“A tired dog is a happy dog. Better yet, a tired dog is a happy owner.”
Animal Lover, Dog Walker, Doggie Foster Mom, Animal Behaviour Nerd
I’m a big believer in environmental enrichment to aid in animals’ mental as well as emotional health. That’s not the only benefit, though. All that mental work and the physical activity in chasing down the kibble really does tire out your dog. Best part, there’s no extra effort on your part, therefore, no sweat.
I know the dogs love playing food puzzle games but I’m actually not sure who has more fun, me thinking up new ways to amuse the dog or the dog playing with my latest creation.
DIY Dog Food Puzzles
In this blog series I’m covering some of the food puzzle toys I’ve made to feed foster dog Wonder Dawg Moxie’s mind and instincts ((BTW I make up a lot of pet names for the dogs in my care, you’ll get used to it.). Note: All of these toys contain Miss Moxie’s regular kibble with the odd bonus prize treat, especially when she starts getting bored with a particular toy. She gets approximately 30% of her meals this way with the remainder split between her bowl and more interactive training/learning games.
In addition to paper food puzzles I’ve pressed all manner of containers into service as dog food puzzle games, from the clam shell containers my salad or berries came in, to plastic bottles of various shapes. Vitamin bottles (always rinsed, of course), contact lens solution bottles with the cap popped off, wide mouth juice bottles…you name it.
Moxie, aka Moxie Roller (sung, along to the tune of Roxy Roller) likes these just as much if not more than the puzzles I’ve purchased, possibly in part because I don’t actually care that she chews them as part of the game.
In fact, sometimes the customization Moxie Sox has done on plastic bottles makes it harder for the kibble to come out which ends up keeping her busier, longer. Anything that makes a dog work harder, think harder, and satiates their instinctive needs also helps tire them out, so I’m all for it.
Unlike paper toys, the plastic toys are generally good for longer use. They do get a bit boring so I try to mix and match a little to keep things interesting, as well as add a couple of extra tasty bonus treats. In the beginning I helped Moxie figure out that chewing the bottles to shreds wasn’t how the goodies came out.
Using a clicker to reinforce when she tried things other than chewing and also interrupting her when she started to get serious with the chewing, Miss Moxie quickly figured out that rolling and/or picking up and dropping the bottles got her the food inside without her completely destroying them.
The kibble does tend to get spread around a bit with bottles that have wider openings, but then it becomes a game of Find It, which she loves. Also, with the softer plastic, if I leave the bottles lying around Moxie will sometimes “customize” them when bored. No harm done, this often makes them more challenging. I don’t want her chewing off bits she could swallow so I try to keep them out of reach when not being played with.