It is always really helpful if we can enable our dogs to practice as much positive natural behaviours as possible.
As our dogs are so much part of our families it can be really easy to become very routine in our care and forget that it is a little unnatural for a dog to eat once or twice a day dry kibble from a stainless steel bowl. While we are absolutely meeting their dietary needs and providing good general care you can imagine how boring it would be if you have the same food at the same time every day for your entire life. Even if it was the tastiest most amazing chocolate bar/steak/glass of wine (whatever is your favourite thing!), after 10 days eating it in a row, you would probably get a little fed up with it, so imagine a lifetime.
Dogs are natural scavengers who would go in search of their food and preferably eat small amounts throughout the day. There are tonnes of creative ways of feeding your dogs and providing there is no medical cause for restricting their diet we never have to use a bowl again.
A couple of suggestion when it comes to feeding – Kongs, Wobblers, Pyramids, Treat Balls are all food based toys you can purchase from your local pet shop or on line.
Equally homemade frozen blocks, scatter feeding, hiding food around the house & garden. Creating feeding containers – old plastic milk cartons with the lid off, some kibble dropped in and then crinkled up, cardboard boxes with shredded paper with something tasty hidden inside, cardboard tubes with rags stuffed inside with a treat in the rag or loose in the tube, head of lettuce with something tasty dropped between the leaves.
I understand that making all of these things and setting them up is time consuming but by promoting these behaviours we will be helping our dogs to be a more relaxed and in general a happier dog – something that is essential if you are dealing with problem behaviours.
Try to get creative with the type of food you are giving as well – banana, vegetables frozen/tinned/raw (once its ok for us to eat it raw), brown rice, brown pasta, eggs, meat, fish, porridge, baby food etc. if you are in doubt about whether something is ok to give them Google it as some food items are toxic for dogs – grapes and raisins, avocadoes, macadamia nuts etc.
A frozen block of water, brown rice and sardines is a mind blowing treat for my dog Charlie so hopefully finding that under a plant pot in the garden will be a very welcome surprise. If you can encourage your dog to dig in appropriate areas for example a sand box filled with interesting hidden chews and toys, chew appropriate items and use their noses as much as possible you will be helping you dog to get a nice release of the feel good hormone serotonin into their system.
I have designed a table of foods below that are ok for most dogs to eat. The idea is that you create your own table with your dog either using these foods (or whatever is freely available to you in your own home) and preference test them – i.e. you give your dog the option of eating the food and assign a number based on how much they seem to enjoy it.
The second table is the same idea but it details different ways of feeding your dog with the focus not only on how much they enjoy the exercise but how long it takes them to complete and their behaviour afterwards.
The tables I have written up are just examples and you will be able to put together much more accurate information for your own dog.
Note: It might be worthwhile to look at introducing some novel proteins such as rabbit or duck if your dog has never had these before. I recently bought sprats in Lidl for my dog Charlie and he LOVED them!
Food Preference Table
|Food type||Enjoys on a scale of 1-10 (high to low)|
|Carrot – raw||3|
|Carrot – pureed||1|
|Carrot – frozen||6|
|Peas – frozen||5|
|Peas – pureed||2|
|Other – store bought treats etc.||9|
Feeding Methods Preference Table
|Methods of feeding||Preference||Length of time taken||Behaviour afterwards|
|Scatter feeding in the garden||10||3-4 minutes||Looking to go back inside or losing interest|
|Hiding food around the house or garden to “go find”||8||5-15 minutes based on how much food is hidden – easier the longer he stays focused||Engaged/focused but hyped up, excitable – still looking for food even after it is all gone|
|Frozen blocks||4||10 – 20 minutes based on how big the block is and how tasty it is||Relaxed but not sleepy|
|Kongs||1||Up to 30 minutes – depending on what it is stuffed with||Tired and relaxed – tends to sleep afterwards|
|Treatball/Pyramids||3||5 minutes||Engaged/focused but hyped up, excitable – still looking for food|
|Starch/rawhide chews||2||15 minutes||Tired and relaxed – tends to sleep afterwards|
|Cardboard tubes with food inside and rags stuffed at the end||5||5 minutes||Calm but not settled/sleepy|
|Filled pillow cases – with food & paper/straw etc||4||10 minutes||Calm but not settled/sleepy|
|Dunking in bucket/padding pool||6||10 minutes||No interest|
|Food at the end of a scent trail||8||5 minutes plus – easier it is the longer he stays focused||If it too tricky he gives up|
|Hidden pockets of food in his sand pit – parcels need to be ripped open||2||Will stay doing this all day as long as there is something to dig up||Loves it and is nice and settled afterwards|
|Paper parcels||5||5 minutes||Calm but not settled/sleepy|
|Cardboard boxes taped closed or with paper, rags etc.||4||10 minutes||Calm but not settled/sleepy|
|Filled bones – emptied out and replaced with mushed soaked kibble – frozen||2||20 minutes||Tired and relaxed – tends to sleep afterwards|
|Doggy board games||1||5-20 minutes||Sleeps afterwards|
|Training food||1||5- 20 minutes Dependant on time allocated by person doing the training||Tired and relaxed – tends to sleep afterwards|