Think Outside the Food Bowl
There are other options available to make mealtime a little more interesting. Slow feeders are created with extra physical barriers so pets can only access small amounts of food at a time, which not only prevents pets from gulping down their dinner but also provides a mental workout as they use their tongue and paws to extract their food. These feeders come in a range of designs, and even switching between two or three different feeders can keep your pet guessing!
Make Them Work for Their Treats
Treat dispensing toys and treat mats work well for the determined pets. Treats are hidden in compartments and pockets, and your pet must use their nose, mouth, and paws to sniff out, open, and even roll the dispenser to release the treats. Old milk bottles and takeaway containers also work well for a DIY treat dispenser – leave some treats or biscuits in a milk bottle without the lid on, or a container with a small treat-sized hole cut out of it and watch your pet work to get their reward.
Search and Sniff
Treats, and even meals divided into smaller portions, can be hidden to encourage your pet to use their incredible sense of smell. Pick the area and accessibility of the hiding spots depending on your pet and their abilities. Placing their food bowl in a different spot outside each day is a great start, and you can even progress to dividing their meal into smaller portions and hiding these in different spots around the backyard for your pet to sniff out. Try hiding under boxes, behind pot plants, up on chairs – get creative!
Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Despite the saying, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks and the incentive of treats can achieve anything! “Sit”, “Drop”, and “Stay” are common commands, but training doesn’t always have to be obedience-based. Teaching your dog to turn in a circle, shake paws, or developing a routine of two or three commands in a row can be fun for both owner and pet.
In the warmer months, your dog might like running through the sprinkler just like we do and it’s a great way to cool them down on those hot Australian days. Toys frozen in ice are another great way to keep cool – use an ice cream or a takeaway container to freeze a favourite toy or ball in ice and put it out first thing in the morning for your dog to lick their way through over a few hours. You can also use diluted stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable) to provide a tasty treat.
Working dog breeds (like Kelpies, Border Collies, and Australian Cattle Dogs) have a natural urge to herd – try giving them a basketball and watch them “round it up”!