Everyone is talking about it, but what is Enrichment? Enrichment is really just mental and physical exercise that allows your dog to perform natural dog behaviors. When we provide enrichment for our dog, we are trying to allow our dog to do a variety of behaviors in order to access a variety of reinforcers.
Creative feeding is a super easy way to provide enrichment in your dog’s life. He has to eat anyway so you might as well make it a bit more FUN. Keep in mind, for some dogs eating creatively can be a bit frustrating and takes some brain power, so you do not want to feed all of your dog’s meals this way but you can certainly mix things up for him for some of his meals. This will vary dog to dog depending on a bunch of factors including, but not limited to: breed type, age, activity level etc. It is also important to try different methods out to see which of these your dog enjoys. Different dogs will have different experiences with these feeding methods and our goal is for our dog to have FUN; we are certainly not trying to frustrate them and make it a chore to get their meal.
There are an infinite number of ways to feed your dog creatively. Just take a look at our Games & Enrichment Pinterest page. And don’t forget, Variety is the Spice of Life and everyone needs a little indoor, Rainy Day Enrichment sometimes too.
I think it’s worth it to spend a bit of cash on some quality durable feeders (traditional KONGS, “slow” feeders, snuffle mats etc.). I like KONG and West Paw brands because they are the only ones my own (super-chewer!) dog Rufus can’t destroy but there are plenty of other great brands out there now. Feel free to comment on this blog and tell us your faves.
Have the durable ones in your collection but feel free to head right to your “garbage” pile and use some of the goodies there that will cost you nothing at all! You can feed your dog out of cardboard boxes, bins, egg cartons, paper towel rolls…. all cheap, easy and compostable/recyclable! Just be sure to use caution with these items (especially if your dog is a hearty chewer) and never leave your dog alone with them. And, for the laziest of us humans (I say this because I have been there), you can even just toss your dog’s meal right out in the back yard/deck/porch or kitchen floor and let him “find it”!
Here are few examples of creative feeders both store bought and right out of the recycling bin:
In a perfect world, I am completely organized and always have a couple of stuffed KONGs in my freezer but in real life, I give them to Rufus, he eats them and then I find the empties a few days later under the couch. So, I’ve come up with a frozen stuffer I can make in bulk and keep in my freezer to use when needed. “KONG Logs” might be a nice name for them but more often referred to as KONG Turds in my house. Here’s the simple recipe…
In a bowl, mix some canned or raw food with regular kibble (or whatever you normally feed your dog). I add a bit of coconut oil but you can add anything you want – pumpkin, yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce…. Hand roll into “logs” and freeze. When ready, pull out and stuff in KONG!
OK, it’s not pretty but easy and effective!
If the “turds” gross you out, you can also get some mini ice cube trays (mine are from IKEA and ANKO) and freeze your special recipe into the trays. Once frozen just pop them out and keep in a container in your freezer and pop into a toys when ever you need them.
Although there is a new study indicating that cats are NOT contrafreeloaders like dogs, I still sometimes offer up a couple toys for the kitty too.
Now go get creative, have fun and let us know what you come up with!