We all know dogs love meal time! But did you know that feeding your dog can help fuel their brain as well as their body? Start with a high-quality food from Nature’s RecipeⓇ to fuel your dog’s biggest life. Then try these simple games and cues to turn mealtime into an extra-special part of your dog’s day.
Eating, enrichment, and your dog
Enrichment is about scent and taste, but it’s also about sound and activity. It challenges your dog’s brain, relieving stress and boredom. Training can be enrichment. So can walks and play. Even eating is enriching, and in fact, food is one of the easiest ways to get your dog to interact with their surroundings, unlocking those key instincts that help them enjoy the world around them.
The trick to turning meals into an opportunity for enrichment is that you depart from the routine. Asking your dog to do the same tricks before they eat becomes part of the mealtime ritual, and enrichment is all about novelty. In fact, it depends on it.
Thankfully, it’s not all about buying puzzles or developing complex scenarios for your dog to solve. (Though that can be fun!) Mealtime enrichment can, in fact, be very simple.
DIY Meal Enrichment
Some of the easiest enrichment involves challenging a dog to eat a meal outside of the usual bowl. These simple ideas don’t require much beyond a handful or two of your dog’s healthy food like Nature’s RecipeⓇ Grain Free Chicken, Pumpkin, and Sweet Potato Recipe—and a couple of recyclables!
- Tuck your dog’s food into a toilet paper roll and fold the edges.
- Punch a dozen kibble-sized holes in a plastic bottle and fill it.
Hiding kibble encourages your dog’s natural hunting and foraging instincts, encouraging them to problem-solve with a tasty reward at the end. It’s like sudoku—with donuts at the end!
Another way to enrich doggy meals is to change the texture or presentation of the food. Freezing moist or mushy foods can also provide all kinds of fun challenge. Freezing disks of wet dog food like Nature’s RecipeⓇ Grain Free Chicken and Venison in Broth Recipe creates hockey pucks of different sizes and shapes that slip and slide around when a dog tries to eat them. Pro tip: do this on a surface you can clean easily! Also be sure to set aside an ice cube tray just for this purpose, and to sanitize thoroughly before reusing the tray.
Feeding your dog part of their breakfast or dinner in small portions as you run them through some tricks or training behaviors can also serve as enrichment. They still get their full dinner, but over a longer period of time, and learn while they’re doing it. It also gives you and your pup more precious one on one bonding time.
Using puzzle toys
A puzzle toy makes your dog work for their food in the best way possible. How? It dispenses treats or kibble once your dog has solved the puzzle of how to get the food out. For instance, put something tasty into the reservoir of the toy, and then let your dog have at it. Kibble works well, and you can get creative by adding a dab of peanut butter or the like.
Puzzle toys can become much more complex than that, however. Depending on the size of your dog, as well as their natural inclinations, there are many puzzle options that utilize food as the reward. From slow feed maze bowls, to treat dispensing balls, there is a wide variety to choose from. You can feed your dog his whole meal via a puzzle, in fact!
Nosework and Mealtime
An often overlooked part of enrichment, nosework utilizes one of your dog’s greatest assets: their sense of smell. Everyone has seen their dog zero in on the spot in the carpet where you dropped a tiny morsel of food. Now imagine using that trait to hide food in a contained area in your home or yard. It’s a doggy scavenger hunt!
This takes advantage of your dog’s need to forage, and it’s a great excuse for dining outside together. Simply take a few containers with kibble out on a nice day and hide them while your dog is still inside. Then, let your dog roam and have the fun of discovering food throughout the yard.
This can also be done indoors. You determine the difficulty! The only worry is forgetting where you hid all the food. (You may want your dog’s help on that.)
However you decide to enrich your dog’s mealtime, it’s a simple, fun way to help fuel your dog’s mental life. And our dog will be happy that the treats keep on coming!