Is feeding your dog from a food bowl bad? No, not at all. But, there are so many reasons why it's right, to feed your dog via alternative methods.
By feeding your dog solely from a food bowl you are missing out on easy opportunities to enrich your dogs life and to address boredom related behaviour issues. When you ditch your dogs food bowl and try alternative methods of feeding your dog you create fun and rewarding mealtimes that can lead to a calmer, happier dog.
Reasons to ditch the food bowl!
Gone in a flash!
Dogs are notorious speedy eaters and sometimes it seems like they can devour their dinner in the blink of an eye! And I know not all dogs are like that but many are and it can be even worse in a multi-dog household or if your dog has resource guarding tendencies.
Eating too fast can cause dogs to vomit after eating and can even be a choking hazard. Plus, if they eat their food in less than a minute, what are they going to do for the rest of the day?
Using alternative feeding options can drastically reduce the speed with which a dog can consume the food. You can spread it out over both time and distance and/or make it more difficult for your dog to access the food.
Food is one of the best rewards for dogs because of the high value they place on food. All dogs are motivated by food to some extent, some more so than others but they all need food to survive. A bowl full of food is a bowl full of rewards and lost opportunities. This food could have been used to reinforce a whole range of good behaviour from your dog during the day whether you were with them or not.
Like humans, dogs can get bored. The difference is, they can't read a book or watch a show on Netflix to pass the time as we can. Many dogs spend a large portion of the day at home alone while their families are out and work and school, with the dog just waiting for everyone to get home.
A dog home alone can and will get bored easily even if they have access to all their toys. It's really not that much fun to play tug when there is no-one on the other end of the rope!
And a bored dog can be a destructive dog, a loud, barking dog or even a sad, lethargic dog. None of which are good for the dog or for the humans in their life.
Using your dog's normal food in different and interesting ways like food toys and games, will keep your dog challenged and active as these activities will take significantly more time for your dog to consume the food than if it was simply placed in the dog bowl. Not only will your dog have less time to be bored but they will also be more satisfied after expending some physical and mental energy on the game or food toy.
There is something instinctually rewarding for dogs who have to problem-solve or search out their food. Dogs love to scavenge around and you can use this to your advantage to encourage them to scent out their meal. Not only is the act of sniffing physically tiring for your dog but your dog will use a lot of brainpower to process the scent too. Plus it's a great way to burn off excess energy and an easy way for you to provide both physical and mental stimulation for your dog.
Having to think through how to access their food or to even find it in the first place is a wonderful mental challenge for your dog that will leave them happy, satisfied and tired.
I may not be a fashionista, but even I know that a good pair of heels can be used for many different occasions and is a staple in every woman's wardrobe. And like a favourite pair of heels, the dog training version of a casual heel is also great for every occasion.
The casual heel vs. the standard heel
A standard heel is also known as a focused heel or competition heel as this is used in dog obedience trials. This is a commanded obedience activity where the dog is on the left hand side of the handler, the dogs front legs are in line with the handlers legs and the dog is looking up at the handler giving complete focus.
The casual heel is a much more relaxed version of a standard heel. In a casual heel, the positioning is the same but not as strict. There can be more space between the two and the legs don't have to line up and the dog is able to look away and check where they are going. Also, the dog can be on the right side of the body instead if you want.
When to use a casual heel
Well, on your everyday dog walks of course! The casual heel is a great tool to have in your toolkit to pull out whenever needed, wherever you are.
1. Stop pulling on the lead.
Because the casual heel position is close to you and requires some focus and attention from your dog, being in a casual heel means they are not out in front of you pulling! Even though this position is not intended for a full dog walk, it is a good way to remind your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead and can be a great way to bond with your dog during an otherwise distracting outing.
The world is full of distractions, especially for dogs! There are so many things happening all around them and so many different things to scent. One of the main ways we use a casual heel is to get our dogs past distractions, especially if we are quick enough to notice them before our dogs do.
Here are some examples of distractions to casually heel your dog past:
If your dog likes to charge across the road, putting them in the casual heel can be a safe alternative. Plus this is almost the perfect length of time to practice the casual heel to build up the distance in this position. And, usually, a dog is happy to start off in a sit since they are at the kerbside which makes it easier to get their attention before you step off.
1. Restrict access when not at home.
It will be almost impossible to teach your dog not to jump up and sleep on your couch or bed if they have access to it when you're not around. They will be able to learn not to do it in your presence and it may still discourage them to jump up when you are not around, but they might still sneak up if they think they can get away with it. So it this is definitely not something you want your dog doing, then restrict access to this area so they don't get the chance to have a cheeky nap on the couch.
2. Lure off.
Never, ever try to physically remove your dog from your furniture. This is a sure-fire way to get on the wrong side of your dog, damaging the trust between you and it could even result in a bite. Plus there is a much easier way to get your dog off the furniture without it turning into a battle. Simply lure your dog off the couch with a food treat or toy, and offer them a further reward for remaining off the couch. See easy!
3. Put a command to it.
Give your dog a command to get OFF the furniture and use this at the same time as you lure your dog off the couch. This way you can use the command to remind your dog later that they are not supposed to be up on the couch if they forget or want to try their luck.
4. Alternative place to sleep.
This is the step where you provide your dog with a comfy, alternative place to sleep that is not your couch! I suggest you use a dog bed and place it somewhere near the couch so they can still be close to you and feel like part of the family (plus I'm sure they are into Netflix just like we are.) The closeness of their bed will also help you to easily remind them where they should sleep if they try to approach the couch.
5. Reinforce the right behaviour.
To help your dog understand that their dog bed is the best place for them to sleep, reward them whenever they go on their bed. At first you will be reminding them, but over time they will go their on their own and you should definitely reinforce that behaviour by offering them a reward for making a good choice. To keep them on their beds you can also periodically throw them a food treat to further reinforce being there or even offer them a food toy to eat while on their bed. Trust me, these rewards will work to make the bed a very happy place for your dog!
One of the reasons why I love the Kong Classic is because of all the different fillings you can use with it to keep it fun and exciting for your dog. Honestly, the options are nearly endless. But, how do you keep the contents from spilling out too easily?
Well with an agent, Binding Agent, of course!
Best binding agents
Binding agents are used to help other items like treats or dry dog food stick to the inside of the Kong to keep them from just falling out and to provide your dog with a challenge. And they can be used on their own too, especially if you are short on time.
When using a binding agent in the Kong, smear it inside the top section only so your dog is able to reach. If it goes too far down, they won't be able to get it all out. Having a bit of the binding agent on the outside of the Kong will help to entice your dog to investigate the Kong which is a great option if your dog is new to this type of toy. Here are my favourite two to use.
Peanut Butter (PB)
I mean, who doesn't like a good PB? I love the stuff and so do my dogs. Try getting a smooth version that is made with peanuts only if you can to avoid and excess salt or sugar.
Plain, Greek yoghurt is the way to go. Not only is this yoghurt packed full of vitamins and probiotics but it's low in sugar too.
1. PB and treats
Add a teaspoon or two of PB to coat the inside of the Kong. Add a handful of treats or dry biscuits, then swirl around so that the treats stick to the PB.
2. PB and banana
After adding the PB to the inside of the Kong, add chopped pieces of banana until full.
3. Yoghurt and fruit
My favourite fruit to use is either apple or blueberries and for this recipe, I'm going to use both. Add the yoghurt around the inside of the Kong then add the chopped pieces of fruit. You can adjust the difficulty level by adding more or less fruit.
4. Yogurt and leftovers
My dogs LOVE broccoli and zucchini and these are great options to use in a Kong. The great thing about vegetables is you can use them cooked or raw. Add whatever suitable leftovers you have on hand to the Kong after spreading the yoghurt around inside to help bind the ingredients.
Quick note: not all human food is suitable for dogs, so chose wisely. These recipe suggestions are for treats only and should be part of their daily food intake not in excess of or instead of an appropriate meal.
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!