So, you decided to go for it and ditch your dogs food bowl? Good for you! You won’t regret it, I promise. It might be a bit more effort especially to start with while you try out different feeding methods, but it will be so worth it. Your dog will be much happier, more calm and satisfied. And to help make the transition much easier, I have put together 4 easy ways to feed your dog without a food bowl.
Ways to ditch the food bowl!
A bowl full of food is a bowl full of rewards and lost opportunities so why not use these to your advantage? By using a portion of your dogs daily food intake you can reinforce desired behaviour around the home or even train new skills.
There are a couple of really easy ways to do this. I like to have small bowls of our dogs dry food in strategic places in our home so we are quickly able to reward good behaviour when we see it. A training pouch or even a handful of dry food in your pockets also works well, you may be surprised how many individual rewards you can get through.
Train as you go: Build in training and reward opportunities into everyday life. This is by far the easiest way to achieve great manners and focus around the home. Use your dogs normal food to reinforce everyday actions like when your dog chooses to go and lie on their mat, when they sit for you to put the lead on for a walk or when they wait at the door to be let in or outside.
Short training sessions: If you are short on time or working on a specific skill with your dog, short training sessions a couple of times a day can work really well. These can also fit around your families busy schedule. 2 x5 min sessions a day can provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to earn rewards while learning something new.
Trick training: Why not teach your dog a new trick? Trick training can be an incredibly fun activity that the whole family can enjoy. Make sure you choose a trick that your dog is physically able to manage and one that they will have fun learning. There are so many different tricks you could teach your dog ranging from simple tricks like high five, spin and weave to more complicated activities like putting away their toys.
2. Out of a walk
Taking food rewards out on a walk is easily the most underutilized reinforcement opportunity. Not only can you use food treats to reward your dog for loose lead walking, but you can also use the food to reward behaviour like heeling, sitting at the kerbside, focus and choosing to look away from distractions. There are plenty of opportunities to reinforce behaviour out on an ordinary walk but if you want to take things to the next level, you could incorporate a quick 5 min training session or two into your walk to work on other training goals. Fancy practising high fives or drop in the park anyone?
3. Food games
I love to set up food games for my dogs. These are quick and easy ways to feed your dog and don’t take long to set up which make them great options for those about to rush out the door to work or school. Plus food games have the extra benefit of encouraging your dog to scent out their food which uses a lot of physical and mental energy. Here are a couple of my favourite food games.
The Scavenger Hunt. Hide small piles of food around the back yard or patio. A dog-specific sandpit is also a good place to bury food (though better if in a food toy). Your dog will spend time searching out the food piles and will receive a jackpot of rewards for their effort!
The classic biscuit scramble. Much like the traditional lollie scramble for kids, you just take a handful of your dog’s dry food and throw or scatter the biscuits on the ground. Again this can be in your patio, backyard or even in the house. Your dog will go along and pick up all the biscuits and may even keep scenting for them after they are all eaten extending the game.
4. Food toys
Food toys are great boredom busters!! There are so many different food toys on the market that you are sure to find a toy or two to suit your dog’s needs. And there are plenty of DIY ones you can make too. I like to mix it up a bit and we have different toys for wet and dry food to keep things interesting for our dogs. Food toys help your dog to problem solve, to work out how to access their food thus providing both mental and physical stimulation.