Dogs are intelligent and they need to be provided with mental stimulation. Your dog craves mental challenges, and without giving dogs opportunities to solve problems, dogs may become destructive or anxious. There are many ways to provide your dog with the mental stimulation it craves. For example, there are sniff-ari walks (walks meant for smelling all the beautiful outdoor aromas), canine enrichment games, and daily training. As the mom of a highly intelligent Goldendoodle named Juno, I am always looking for ways to integrate daily challenges to support the mental needs of my Goldendoodle. I make sure to add a variety of canine enrichment opportunities for Juno throughout her day to keep her continuously motivated and engaged.
I love to provide Juno with some much loved mental stimulation when I serve Juno her dinner. Ever since Juno was a puppy, I have never offered her dinner out of a boring bowl. Ditching the bowl at dinner is an easy way to enrich Juno’s life by providing her with a chance to use her keen sense of smell and her innate problem-solving capabilities. Dogs that have to work for their food feel more satisfied after a meal and it is a great way to relieve stress and tire them out. After all, a tired dog is a happy dog.
Alternative Ways to Feed Your Goldendoodle
After you’ve ditched the bowl, you may be wondering what type of vessel to use for your dog’s dinner. Should you just throw your dog’s food all over your floor? Well, you could I guess, but this gets messy and there are definitely better ways. Remember, you want to make this challenging and fun for your clever pooch. Perhaps you have a reluctant eater on your hands. If so, the excitement of having to work for food may be all that is needed to motivate your dog to want to eat. Juno is not a reluctant eater. She loves all the treats and all the dinners, so for her, making dinner time into a problem-solving event is just extremely tantalizing for her.
Juno has used all the suggested ideas below and loves them all. I find that variety is key. She never knows which canine-enrichment feeder I am going to be using. Juno becomes so excited for her dinner as she watches me prepare her canine enrichment feeder. She is trained to sit while her dinner is being made, and to only engage with the feeder once I give her permission. This way I can fully prepare the feeder without her getting in the way and it teaches her impulse control and patience. I try not to ever let a training opportunity slip by and Juno loves to show off with her developing obedience skills.
Juno absolutely loves her KONG. We have several KONG feeders that I use. It’s great to have more than one so I can always have a clean one and so I can freeze several at once. I like the original KONG because it is dishwasher-safe if put on the top rack. I use the KONG for dinners and for treats. Try stuffing and freezing the KONG to prolong the eating experience or for a refreshingly cool treat on a hot day. For dinners, I add her kibble and mix it in with some low-calorie dried liver pieces for a tasty surprise. When I prepare her KONG as a treat, I mix and match several ingredients and make unique recipes each time. For delicious and healthy KONG filler ideas, click here. To learn which KONG is best for your dog, click here.
We are a family that loves puzzles and that includes Juno my Goldendoodle. I cannot say enough positive things about puzzle feeders for dogs. If you choose to ditch the bowl, puzzle feeders are a fantastic dog bowl alternative and are highly stimulating. Puzzle feeders vary in difficulty so start with a beginner feeder like the one pictured, and work your way up through the intermediate and expert levels. These feeders are perfect for keeping your furry friend excited and satisfied. To clean, simply wash in warm soapy water after each use.
3. Snuffle Mat
Juno loves her Snuffle Mats. I started her with a basic one but have moved on to a more challenging one, which she finds really fun. I still throw the basic one into the mix of enrichment feeders once in a while and she is very excited to see it when I bring it out. Snuffle mats reinforce a dog’s natural foraging instincts by stimulating its sense of smell. Snuffle mats are machine washable and provide great mental stimulation for your dog.
There are several food-dispensing toys available that all seem very popular. I hope to add to our collection as time goes on. Lately, Juno has been drawn to the ball type shown below. It takes a minute to fill, as you need to add each treat and piece of kibble individually. Once I get it prepared, it is well worth the wait! It provides great mental stimulation because it rolls as she tries to pry the food out of it with her teeth. She loves the challenge! It can also double as a ball for fetch. I use warm soapy water to clean the ball after each use.
Keeping your dog’s brain busy and engaged is so important to their happiness and well-being. There are many products on the market designed to do just that. Over the past year, I have acquired a small collection of different canine-enrichment feeders and I will continue to add to my collection as time goes on. The joy each feeder brings Juno is so fun to watch. I love how the feeders slow down her eating, stimulate her mentally, relieve stress, and deliver so much satisfaction.
Happy Tail Wags xo
Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.Kinky Friedman