The way we feed our dogs has changed a lot over the past few years. There has been a big shift away from traditional kibble towards raw and fresh. Alongside this has been a call to “ditch the bowl”. Using enrichment toys gives our dogs a chance to work for their food. Mealtimes become more interesting and the experience adds variety without the need for too many treats.
Here at Barket Place, we are huge fans of enrichment toys (check out this recent Facebook video for LOTS of ideas!). They can be used as a fun extra to your dogs day or the way they eat a typical meal. Whichever way you want to use them, here are a few of our favourites.
West Paws is an American brand that sells amazing food toys. They have a good range of different types, with something to suit every dog. A favourite amongst many dog guardians is the Toppl. There are two different sizes which can be combined to make a super Toppl! It has a bowl shape with little teeth in the base to hold kibble or treats. It makes an excellent toy for wet or raw food as it can hold a decent amount. Using the two sizes together means the dog has more of a challenge to get to the food. There is a small hole in the front of both sizes, so the dog can get a good whiff of what’s inside.
Snuffle mats are a popular option for dogs fed on dry food. For the practical pet parent, these are simple enough to make – it just takes some patience. For the rest of us, there are many different kinds you can buy on the internet. Snuffle mats have a firm base with small pieces of material attached. Kibble or treats can be scattered in and around the fabric, meaning the dog has to root around to get the food. Having more or less material provides different levels of difficulty in getting the food from the snuffle mat. Snuffle balls are also great as the dog can roll them about to help loosen the food.
Another option for wet, raw, or fresh feeders is to use a Lickimat. These can be used with dry food, but the food would need to be moistened first to get the full effect. The individual design on the Lickimat itself changes what type of food is best to be used and the potential speed your dog will complete the challenge. The Soother is always a hit, with a lot of tiny bumps for the dog to get their tongue around. Licking is a calming behaviour for dogs. Think about how big their tongues are. That is a big muscle that isn’t used as much as it could be! Using something like yoghurt or peanut butter really gets their tongue working. Maybe even try creating a dog-friendly smoothie.
K9Connectables gives a lot of choice for enrichment. It’s a modular toy with the pieces fitting together easily. Like with the Toppl, using the pieces together makes for more of a challenge for the dog. These can be used with all types of food, but the way you use that food may change depending on which pieces you are using. Each toy has a different use, but they can all be used together. An added bonus is that these can be used as regular toys! The puzzle toys float and the larger pieces are around the size of a tennis ball. You don’t need to use a connector, but they do add to the fun. Holes on either side mean treats can be wedged in or used to hold wet/raw food. Food can also be stuffed or smeared on the inside – so there is no end of ways to use K9Connectables.
If your household is anything like ours at the moment, there is a surplus of cardboard boxes. With some of that packing paper, boxes make a hugely enjoyable enrichment toy. Best used with dry food or treats, food can be stuffed inside toilet roll tubes, wrapped in paper, or put in smaller boxes. This essentially creates a dog food nesting doll. Some dogs will delight in the destruction of the box, so this can be a messy one to clear up after… but hey, at least it saves you from breaking the box down for the recycling bin!
But wait, there is more! To help with the smearing, stuffing, and storing, check out No Fuss Fill! The Ready Rak is brilliant for saving space in the fridge or freezer if you like to prep several Lickimats at the same time. This fantastic new brand, have offered our friends here at Barket Place 10% off their first orders with “barketplace10” at https://www.nofussfill.com.
This Winter, why not treat your canine companion to a little enrichment? You will both be so thankful you did.