Putting Food to Good Use

Hands up if your dog loves dinner time? Mine does! For many dogs, dinner time is something that happens once or twice a day, and lasts for 30 seconds or less as they scoff the biscuits or wet food out of a bowl. Surely there is a way to make something so enjoyable last a little longer?

Slow Feeders

One strategy you could try is a slow feeder. These are designed to slow your dog down by making them manipulate the food out of grooves and pockets. You can buy assorted slow bowls from pet stores (or online), but you can also use a muffin pan from home, with a little of your dogs dinner in each section. You can make this more challenging by placing a tennis ball over some of the muffin moulds! Another slow feeder that we love is the Snuffle Mat. These are easy to make at home, or you can buy them custom made from the very talented Rachel at Snuffle Mats Australia.

Chewy finding treats in a cardboard box filled with toilet rolls – an easy toy to make at home!

Puzzle Toys

A step up from a slow feeder is a puzzle toy. These need to be chewed, rolled, or manipulated by your dog to make the food come out. There is a phenomenal range of puzzle toys on the market, and some simple ideas you can make at home too. You can’t go past a classic Kong toy for a durable and versatile food toy, or you could put some of your dog’s dry food in an empty plastic bottle (lid off) and let them push it around to get the food out. Whatever toy you start with, make sure the food falls out easily so your rookie dog doesn’t get frustrated and give up. This is a common problem that people have when introducing puzzle toys. Remember, your dog is used to getting their food without effort from a bowl. Don’t increase the challenge too quickly! With practice, your dog will gain some persistence and you can try more difficult puzzles.

Wilbur loves eating dinner in a Kong Classic

Scatter Feeding

If you are time poor and not inclined to stuff food into a puzzle toy, you can’t go past scatter feeding. Take the cup of food you’re about to put in your dog’s bowl, and toss it on the grass instead. This will give your dog the opportunity to sniff around to find his dinner, which is lots of fun and takes longer than eating from a bowl. You could also scatter the food in a deliberate trail around the yard, for your dog to follow when you leave for work. If you have more than one dog, you should supervise them when trying this idea, and separate them if they growl or snap over food.

Training Rewards

Put aside a portion of your dog’s food for the day, and use it to reward good behaviour! This could be spontaneously throughout the day, or specifically used in a training session to teach your dog something new. Behaviour that’s rewarded is repeated, so why not put some of your dog’s daily calories to good use!

Sammy and Lucy were happy to sit for treats at Puppy Preschool

Why Bother?

Most pet dogs are alone for long periods of time (while we work), and don’t necessarily get the stimulation they need when we are home. Even if you spend an hour or two walking or playing with your dog, they still have 22+ hours to entertain themselves. Providing your dog with enrichment and training using some (or all) of their daily food means they have plenty of opportunities to work their nose, body, and mind, and fewer hours available to get into trouble. Brain games and training are, in my experience, one of the most effective ways to tire an active dog out.

People often get concerned that using treats in training will make their dogs fat, when the reality is that too much food (no matter how it is offered) is going to cause that problem. Plenty of dogs are over-fed from a bowl, and suffer from obesity, boredom, and inactivity. By putting your dog’s regular diet to better use, you can train and play without worrying about weight gain! Who ever said food had to come from a bowl anyway?

Need More Ideas?

If you would like more tips and strategies for enriching your dogs day using their food, contact us or find us on Facebook!

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Wilbur Reviews the Kong Wobbler

The Kong Wobbler is one of our most used food toys here at Treat. Play. Love. It looks like a giant version of the classic Kong, but it is made from hard plastic instead of rubber, and it has a weighted bottom so that when the dog knocks it over it immediately pops back up. The bulk of the toy is a hollow cavity, and there is one small hole for the biscuits to fall out of. The toy unscrews for easy filling and cleaning.

kong wobbler review

What can you put in the Kong Wobbler?

The Kong Wobbler is ideal for dry biscuits and treats. I use a variety of odd shaped treats in Wilbur’s one to make it harder for the biscuits to fall out. The cavity for food is very large, so if you wanted to feed a whole meal from this toy it would be easy to do. Being hard plastic the toy is easy to clean thoroughly, so you could put semi-moist food into the toy as well – something like “chunkers” might work quite well.

How does the dog get the food out?

Due to the weighted bottom keeping the toy upright, the dog needs to push and paw at the toy repeatedly to get the treats to fall out of the single hole. Some dogs figure out how to step on the toy and keep the hole face down, so for those guys (or for anyone wanting to make the toy harder) you can try putting a tennis ball or a couple of golf balls in the toy with the food, or some scrunched up paper. Either of these options slow down the rate at which the food will drop out. This toy generally takes Wilbur under 5 minutes to empty completely.

Durability

As with all the Kong products i have tried, this is a winner for durability. You can see in the above photo that Wilbur has managed to make some scratches on the plastic with his teeth and nails, but he hasn’t been able to cause any real damage to it. I think this toy would be great for some of the bigger chewers.

In Summary

We love this toy for its capacity, ease of use (for the human), and the level of activity required to get the food out. There is always plenty of pouncing and running around after the spinning toy (talking about the dog now). Often we will use this toy for a large portion of Wilbur’s daily biscuits, while using other toys for smaller quantities of biscuits, treats, or even wet food.

Wilbur Reviews the West Paw Tizzi

Wilbur went to the pet shop and bought himself a new toy with his pocket money today, and we just tried it out so thought we would share our thoughts. The toy is by the USA brand West Paw, and this particularly one is called the “Tizzi”. It is actually designed as a throwing/fetch toy, and is marketed as being durable as a chew toy too. It has a hollow cavity in the base of the toy, which a fellow trainer i know has used with great success for stuffing food into. This toy was pricey, but that is pretty typical of USA made toys. It is also eco-friendly, dishwasher safe, and protected by a chew-damage guarantee which means you get one free replacement if your dog wrecks it.

west coast tizzi

What can you put in the Tizzi?

Depending on the size you purchase, the cavity in this toy is not terribly large. This toy is ideal for stuffing with wet food, peanut butter, or cream cheese and freezing. That’s what we’ll be using it for! For today’s test run we stuffed it with some light cream cheese with a baked dog biscuit stuffed in there too.

How does the dog get the treats out?

The Tizzi has got, for want of a better word, legs which you can cross or uncross. Crossed legs make accessing the treats much harder, and that is how Wilbur was given this toy. To get to the treats, the dog can either lick around the crossed legs, or maneuver the toy in such a way as to uncross the legs and make the task much easier. Wilbur managed to achieve this by throwing the toy a few times so that it bounced around. Then he was able to chew and lick the treats out. It lasted about 15 minutes, but will last much longer if the treats are frozen.

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Appearance

I can’t be the only one who can’t look at this toy without laughing uncontrollably. It only gets worse when your dog starts passionately licking at the treats. I’m not sure what the design team was thinking, but it sure is funny.

Overall

Humour was a large part of the reason for buying this toy, but i am pretty impressed by the time it took Wilbur to fiddle around with it getting the cream cheese out. It will happily work its way into our rotation of food toys.

Wilbur Reviews the Buster Cube

Welcome to the “Wilbur Reviews”! Wilbur is our 7 month old, 11kg, crossbreed puppy, and the purpose of these reviews is to show people the different food toys that are available to keep our four-legged friends busy. Not only that, but we’ll let you know what we think of them, what types of food they work well for, and in some cases the things we don’t like about them.

For our first Wilbur Review we thought we’d show you the Buster Cube, because that’s what Wilbur is eating his breakfast from as I type. The Buster Cube is a very solid, hollow plastic cube with a round opening on one side. It comes in 2 sizes, and 4 different colours. Wilbur has the mini size, in the pink colour (randomly selected by the eBay seller). The mini size cost about $15 delivered, there are LOTS of online sellers to choose from.

buster cube

What can you put in a Buster Cube?

The Buster Cube is good for dry food and treats only, you cannot use it for wet food. It has a fairly large capacity, which means that i could fit Wilbur’s whole 1/2 to 3/4 cup of breakfast into the one toy if i wanted. To fill the toy you drop the food in the hole and shake the food down. There is a plastic cylinder through the centre of the toy, which makes the food harder to get out – it also makes it harder to get the food in! I mostly put dry biscuits in Wilbur’s Buster Cube, and i’ll sometimes add in a few dry treats too as little surprises.

How does the dog get the treats out?

Wilbur’s standard approach to most dry-food toys is to push them with his paws and nose. This causes the Buster Cube to roll around, and as it tumbles on its different sides the food falls through the cylinder piece by piece. Wilbur has the most success with this toy on a hard flood, such as indoors or on the patio, and when he plays with the Buster Cube on these surfaces the treats come out in all directions as the toy spins around. Wilbur also picks the toy up in his mouth and throws it, which is another successful way to get treats to fall out. In our home this is a HIGH ACTIVITY toy, and there is a lot of running, pouncing, swatting, and throwing involved. The only downside of this is that the hard plastic is very loud on the tiles! Compared to some of our other toys (to be revealed in future posts) this toy takes a long time for Wilbur to empty, up to 20 minutes if it doesn’t get stuck beside the fridge or under our blue-tongue lizards tank.

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How do you clean it?

Cleaning is a bit of a downside. The cube doesn’t come apart, which means the only way to clean it is to rinse it and leave it to dry. But it isn’t too much of a problem as nothing wet or sticky goes in the cube anyway.

Overall

This one is definitely a winner with Wilbur, and it isn’t too much hassle to fill it when you consider how much food you can put in there and how long it lasts. I love how active it keeps Wilbur, and it is hilarious to watch him in action. I would highly recommend this toy to other dog owners, especially for dogs that have experience with other toys that need to be pushed and rolled to get biscuits out – this one is just a little harder which is great!