Training your dog isn’t an “extra” thing “good” dog owners do. It isn’t a luxurious thing. It’s a vital thing. It’s a necessary step humans need to take toward enriching the lives of their dogs. How unfare is it to ask your dog to live in your world with little understanding of human language and customs? Pretty unfair. Training bridges that gap.
Because training is enrichment and enrichment is training, I think it’s appropriate for me to blog every Tuesday this month about a simple way to enrich your dog’s life. Today, it’s stuffing toys.
They go by many names (including the king of the stuffable food toy, Kong) but they are all of similar makeup; hard rubber and hollow. This way they are difficult for your dog to destroy and can be stuffed with food for entertainment. Why is this important? Glad you asked!
Dogs are a hunter/scavenger species, with the emphasis being on the scavenger side. Eating out of a bowl might bring your dog great bliss for the few seconds it takes him to scarf down his food, but finding a food-stuffed toy buried under a blanket and meticulously extricating its contents fulfills needs your dog has deep inside him that you didn’t know were there. He needs to chew, he needs to find, and he needs to eat. When you plop a bowl in front of him you only fulfill one of his needs; and when you hide a food-stuffed toy for him to find and eat you fulfill three of them. It’s that simple.
Is this to say that I feed my dogs all of their meals out of toys? No, I am not that good. If I were the perfect dog mom I would, but I’m not, and you don’t have to be either. But you can enrich your dog’s life immensely by feeding just a few meals or snacks a week out of food toys. Here’s my “recipes”:
- Stuff the toy with plain yogurt and freeze it. Add bits of kibble or dog treats to spice it up if you like.
- Stuff the toy with mashed bananas and freeze it. Again, add kibble or dog treats for extra enticement.
- Stuff the toy with a high-quality wet dog food, freeze it if it is runny, or just hand it over if it isn’t.
- Stuff the toy with peanut butter.
- Stuff the toy with cooked oatmeal and canned fish and freeze it.
- If you feed kibble, wet the kibble, stuff it into the toy, and freeze the toy.
- If you feed “dog” food, mix kibble with wet food, stuff the toy, and freeze if you want.
- If you feed raw, you can easily feed your dog’s boneless meals out of toys. Just stuff the toy with ground or chopped meat and/or organs and hand it over. (And your bone-in meals are already like a food toy, so skip it on those days!).
- If you home-cook you can stuff whatever goodness you make into a toy for your dog. Having several pre-made toys stuffed with your nutritious home-cooked diet actually simplifies this process.
I recommend giving all stuffed toys in a crate or on a surface you’re not worried about getting dirty; they can be messy!
What did I miss? What do you stuff your dog’s toys with?