On Instagram, someone posted that it is “No Bowl November”. I was not aware of this particular celebration but I have been feeding most dog meals in toys ever since we welcomed a new puppy a month ago.
Food toys are a great way for any dog to get their meals. A meal in a dish is polished off in seconds. Dogs are designed to work hard for their meals: hunting, killing and then more work to consume it as they have to separate the edible food from the less appetizing. All this work takes time and energy, after which the dog can settle down for a nice nap in the sun. We take all this away from the dog when we plunk food in a bowl.
There are many different options for putting the fun back in meal acquisition. Kongs are probably the most familiar food dispensing toy. The original Kong comes in a variety of sizes as well as level of durability. I always go for the black ones as they are the toughest. Here are some that I have stuffed with a mixture of canned pumpkin, yogurt, dog kibble and a little peanut butter. While you can offer them just like this, I also freeze them and then they are available in the freezer when I need one in a hurry. In addition to the Kongs,
there are many other options. Here are two. The one on the top is one made by West Paw. It’s got a bigger opening for dogs to get at the contents and can be easier if you have a dog who doesn’t want to work too hard. Usually once they understand how to work for their food, you can graduate to more challenging toys.
The toy on the bottom is a Busy Buddy brand. Here’s a 10 second video of our puppy the first time I put his kibble in one of these.
I had put some canned food smeared inside the toy for the kibble to stick to. You can see it will take him longer than a few seconds to clean that up. If I am going to use kibble (dry dog food) in a toy, I can just add a little hot water and wait for it to soften a bit. Then it will stick into toys rather than just spilling out. There are other toys which are designed specifically for dry food.
Sometimes I raid the recycling bins and make my own toys. Last Christmas was a great time to do this as we had boxes and wrapping paper galore. I put kibble in plastic bottles and stuffed wrapping paper in the top. I put kibble in wrapping paper, crumpled it up and put it in a cereal box. After I had a bunch of these, I put them all in a cardboard box and gave it to Eloise. She had played this game before so knew to work at the corrugated box and then the smaller ones to get the kibble. Her nose kept her going until she had every last piece.
While these toys are good at keeping dogs busy, I can never do other things while they work at them because it’s too much fun watching them!
A snuffle mat is another popular kibble toy, but it’s at the other end of the spectrum from free. Different companies sell them and some are more reasonably priced so you’ll have to shop around. When you first use a snuffle mat, you just sprinkle the kibble on top, but after the dogs know to snuffle around for the kibble, you can bury it deeper. Here is Eloise with a snuffle mat.
A good friend gave us this Buster Activity mat and it challenges dogs in even newer ways. Each attachment is a different puzzle.
I love the way Eloise pulls the dowel out to open the envelope! Admittedly, after a few times, I neglected to watch her and she started chewing on the dowel when the kibble was gone. I now replace the dowel with a bully stick. As much as she loves bully sticks, she usually keeps working at the puzzle until she gets all the kibble, then takes the bully stick to her bed to chew on.
Before Wilder, our new puppy, arrived, I usually fed Eloise her breakfast in a dish and her dinner in a challenge. But these days, all meals are interactive. The better to keep that puppy occupied!