You can probably tell that I'm a big fan of using food toys for our dogs, and I also recommend them to all my clients. It's not that I am in cahoots with any commercial dog toy suppliers (though honestly, I wouldn't mind some free products to try . . .) it's because of all the benefits to our dogs by using them.
1. Mental stimulation
Probably the most important one on the list so it has to go first. Most of us are well aware of the physical needs of our dog, food, shelter, water, walks etc. but since most of our dogs don't have a day job they need a way to utilise their brain power. That's where training and food toys come in. Food toys encourage the dog to think, strategise and problem solve to get the food. There is also the option of making them easier or more of a challenge depending on your dogs current skill level.
2. Helps with anxiety
I work with a number of dogs who have behaviour issues that are based on anxiety. The process of addressing these behaviours and the root cause is certainly multifactorial, however, in almost all cases I suggest using food toys as a way to build up a dogs self-confidence. Using food toys teaches the dog perseverance, resilience, confidence and a "can do" attitude. Building up their self confidence helps them better deal with stressful situations in other aspects of their life.
3. Slows down speedy eaters
Eating food too fast can cause a dog to have gas, indigestion, vomiting or an upset stomach. None of these are ideal for the general health of the dog and they need help to slow down. One of the ways to do this is to use food toys. There are several different options for this; biscuits in rolling type toys, DIY bottle toy, PVC pipe etc. and if you raw or meat feed then you can always put it in a container or food toy as well.
The dog then has to work to get at the food rather than just being able to guts it down from their bowl. Our dog Ruby takes about 30 mins to eat less than half of her meal if we put it in a Kong and freeze it.
Dogs should get used to spending a bit of time on their own even when you are home. Rather than this being a really unpleasant punishment, using a food toy as distraction can make the time on their own more enjoyable. Plus they might not even notice that you weren't around! Giving a food toy before you leave for the day can also set up a positive leaving the house routine for your dog and help to prevent them from getting distressed.
5. Entertainment factor
Have I mentioned that it's fun?! As you know, dogs love to play! Food toys are fun for them plus they get rewarded (food) for playing and working out what to do. Earn while they learn!
If you've been inside a pet store anytime recently you will have noticed that there is a wide range of commercial products available. Many of which are excellent, long lasting and great value for money. Investing in a good quality food toy is money well spent in my opinion. That being said I think having a mixture of commercial and DIY dog food toys is the way to go. That way your dog has some variety without draining your bank account in the process.
Since we are now right smack bang in the middle of summer and the hot weather seems to be sticking around this time (though I've heard rumours of a summer storm rolling in tomorrow so we shall see . . .) I thought I would put together this bumper summer survival guide to get your pooch through the worst of the hot weather.
Summer is definitely my favourite time of the year because, personally, I prefer to be hot rather than cold. But the summer temperatures, especially here in Perth, can be challenging for our dogs.
There are a number of ways we can help them out though, and when you follow these simple guidelines you can keep your dog happy and safe throughout summer.
If you've read my post from last year you will know that my New Years Resolution for 2017 was to not have any resolutions as such but to live my life like a dog.
Dogs have this wonderful ability to live in the moment, to approach each day with a clean slate and fresh enthusiasm and they experience joy in everyday activities. Plus they love unconditionally and they don't take it personally if you don't want to play with them right that second (don't worry they will be back to try again in a few minutes!)
So I wanted to see if I could approach each day the same way that a dog does and try to follow their lead for a change.
Here are some of the areas I was inspired by:
To live in the moment with joy and enthusiasm;
Show the people in my life how much I love them, every time I see them;
Enjoy the journey not just the destination;
Take time to smell the flowers;
Eat with gusto;
Work out what gets you what you want then repeat.
As I'm sure you can imagine, some of these areas were easier than others. For instance, I totally rocked at napping in 2017 and if it was an Olympic sport, I definitely would have qualified! Snoozing on the couch with my dogs became one of my favourite pass times and I didn't feel one bit of guilt doing it. #sorrynotsorry
Eating is always one of my favourite things to do, so I made sure I did it with gusto! Whether enjoying a bowl of cereal at home or eating a gourmet meal at a restaurant or having a picnic with friends, I ate with enjoyment and enthusiasm and found ways to make even a salad interesting.
But not everything worked out so well. Sometimes I was too busy working (or napping) to take time to smell the flowers as it were, and I definitely didn't spend as much time with my family and friends as I would have liked. Sometimes I was so focused on my getting the job done and working towards my goals, that I forgot to enjoy the different stages I was going through or to stop and just enjoy where I was.
And even though I can't honestly say that I lived EVERY day with joy and enthusiasm, I can say that I tried to incorporate a little bit into my life as often as I could. Part of that is being able to do something that I love on a daily basis. The thing that brings me the most joy is working with animals. Yes, it's probably cheesy, and you might even be thinking that I have to say that since I've likely worked with your pets at some point, but I honestly mean it. I'm so lucky that I get to do the something I love and am passionate about almost on a daily basis. For me, working with people and their dogs is energising and fun and I love seeing how these connections build and grow. I love getting to know a large variety of different pets especially getting my cat fix since I can't have one of my own (thanks Ruby!).
As far as experiments go, I am really pleased with how this one turned out! So much so that I ditched the resolutions again this year and will continue to try to live life to the fullest each day like our dogs do.
As a dog owner, dog trainer and pet sitter I have learnt many different tips and tricks over the years and I thought this would be a great way to share them with you. Enjoy!