Give Your Dog Something to Do and Get Some Quiet Time for You!
Suddenly, a lot of us have found ourselves home a lot more. This can be a challenge. Work, Kids, House, Dogs, the list goes on and on. It can be helpful to give our dogs something to do. Instead of just dropping your dog’s meals into his bowl, give him a “food puzzle”. You don't necessarily need to buy one and it doesn't need to cost a lot of money. A food puzzle will give you some time and space. If you have kids, they can join in too – giving you even more time and space. You can ask the kids to create the food puzzles and then have them time the dog using the different puzzles and see which one takes the longest. Place bets and see who wins!
Feed your dog via a Kong. Kongs are easy to prepare. Stuff the Kong with food and it’s ready to go. At first, put some dry dog food in loosely so it’s easy for your dog to get to the food. As he gets better at getting to the food out, make it more challenging by adding a “glue” (Not actual glue! See below!) Once he’s good at getting the food again, you can freeze the Kong a few hours or the night before. A frozen Kong can last a good 60 even 90 minutes. If you need to buy a Kong, they are available online at Amazon. Check out Kong’s Size guideline. I like to buy a size bigger than what is recommended as it lasts longer.
The “glue” is something that will help to bind together the dry food. It can be canned dog food, canned pumpkin, peanut butter, cream cheese, baby food, or no-fat/low-fat plain yogurt. Then add the dry dog food. You can also experiment with different “Kong Recipes” Here are some links to get you started:
EMPTY BOXES and ROLLS
Feed your dog via boxes, toilet paper rolls, and paper towel rolls. Yes, you read that right – use your cardboard recyclables!
Boxes: Take some empty boxes (remove any staples) and put some dog food in. At first, lightly fold the boxes back together so they’re easy to open. Put the boxes down and let your dog have fun diving into them to get to the food. The more boxes, the more fun. As your dog gets good at opening the boxes, start folding the boxes back together so they’re more tightly closed. Don’t use staples or tape! To add more challenge, crumple up paper and throw it in the boxes before you close them up. Be prepared for a small mess, as your dog tears through the boxes.
Toilet Paper, Paper Towel, & Gift Paper Rolls: Once you’ve used up the paper, take those rolls and put the dog food in. On either end, stuff some paper. Once your dog can pull the paper out, then you can bend the ends so it’s more challenging.
With both the boxes and the rolls, be sure a responsible person is supervising the dog the first time he uses it, so he doesn’t ingest the cardboard!
For a bigger challenge, take a frozen stuffed Kong along with crumbled up paper, put it in a box and if you can, nest it in another box. The more challenging, the more your dog has to use his brain to get to his food. The more fun for him and the more quiet time for you!
Feed via a Snuffle Mat. You can buy one (on-line) or make one.
Once you have the mat, drop some dry food or dry treats on top and bury the rest within the fleece. Now your mat is ready for your dog to “snuffle” around to find his food. Have a responsible person watch your dog the first time he uses it to make sure he doesn’t eat the fleece. I was worried about this with my dogs, as they love to tear up soft toys. However, mine figured out quickly that all they needed to do was use their noses to “snuffle” around and find the food.
Snuffle mats are easy and pretty inexpensive to make and can be a good kid’s project. Here's a quick, less than 1 minute video on how to make a snuffle mat. All you need is some fleece, a piece of an anti-fatigue mat or a silicone kitchen sink protector, and scissors.
Notes on making your own:
You can use 1 color or as many as you like. Your dog doesn’t care! I used up my fleece stash.
You can use anti-fatigue mats that you can find at your local hardware store or on-line. I also made a snuffle mat using a sink protector mat. The holes were smaller, so it was a little tougher to pull the fleece through. However, the mat did end up lighter in weight.
For any of these ideas, if you have more than one dog, be sure you have enough resources (boxes, Kongs, rolls, mats, etc.) for each dog. If there’s a concern over a possible fight, separate the dogs. Be sure that small children are supervised when the dog has something this awesome.
In case you were wondering, not only do dogs enjoy a good snuffle mat, so do cats and horses!