I’m thrilled to have seen the hashtag #ditchthebowl blaze a trail across social media in recent months. One of the easiest ways we can ensure we are setting our dogs up for success is by redistributing their daily food allowance. We have a large amount of food that we feed our dogs every day and it’s often wasted in a couple of big chunks. Spreading it out throughout the day gives us the ability to frequently reinforce good choices, provide enriching activities to stimulate problem solving skills, create opportunities for mental exercise, and to set up solid preventative strategies to keep dogs out of mischief. There are also some wonderful health benefits to spreading their food out rather than having a few heavy meals. Some ideas for ditching the bowl:
- The night before, prepare 4-6 Kong toys and put them in the freezer. This is particularly helpful for nippy puppies. I also love using frozen stuffed Kongs for when company comes over and there is a fearful or reactive dog in the house. If your dog eats raw or wet food you can stuff them with their regular food, if your dog eats a kibble based diet you will need to add a binding agent. Tinned food, mashed bananas, and nut butter are all appropriate choices to bind the kibble together. Watch our Kong Stuffing video here: https://youtu.be/Q8yYnqSM33g
- Bring a meal on your walk. Kibble meals can be tossed into a bag or pouch, wet or raw food can be watered down a bit and placed into squeeze tubes. As you walk, feed little bits to your dog. This will help your dog focus on you, helps with dogs who pull, helps with socialization and confidence building, and helps dogs learn to disengage from distractions and triggers. When working with triggers and distractions, begin feeding as soon as you see your dog notice the stimuli; don’t wait to see what their reaction is. Be proactive!
- Bring your dog's meals with you on walks to play games like Check In, Check Out and to boost loose leash walking skills.
- Puzzle toys and games can be used to add enrichment and mental exercise and can be filled with your dog’s meals rather than treats.
- Create a large snuffle experience by tossing kibble or dry treats into a grassy patch on a walk (but be prepared to be there awhile!).
- Reserve a few handfuls (or a squeeze tube) for using as rewards when practicing new skills and behaviours.
- Lay out a trail of kibbles throughout the house or yard for your dog to follow. You can also freeze wet or raw food in ice cube trays to play this game outside.