Food Bowls For Dogs
Here’s an example. I was with a client and their gorgeous Golden Retriever named Charlie who is a highly motivated, energetic, young working dog puppy. My clients are in their mid-sixties, in good shape but still can’t exercise him as his body and dog breed yearned for. They love Charlie dearly but also have very busy lives and not enough time to train or exercise him.
When at their home, it was obvious that Charlie was under-exercised both mentally and physically. This bored, “unemployed” dog was dying to do something, (AKA work), but because of his sedate lifestyle, undesirable behavior manifestation began to occur. He began to incessantly bark, nip at the sheets, the bed, people’s clothes, scratch at people to play, jumping on everyone, counter surfing…etc. The list goes on and on.
Charlie is an amazingly intelligent Golden Retriever, eager to please and to work all day but his parent’s sedate lifestyle, age, and energy levels are not a good match for him. So how do you rectify a situation where the parents are unwilling or unable to fulfill a pet’s most basic innate desires? What proactive, easy games can be played by a dog independently, regardless of a parent’s busy lifestyle, or if a parent’s energy level doesn’t match their dog’s energy?
One great way to help Charlie was to begin using stuffed dog chew toys and interactive food games instead of his food bowl.
What Food Bowl Should I Use to Feed My Dog?
First, throw away your pet’s food bowl. A dog food bowl is your enemy until your dog is 100% trained and socialized to your liking. Since no dog stops learning, just like humans, there isn’t a reason to ever use an old-fashioned dog bowl.
Even after training and socialization I still recommend using a dog’s food for enrichment, fun, games, learning, scavenger hunts, training, and socialization. I also use food to keep dogs busy when I am in a rush and don’t have time to train with them, have company over, or am just too busy to pay attention.
I love to give food for when a dog offers good behaviors throughout the day. Treating calm, quiet behavior and anything that I like and want my dog to do, or that the dog is already doing really reinforces and ingrains desirable behaviors and extinguishes inappropriate or “bad” ones without having to do a thing! This is called capturing a behavior.
Your dog offers great behaviors all day long, all you have to do is reward him for it. Be aware, observant, and treat your pup at the appropriate times. Read more about capturing behaviors here.
The alternative is to yell or discipline a dog when they are doing something undesirable, rather than to treat, reward, and praise a dog when they are doing something desirable. If you practice the latter, your life will be a lot easier, your dog will be more obedient, and the bond between you and your pup will be much stronger.
Food and treats (primary reinforcers) are the number one tool in your toolbox to accelerate training, socialization, enrichment, and to keep your pup well rounded and happy.
If you simply toss a dog’s food in a dog bowl and walk away, you have just thrown away the most influential and strongest motivational tool you have for bonding with and teaching your dog what you want from him/her! The great thing is that there’s no need to use a traditional food bowl.
Instead, there are many wonderful non-traditional dog food bowls that exercise your dog’s cognition and slow down their digestion, preventing bloat (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus). Make sure you are feeding your dog healthy dog food and treats and not dangerous dog food.
Stuffed Dog Food Toys & Interactive Food Games: Pros
- Most dogs love to work for their food or rewards. High-energy and more clever dogs will want to test their mental acuity and feel fulfilled throughout the day. Dog food toys and interactive food games do this for intelligent dogs, working breed dogs, and all dogs.
- Dogs are natural contrafreeloaders. Given a choice, a healthy dog would rather work for their food than be given free food every day.
- Saves you time. You don’t have to hand feed your canine or feline and train with them every single feeding as long as you don’t just drop the food in a bowl and walk away, you’re both better off. Alternatively, dropping your pet’s daily allocation of food in your dog training pouch or food toys when you are in a rush and do not have the time to train with your pets will enrich them and keep them busy for a while. They will be happier and so will you with the good habits you are teaching them.
- Correcting behavior problems. Whether it is dog barking, aggression, digging, chewing furniture, or household items, a stuffed chew toy will help. Chew toys are also wonderful enrichment toys for shelters to use, work wonderfully to de-bark dog shelters, and are a great step to creating positive habits and keeping a dog quiet. Chew toys and interactive food games relieve a dog’s stress and anxiety.
- Dogs love and need play and enrichment. Interactive dog games and dog toys will build your pup’s problem-solving skills while taxing them mentally making them more fulfilled and satiated. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t like toys, we got you covered!
- Crate training. If you throw a few frozen or regular stuffed Kong chew toys into your dog’s crate, it will make your pet love going in and staying for hours in their Zen den scavenging away and exploring the treasure they have just found. This helps reduce dog separation anxiety, prevents destructive behavior, facilitates house/potty training, and makes transporting your pet a breeze.
- Teaches a dog great habits. The most significant part of training a dog is the antecedent arrangement, setting a dog up for success, and teaching them how to play with toys and which ones you want them to play with. Teaching dogs that it is appropriate to chew on a Kong toy, for example, is a good idea compared to your new $500 shoes.
- Slows down food ingestion. It is healthier to eat slowly. Besides being more susceptible to choking and indigestion, large breed dogs are less likely to get bloat which is a deadly condition believed to be caused after a dog eats or drinks very quickly and then exercises or vice versa.
- Teething and biting puppies are not aggressive, they just love exploring the world. Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth during their lives. Dogs, however, explore the world mostly with their mouths. During puppy-hood and the teething process, usually, from around four to six months of age, dogs will try and chew just about anything to relieve the pain in their gums. Dogs do not know the “correct” things to chew on, so if you don’t teach them, don’t yell at them for chewing your new $20,000 oriental rug or designer couch.
Stuffed Food Dispensing Dog Chew Toys & Interactive Games: Cons
- There may be more toys to clean (although most are dishwasher safe).
- The cost to buy them may be more than a standard dog bowl.
- If your dog has a very strong mouth then be aware of the type of chew toy you are giving to them. Choose a stronger chew toy that will not be ripped to shreds so that nothing dangerous is ingested.
- As with yourself, choose products with no BPA, dyes, or harmful chemicals.
- Throws off predictable defecation.
There aren’t many cons at all. The emotional, medical, behavioral, and physical pros far outweigh the cons and are only limited by your imagination.
Here’s a list of just a few companies that sell food dispensing toys and interactive treat games:
- Kong Toys
- Kong Wobbler
- Kyjen Food Puzzle Toys
- Aïkiou Dog Bowl and Games
- Idepet food toy
- Nina Ottosson Dog & Pet Activity Toys & Games
- Our Pets
Dog Food Bowl Conclusion
Use your dog’s food and treats strategically for training and enrichment, not for dumping their daily food (and all of their motivation and reason to train) in a bowl. Here are tons of Kong recipes to make your dog crazy for their interactive food toys. See how fast your dog’s behavior improves when you start intelligently managing your dog’s food and treats throughout the day.