Why do we make meals so boring?
When did we decide that dogs need to be fed in a neat decorative bowl on a raised decorative platform? When I was kid we had a collie/shepherd mix who was fed Gaines Burgers right on place mat on the kitchen floor. Now I'll admit that dog care and nutrition has come a LOOOOONG way from the 70s and 80s and my dogs food is probably a better quality than my kids (and more expensive), but when did feeding dogs become so sterile and boring?
Dogs by nature are scavengers. Indigenous dogs in South America hunt some small prey but mainly survive by scavenging around dumps and anywhere there is a lot of discarded food. Dogs love to eat and the act of finding food is actually more exciting than eating it. This phenomenon is called counter freeloading, research studies have found that when animal have to work to get their food they actually eat more of it then when it is simply placed in front of them. So why do we make meals soooooo boring?
3 out of the 4 dogs in my house eat in their crates, otherwise we would have one really fat dog and 3 emaciated ones. As a result, my dogs think that the crate is the greatest place in the house. This is where they get all of the most fabulous things that a dog can get. They sometimes get so excited by the word "kennel" that they will spin and bark all the way through the house and into the crate (see video below). Yet when I recommend that people feed their new puppies in the crate I'm often met with a look of disbelief, like it's somehow cruel to have a dog eat in isolation???
Molly is a foster dog that we have had since October, she is a high energy very busy dog. Our mornings in the Welch house are pretty chaotic between taking care of the animals, getting ready for work and getting the kids off to school. There is really no time slot for fresh puppies to cause more havoc. When I feed Molly in the morning I scatter her 1/3 cup of kibble in her crate. There is no bowl, she has to pick up every bit of kibble one by one. This process takes her far longer than sticking her nose in a bowl and simply inhaling. Later, before I leave for the day she gets a second meal in a Kong plugged up with a little peanut butter, this will keep her busy for a solid 45 minutes.
There are so many other fun, creative ways to feed dogs. Try soaking kibble in water, stuff a Kong with the soggy muck and stick it in the freezer over night. The next day you have a frozen breakfast that will take at least an hour for your dog to eat.
If a Kong isn't your dogs thing, you could also do the same thing in a bowl. Put the kibble in, add water and freeze. If you really wanted to get crazy you could even hide a rawhide treat at the bottom for your dog to find as dessert.
Some times I'll put a handful of kibble in a piece of paper, crumple it up and let them tear it to shreds to get what's inside. Most dog won't eat the paper but even if they do it's safe and digestible. How about saving paper towel rolls and putting the kibble inside with a ball of paper on either end to hold it in? There are also many food puzzle games available at pet stores now that dogs LOVE!