I recently attended a pet industry trade show and was astounded by the variety of sizes, materials and styles of dog bowls that were on offer. There is a mindboggling array of choices, most of which are a far cry from the typical stainless steel, no-frills bowls that we are all familiar with. There are also many more stylish food bowls available that are really attractive. But every time I get tempted, I just remember that I don’t actually use a food bowl for my dog!
OK, that’s not 100% true, but it certainly was for the first six months of his life and is still true for more than half his meals.
Mostly he gets his meals out of food dispensing toys like the Bob-a-lot or Kong Wobbler or Genius. The reason for this is that it takes what is arguably a dog’s favorite time of the day and stretches it from less than a minute (truly, that’s all the time it takes my lab to eat 2 cups of kibble out of a bowl) into a 10+ minute adventure. He knocks the toy around. The kibbles fall out a few at a time. He gobbles them down. After he’s reasonably sure it’s empty, he then spends several more minutes using his nose (one of a dog’s favorite activities) to search the house to make sure he got each and every kibble. He always finds a few he missed the first time, which makes this search really rewarding for him. This process gives him so much more mental stimulation than just vacuuming the food up from a bowl. It’s not just a meal… it’s an adventure!
Try putting the kibble in a cardboard box and then closing it up or in a clean gallon milk jug without the cap or even sprinkling it between sheets of newspaper. Sometimes when I can’t quickly lay my hands on one of Tucker’s toys, I simply take the kibble and fling it across the floor. Then the hunt it is on!
When he was a puppy, I also used a great deal of his daily food ration for training. For anyone who has ever worried that his dog will get fat because of using food as a reward, this is the answer.
If your dog loves his food, instead of one giant reward (a single bowl of food), you have at least fifty opportunities each day to reinforce good behavior by doling out the kibble piece-by-piece.
The other major use of kibble when Tucker was a puppy was stuffing Kongs. The food that I didn’t use for training went into a Kong mixed with something soft like peanut butter and was given to him when I wanted him to have something to do to keep him out of trouble. For more about feeding out of Kongs , click here.
Give it a try! Put your food bowl aside for a week and see what creative ways you can come up with to feed your pooch. Please leave us comments to tell us about your dog’s favorite new way to enjoy a meal.