As any of my clients will tell you, mental stimulation for dogs is one of my favorite topics. I often do presentations and classes teaching pet owners the value of food dispensing toys and using mealtimes as opportunities to challenge our dogs’ brains and bodies. I love that the market for food dispensing toys has proliferated. I own most of the food dispensing toys I’m aware of, and offering classes or workshops on mental stimulation affords clients and trainers alike the opportunity to “try before they buy,” many of these toys can be quite expensive, especially if your dog doesn’t exactly like them.
My own dogs love food dispensing toys, but appreciate frequent changes of pace. I’ve been trying lately to find creative ways to use things I have around my house to provide new enrichment opportunities for Mokie and Cuba. This week, I thought I’d share some of our new games and old favorites with you. If you try these games out with your dog, I’d love to hear feedback in the comments about your experience!
Mokie played this game for her dinner tonight and really enjoyed it! She started out sniffing over top of the blanket, needing a little bit of encouragement to start her “foraging,” but once she got the hang of it, I was able to quickly unfold the Queen-sized sheet to full size (I started out with it folded into quarters).
If you try this game, I’d love to know…does your dog tend to use his nose or paws to get at the treats? Was he frustrated and if so, how did he show it? How did you help him past any learning hurdles?
- One old blanket
- One hungry dog
Step One: Scatter food all over the floor
Step Two: Put a blanket over the food
Step Three: Release your dog and encourage her to go get all the treats!
- Don’t hesitate to encourage your dog! Act like this game is exciting for you, too.
- It can help if you start out with a very small “blanket” (a dish towel, perhaps), and gradually increase the size of the “blanket” until you are using a Queen-sized bed sheet!
- You can give your dog a bit of help if they seem frustrated or confused. Simply place a treat under a corner, lift the corner to show the dog, and drop the corner before your dog goes to retrieve the treat. If necessary, practice placing the treat gradually further and further under the blanket.
- This game is not recommended for blanket chewers/destroyers.
- Only play this game while you are able to directly supervise your dog.
To make this game more challenging, you can use multiple blankets in layers. You can also play on grass, where each individual kibble may be more challenging to locate and isolate than on a tile, carpet, or hardwood floor. Finally, you can bury food dispensing toys under your blankets along with the individual treats to prolong the game and increase the challenge!