Food as Fun

For centuries wolves have roamed the countryside, traveling in social packs, raising their young and…

Arriving back home at 6:00 pm sharp for their bowl of kibble?

While there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of scooping a dog’s daily ration of food into a bowl, there’s nothing inherently natural about him eating from a container once or twice a day. It’s a fine and traditional way to feed a dog, of course, but there are ways to give your dog his daily calories that can engage his brain, enhance his sense of fun and training, and alleviate some of the boredom our city dogs endure each day.

Kongs: Sold under the brand name “Kong,” these hollow rubber cones are a dog owner’s best friend. The toys come in various sizes and strengths (get black if you have really tough chewers, red is fine for most dogs, blue swirls for puppies) and sizes (always bigger than can fit in the mouth whole or be choked on). Simply fill them with some or all of your dog’s daily food, stuff a few extra yummy leftovers in there, top it off with a good sized dollop of mashed sweet potato, cream cheese, peanut butter or any kind of cheese and stick it in the freezer. Or you can fill the whole thing with mashed spuds and leftovers, or mix the kibble in to the mix. Your dog will then get his meal, or part of his meal, over the course of a half hour or more as he works the food out of the Kong, licking and bouncing and chasing his dinner in a happy game. These are also great for crate training, giving something fun and rewarding to do during down time. Kong also makes a timed Kongtime dispenser that releases a filled Kong at intervals throughout the day.

Lunch Bag Hunting: Some dogs really love to stalk, pounce on, shake and “kill” their prey, in this case the Wild Lunch Bag. Take some or all of your dog’s kibble, put it in a paper lunch bag, inflate the bag so it’ s not flat, and then fold or tape the end shut. Shake it so it makes an interesting noise, toss it into the air or throw it in the yard, and let your dog chase it, pounce on it and rip it open to discover his meal. You might have to demonstrate and “allow” him to rip the bag as he may well think you’ve lost your mind at first, but he’ll pick it up in no time. Expect kibble to scatter some when he rips and shakes the bag. Fear not – he’ll find it and clean it up. Supervise this activity so the lunch bag doesn’t get eaten too.

Feeding Toys: There are a growing variety of feeding toys, like Buster Cubes, Molecuball and Bongo Balls, that dispense treats or kibble a few nuggets at a time. Fill the toy with kibble, Charlie Bear treats or other dry pieces of food that will fall out of the holes as your dog bats and chases the toy around. It’s great to watch your dog sit and think and puzzle over the secret to obtaining the loot – often solved by bashing the thing with joyous abandon!

The Treats: Be sure, while you’re exploring these new entertainment meals, that you keep calories under control and the quality of the food high. Real meat and poultry, high-grade treats, vegetables, fruit and of course kibble are fine choices (no raisins, grapes, chocolate or onions!). Junk food is junk food for humans or dogs, so check the ingredients before you buy!

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