Last month we covered Strategy 1: Feeding is Fun where we learned how we can better build a bond with our dog using their regular allotted food for the day. We also discussed how to use this food to reinforce those basic commands and how to ease anxiety in your pet. These are very hands on ideas that would probably work best for you in the evening when you have a bit more time on your hands.
This week, we are going to discuss using objects to help stimulate your pets mind while being cooped up inside. This may be a tool that you can more easily accommodate into your morning routine, and you can get the kids involved too!
Strategy 2: Mind Puzzles
We already touched on this concept briefly in Strategy 1: Food is Fun, but there are there ways of integrating your pets daily allotted kibble into a fun game. Lots of people enjoy doing Crosswords or Sudoku because they enjoy working their brain - so do our pets.
There are many ways to do this, but to start we are going to cover 3 easy food puzzles anyone can do.
1. Store Bought
Obviously, the easiest thing to do would be to purchase a food puzzle for your pet. There are a couple out there that look intriguing, but I personally haven't had much experience with this more mainstream option. We do have this one ball that our youngest dog, Gemini, absolutely adores. Just fill it up with her kibble and away she goes!
2. The Dual Action Muffin Tin
This is probably one of the easiest food puzzles you can make because it requires absolutely no crafting skills whatsoever... and it works in 2 ways!
Option 1: Place the muffin tin right side up and sprinkle a small amount of food into the cups. Next, you just need to grab a few balls and place them in the muffin tins over the food. now your dog just needs to use their nose to push the balls out of the way to get to their food. Make sure to leave some of the spots empty and don't pack too many balls on there! We want them to be able to push the ball onto the next slot. This gives them the opportunity to use their noses (and their brains) to sniff out which cups have the food underneath. The best part about this is our pets get the opportunity to problem solve using their senses to track down the food and are encouraged to play actively with their toys afterwards.
Option 2: Turn the tin upside down and sprinkle kibble among the raised edges of the tin. This encourage them to work with their paws, nose and tongue to get to the kibbles. This is also a great trick if you have an animal that likes to gorge themselves on food or will eat so fast that they end up coughing it back up.
3. Paper Towel Rolls – Upgraded
This is great because it is something you already have lying around your house and it won't cost you a thing! Just cut your paper towel roll to your desired size (I went with about 3/4 it's original size) and fold the ends in creating an enclosed tube. Tape the ends securely closed so that the kibble you end up putting in won't accidentally come out the ends. Next, take an Olfa/Exacto knife and cut a few small - medium size holes in the tube. Make sure the holes aren't so big that the kibble all falls out on the first roll, but not too small that your pet will get bored or feel discouraged. Remember, you will be filling the tube through these holes, so if it is tedious for you to fill it, then it will be tedious for your pet to get the kibble out. Now add some of your dogs' kibble and you're done!
Make sure to roll the tube along the floor and show your pet how it works. If you don't your pet may just choose to chew it or rip it open instead if they don't understand how they are supposed to use it.
Bonus: This one also worked surprisingly well with my cats. One prefers to stick her paws in and pull out the kibbles, but the two others would actively roll the tube to get their food.
Pro Tip: Animals are just like us - they will boredom eat. If a pet must work to get their food, they are less likely to overeat simply because it is available, and they have nothing better to do. If your pet is using their senses and must think it through when it is time to eat, they will become more active in their day to day and will have an improved quality of life as well!