In the cold winter months it’s harder to give our dogs the physical exercise they need to remain happy and balanced. We are less inclined to go for long walks or play ball at the dog park when there’s snow and ice on the ground. There is an easy (and warm) way to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated and it’s something already built into your schedule, feeding!
Did you know that 10 minutes of mental stimulation is like 30 minutes of physical exercise for your dog? What better way to tire them out mentally than by using their own meals? Here’s our top 5 ways to get creative at meal time!
- Use a Squirrel Dude or Kong toy: There’s a method to the madness for stuffing a squirrel…put something stinky in the top (to fill the head) it can be your dog’s favorite treat, a piece of cheese, hot dog, etc. Then you can fill the middle with their kibble and seal the bottom with something lickable like peanut butter or canned pumpkin,and if you plan ahead enough you can even freeze it overnight! Freezing it makes it last longer and is also a bit less messy!
- Use A Puzzle Feeder: Puzzle feeders are great mental stimulation toys, they also help slow down fast eaters. Place a few pieces of food in each compartment and watch your dog sniff to solve the puzzle. The moving parts require focus and mental stimulation and they’ll have to figure out how to manipulate the toy to get the food out. With only a little bit of food in each compartment your dog won’t be able to suck down their entire meal in one gulp, which prevents bloat and regurgitation.
- Use A Muffin Tin & Tennis Balls: A simple muffin tin is an inexpensive way to feed your dog. If your dog still gulps down the food, make it more challenging by placing a tennis ball on top and making them move the balls to find the food in the tin cups. You can also use the muffin tin and tennis balls for “find it” games with treats.
- Play “Find It”: Place a small mouthful of food under a small cup and scatter them around. If you have multiple cups you can put food under some of them, but not all to make it more challenging for your dog. They’ll have to sniff out the food (“find it”) and flip the cup over in order to get the food. You can even teach your dog to “ask permission” to eat by sitting and looking at you before gulping it down. Dogs who are “nosy” always sniffing, curious, etc. love this game! And you can make it as simple or advanced as you want.
- Work for it! Good ole’ obedience commands do the trick every time. If you enjoy interacting with your dog and keeping them engaged practice your basic obedience commands and use their kibble as reward. Nothing like a lil’ bit of good ole’ fashioned work to make your dog appreciate that mouthful of food!