Dogs are fantastic members of our family! They are loyal, fun, and smart! This is great for us, but by having them in our homes, sometimes even alone, we have taken away the challenges which kept the mind engaged where they were wild animals.
As you can imagine, most wild animals spend a great deal of their time searching for food. Unlike our homes, food isn't given in a bowl but needs to be searched and hunted for. This foraging helps the wild animals become problem solvers, using their brains and body in the way they were intended.
Now your dog and his ancestors have been domesticated for thousands of years, but, like their wild counterparts, they are not designed just to lie around and do nothing. Just like you and me, the need to have work to do that involves their brain and body to be content and happy. Enabling our companions to engage their body and brain, is one of the most important ways you can empower your dog! This has many benefits and can lead to solving behavior problems of dogs who, in reality, are just bored.
One of our dogs in the past was a border collie called Spunky. He was always getting into trouble. It wasn't his fault, he was just bored with our small house and yard. In the end, after he "herded" one of our older neighbors into their house, we found him a home at a farm. He was happy, but we lost a beloved member of our home.
Now there are puzzles that can help keep your dogs engaged. Toys or other objects that allow an animal to forage are called snuffle bowls, snuffle mats, foraging toys, food puzzles, puzzle feeders, etc. They are easy and convenient ways for you to give your dog a job to do in even the smallest apartment, keeping their minds and bodies busy. Snuffle bowls and mats are also good to slow fast eaters down.
We sell two types of there foraging toys: Snuffle Bowl and Snuffle Mat. The Snuffle Bowl is more like the traditional feeding bowl, and you just need to open it up, put in the dry food, and let your pup go after it (the drawstring can be tightened to make it more difficult for your friend). The Snuffle Mat has many hiding holes and obstacles you can hide snacks or food in. It takes more work on your part, but your companion has more to do.
Both wash up well, and help your dog be more active during feeding time!
Two things to consider:
Foraging skills are not innate. Normally the dog's parents would teach their pup how to forage for food. In your home, you will need to teach them. Strat simply (like the Snuffle Bowl ) and work up to the more complex ( like the Snuffle Mat). Not all dogs will learn at the same speed, so be patient!
- The snacks matter! Sometimes your dog may not seem interested in playing the game. It's probably not the toy, but the food you are using. When you start, Instead of using their normal food, try with a special treat you know your friend likes. Once your companion figures out the toy, you can go to more normal food.
Thanks for asking!