Paws Pets, who specialise in dog training and behaviour, have shared some ideas around how we can keep feeding time fun and interesting for our dogs:
“Dogs, being the smart and wonderful creatures that they are, can get just as bored and frustrated as as we would if we didn’t have any mental stimulation from day to day. Imagine being stuck in the house all day, but not allowed to look at your phone, call your friends, read a book or even watch TV. After a while you’d start to get quite fed up!
From a dog’s perspective, being fed up can lead to undesirable behaviours such as barking or chewing. If your dog is displaying these habits and you are trying to find ways to help train them out of it, mental as well as physical exercise is key to improving this situation. Brain games using food can satisfy your dog’s natural instincts, as well as making them think and work for their food, which tires them out. As the saying goes, a tired dog is a happy dog.
These activities can also help to build a dog’s independence so they aren’t so needy for our attention. Brain games can also help to build confidence and self esteem in nervous dogs. By providing enrichment and brain games you can work with your dog, reward behaviours you like and create a tighter bond between the two of you. Deep down our dogs do want to please us, and will really enjoy not only the challenge in finding the food, but the praise that comes from their owner too.
Dogs may not be smarter than us, but their sense of smell leaves us in the dust. Did you know that you have approximately 5 million scent glands, however your dog has between 125 million and 300 million (depending on the breed). Dogs absolutely love to use their nose, and we can use enrichment and training to help satisfy our dog’s natural instincts. Using their daily food allowance is an easy way to achieve this.
Scattering food in the garden and allowing your dog to search for it means they really get to use their noses. If your dog enjoys this, then try something a little more challenging, like hiding the food under flower pots and allowing your dog to guess where it is. You can also put food into cardboard boxes or newspaper scrunchies, so that your dog has to pull them apart to get to the food.
There are also some great toys on the market, such as the popular Kong toy, that’s like a hard tennis ball with a hole where you can hide some pieces of food. Your dog will need to learn to figure out that they have to roll the Kong in order for some treats to fall out, and it’s not always easy. It may only take a few minutes for your dog to get all the treats out, but this is the equivalent of doing a slightly tricky crossword puzzle.
You can also take their meal out with you on their walks and use it to practice training and recall instead of just walking. This way you know exactly how much they are eating each day, as giving too many treats during training may result in weight gain.
There are many ways to keep feeding time fun and interesting for your dog, you just need to put your thinking cap on and get creative.”
To find out more about All Paws Pets and their brilliant work with dogs, head here http://www.allpawspets.co.uk/.