By Lisa Benshoff, CPDT-KA, Talbot TTouch llc, Easton
Did you know that working a dog’s brain is as important as physical exercise—and has even greater pay-offs? Training is important (I would say essential), but that’s not the only way to exercise the little gray cells. Giving dogs a challenge that’s instinctive—working for their food—is not just amusing to watch, it keeps them busy, lets them engage safely with an object in a productive way, and helps them learn how to solve problems.
Don’t worry that this is somehow being cruel! Studies have demonstrated that dogs and many other species offered a choice between food in a bowl and food stuffed in an object actually choose the food that takes some effort.
If you’ve never presented your dog with a Kong or other enrichment toy, you may be amazed by how much fun it can be for them. I’ve seen my own dogs turn away from their bowls without taking a single bite—and then excitedly engage with a toy that I stuffed with the same food. (Then I switched to a new food because I believe everyone should enjoy their meals and have variety.)
Using food toys for meals teaches puppies and adults with little training to learn that they can make good stuff happen, which is also a powerful principle of positive-reinforcement training. And you may be surprised to learn that this simple form of mental enrichment can prevent or resolve many behavior issues. But wait, there’s much more!
Where to Start?
Some Favorites Links to get the right size and material for your dog’s jaws and chewing style.
There are dozens of ways and recipes for stuffing a Kong. Just search on Google or Youtube. Save time and click on the following links!
Lisa serves on our Board and is instrumental in helping keep our animals happy!