Canine Enrichment Feeding (Snacks and Brain Teasers)
Now that we are in the summer months and it is HOT outside it is important to host indoor activities for your dogs and cats. This month we focus on how to mentally stimulate your cat or dog’s brain with creative ways of offering treats and snacks. Your pet will appreciate the little time and cost it takes to introduce these games to them. All of these enrichment games are NOT meant to be played unattended. Use this time to encourage your pet and keep things positive and FUN!
The same toys we discussed in May can be used to dispense treats while keeping your dogs busy and stimulating their minds at the same time. You can also make a few homemade toys by using an empty plastic Gatorade bottle. Punch a few holes in it with a nail and fill it with treats. Watch them as they go to work to get out the treats. If they get frustrated then make the holes bigger. The Kong Gyro or the Kong Wobbler can also be used as treat dispensers. The wobbling, spinning and rolling motion is great for confidence building and engages your dog’s nose.
One of my favorite activities is to play ‘find it game’. Take 3 or 4 Orijen freeze-dried treats (or something you know they LOVE) and hide them in the house. I put my dog in another room while I am hiding the treat so they cannot peek. A smaller room is best at first. Play this game one at a time to let each dog win and really learn to use his or her nose. And never put items on counter or tables, as we never want to encourage counter or table surfing. Hiding places should be easy at first then you can choose a toy basket, behind a bookshelf, on the third stair up, or under a table for a hiding place. Be creative with this. Encourage your dog to go hunt and say, “find it”. Make a big deal when they locate and find their prize. This involves the right balance of physical and mental exercise they need. Cats go crazy over this game, too!
Another fun indoor game is to make a maze on the kitchen floor with treats. I put my dog in another room while I drop a few Acana freeze-dried treats around the kitchen island and watch let them scoop up the fun. Or you can play the ‘which hand’ game to let them pick the hand that holds the treat. Lastly, my dogs love it when I roll a few treats up in a towel, fold the towel in half and place it on the ground to let them unroll the towel on their own.
Keep your games positive so they have fun and win. While your family is watching a movie you can toss treats or even popcorn into the air to engage their brain.
There are many outdoor games to play as well. My all-time favorite outdoor game is to use the Kong Stuff’N Paste and make 20 small squirts of the yummy paste all over the backyard. Keep the paste at nose level and use the side of the fence, under lawn furniture, the side of the grill, and the base of trees. Then let your dog outside and watch them sniff away. I also core an apple and fill it with Fromm Gold canned food and let them chew the entire apple while it is still cool outside in the early morning or late at night. This can be used for indoor cats, as well. Just squeeze the paste on the side of their bowl or on the side of the cabinet that you can easy wipe clean. Sometimes I stick a yummy freeze-dried sardine in the paste for fun. My cats love their Petsafe Fun Kitty Twist and Treat dispenser. I recommend putting this up at night otherwise you will be awakened to cat play!
You’ll give your dogs and cats a mental workout by taking a little time out of your day to play these few easy games. You do not have to do this every day – even once a week can help add pleasure and mental stimulation to an otherwise treat routine. Every breed and size could use a break from the heat and will enjoy playing indoor games. If you find your dog is frustrated with these games make sure to encourage them and remember to keep it positive. We have a few other fun tricks up our sleeve to break the usual treat routine. Join me on Sunday, June 24, anytime between 10:30 – 1 pm to learn lots of creative ideas. If you can’t make it then drop in and let any of my pack show you a few ideas – you’ll pet will love you even more for it!