Why Use Enrichment Feeders?
Enrichment feeders are tools and toys that create a more engaging and interactive experience for your dog while they consume their meal or extra treats. Mealtime is often a highlight of the day for our canine friends, so why not make the most of it for them?
There are many benefits to using enrichment tools and toys to deliver your dog’s daily meals:
- Improve satiety because food takes longer to consume
- Provides mental stimulation and the experience of foraging
- Extends the meal, allowing dogs to savour their food
- Increases problem-solving skills and provides brain exercise
- Can reduce gas and improve digestion as dogs cannot ‘gulp’ their food
- Expends energy (mental and physical) which can help with both weight loss and behavioural management efforts
What Precautions Should I Take?
(1) Consider your dog’s daily caloric budget – ensure that the total of their kibble, wet food, and any additional treats ALL fit within this budget to keep your companion fit and healthy.
(2) Ensure that you are rigorous about cleaning the feeders (which often have more nooks and corners than standard bowls)
(3) Always supervise your dog while they are using their enrichment feeder.
(4) Keep in mind that these methods of dining can sometimes be a bit messier, so if possible offer them in an area with easy clean-up.
What Kind of Enrichment Feeders Are Available?
Slow feeders are dog bowls that have obstructions built into them (often resembling mazes or labyrinths) that create obstacles that your dog must figure out to get to their food.
Puzzle feeders are structured food bowls and dispenser toys that give pets obstacles to navigate in order to reach their food. Dogs need to actively problem-solve to flip or slide puzzle elements.
Automated Food Dispensers:
These machines dispense food on a schedule, or on-demand from a device – this means you can offer several small meals throughout the day even if you are at work, or can provide entertainment by dispensing a ‘surprise’ treat from time to time.
Food Dispensing Toys:
Some toys are designed so that treats can be hidden inside, requiring a specific movement to slide them out. These feeders have the benefit of encouraging additional exercise as your dog chases, tips, or bounces the toy across the floor! Look for options that are sturdy and easy to clean.
Toys For Stuffing:
Other toys have hollow areas to stuff or wedge food for your dog to work at removing. Freezing treats (like a small amount of unsweetened greek yogurt with chopped fruit) on a flat textured rubber mat can also provide prolonged entertainment as they work to melt the snack.
These mats with densely layered strips of material offer hiding places for dry treats. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, so it is a particularly rewarding activity for them to sniff out all the goodies.