As some of you may know, my dog has Separation Anxiety – Proper, Separation Anxiety. One of the things that was recommended to me by his Trainer was to make his food last longer and make it more fun. Dog’s love to sniff, lick and forage, also known as – Enrichment. One way to provide enrichment for your dog is through Feeding Toys.
What Are Food Toys? (Foraging Toys)
Food Toys are any “thing” that you can hide your dog’s food in that make it difficult for them to access the food. They may have to roll around a ball and the food comes out slowly depending on which way the ball is rolled, they may have to lick it out of an object like with Kong™️ Toys or they may have to sniff the food out of a Feeding Mat or Snuffle Mat such as these found on Etsy.
The point of Food Toys is to make feeding time fine, engaging and time-consuming! Why time-consuming? Because a pup that’s entertained stays out of trouble. 😜 It’s important that your dog learns to settle themselves and can pass time appropriately while still enjoying themselves. After all, it is in your dog’s nature to forage, you’re simply encouraging healthy behaviour.
(It only took me 10 years to realise I wasn’t providing my dog with enough healthy pass time activities which was contributing to his Separation Anxiety…)
Find toys which are easy to clean! I’ve had to throw away a few toys which were just impossible to clean! Remember, you are often putting wet foods into the toys to prevent food falling out too easily, but, that doesnt mean YOU shouldnt be able to get it out.
Cleaning them right away also makes cleaning easier. Just wait till you have dried puree to get out… 🙄
Treat or Meal?
Well, both! To get the most out of food toys, it’s best to put your dog’s actual meal into the toy so you’re not overfeeding them or preventing them from being interested in a food toy. Let’s be real, if your dog has already had dinner from their food bowl… they’re probably not going to be interested in trying to get food out of a toy – especially if it’s difficult. You can freeze the food toy so your dog has to melt it by licking it first, this is a great option for a midday treat but works just as well for a meal. The contents of the food toys are what decides if it’s a Treat or a Meal.
Putting Banana, Apple and Carrot inside make it a treat or supplement. Putting your dog’s daily diet into the food toy with or without other ingredients would make it a meal.
Food Toy Struggles
- Using a toy that is too difficult for your dog to extract their food from.
Dog’s need to learn how to use food toys. Give them easy toys to start with like a ball with a hole in it and gradually build up. Try showing them how it’s done – you’ll be surprised at how quickly they can work things out, but, some do need a hand. (or paw, I should say!)
- Putting extra food in the toys causing weight gain.
You do often need to use other food with your dog’s normal food to either keep them interested or to make the food harder to get, but, don’t forget to keep to the right amount of food.
- Putting unhealthy food in the toys causing unhealthy weight gain.
I have used canned food before inside a Kong ™️ but canned food is high in unhealthy fats and salts. Remember WHAT you’re adding to the toys and try to provide healthier alternatives. I like to use pureed vegetables if I need my dog’s kibble to be wet or I will just soak the kibble in water to make it soggy!
- Forgetting about providing a balanced diet with the toys.
Avoid using the same ingredients. If your dog is on a RAW or Home Cooked diet you are probably already providing variety (or at least I hope you are! 😆), but if your dog eats kibble and you’d like to or need to soften it to add it to a food toy, avoid using the same thing, don’t always use pumpkin puree, try using sweet potato or apple and so on. And remember to lessen their kibble so they’re not overeating.
PUMPKIN & BANANA
MEALTIME BOREDOM BUSTER
Duration: 10 Mins to Chop, 20mins to Boil, 10mins to Fill
Makes: 2 Medium Feeder Mats & 6 Silicone Cupcake Patties
What You Need
- 1/4 Organic Pumpkin (Diced)
- 1 Organic Banana (Diced)
- 1/2 Scoop “Vet’s All Natural” Grains
- 1 Medium Pot
- Stick Blender/Blender
- Bowl & Utensils
- Freezer Safe Food Toys
- Prepare The Ingredients.
I use organic ingredients where possible for myself and my pets. Wash and dice the pumpkin and banana, keeping the pumpkin seeds but removing the skin and peels.
- Boil It.
Place the pumpkin, banana and grain mixture into a pot and fill it with water to just above the ingredients. Set the temperature to high and allow the mixture to boil until soft.
- Mix It.
Using a fork, test if the pumpkin is soft. The fork should basically fall through. Once soft, turn the heat to low. Using a stick blender, blend all the ingredients together to form a puree. You don’t want it too runny but also not too lumpy.
- Food Toy Time.
Allow the mixture to cool so it’s no longer boiling hot! Gather the items/toys you would like to fill – remembering the mixture is wet and runny. I’ve used two feeding mats and a few silicone cupcake patties.
- Measure The Food & Mixture.
As a treat, simply fill the toys with the cooled mixture and freeze them. To use the mixture for mealtime, grab a bowl and add 1 meals worth of your dog’s kibble. Add a few tablespoons of the mixture to the bowl and stir to coat the kibble in the mixture.
*Keep in mind the quantities of the mixture to kibble. If you need to add a lot of the mixture you should reduce the amount of kibble slightly. It will take a bit of trial and error.
- Fill Em’ Up.
Now that you’ve measured how much kibble and mixture is needed, try to add the bowl of food & mixture to one toy. I say “one toy” so that it is easier to remember – 1 toy = 1 meal. After you’ve added the mixture/kibble to one toy. Use the bowl to measure out another meal and continue adding it to a toy. You can also use the mixture to make a few treats to give in between meals. I filled a few silicone patties with just the mixture so I had the option to give my dog a treat during the day. (Sometimes!)
Flavour Combinations & Filling Ideas
- Blueberry, Cooked Quinoa & Spinach (Blended)
- Scrambled Eggs & Banana Puree
- Zucchini & Carrot (Boiled & Blended or Grated Fresh)
- Cooked Chicken Meat, Cooked Brown Rice & Pumpkin Puree (Mixed)
It’s time to make feeding time more engaging for our pups! Stop using a dog bowl and start using food toys. Your pup will thank you for allowing them to forage, play and eat in one. A happy dog is an occupied dog. Only bored dogs get into trouble so engage with your dog in a positive and healthy way by using what you already HAVE to do – feed them.