Five Days of Fun for Less than Five Bucks – Part II

Yesterday, we discussed Mokie’s new favorite game, blanket monster on the RBDT blog.

Without further ado, let’s get into today’s fun game which happens to be one of my favorites…

GAME 2

Kibble Hunt

EQUIPMENT NEEDED:

  • Your dog’s daily kibble ration
  • Space in your home or yard

COST

No additional cost

Here is a fun video showing a sample “kibble hunt,” played in the snow!

ABOUT THIS GAME

Using their amazingly powerful noses to find food is an innate behavior for dogs, which are scavengers (as owners of counter-surfers, litterbox and garbage raiders can attest!). The kibble hunt is a great way to provide your dog with a healthy outlet for natural foraging behaviors. The benefits of this game include:

  • reduction of bloat risk – while the causes of bloat have not been fully identified, the veterinary community generally recommends that dogs who are at the greatest risk for bloat (generally large breed dogs with deep chests, like my beloved Saints) are encouraged to slow down in their eating. If you place a bowl of kibble on the floor, chances are good that the food will vanish within 30 seconds. If you play “kibble hunt” with your dog, you can extend meal time by 15 minutes or more (up to an hour depending on the amount of space available, your dog’s experience with the game, and her level of perseverance)! This substantially slows eating and hopefully, reduces bloat risk.
  • mental stimulation – this game can provide anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of mental stimulation for your dog. Providing adequate mental stimulation can reduce anxiety-related behaviors in many dogs and can also reduce the risk for boredom-related behavior problems (separation destruction, attention barking, demand behaviors, etc.). Much like reading a good novel provides us with mental stimulation and is relaxing, the kibble hunt can do the same for your dog.
  • Dining is an event – I’ve seen this game build real value and food motivation in dogs which can be tough to motivate with food. Food is more fun when it is part of a game! Going to dinner at Medieval Times is an event; eating takeout in your car after running through the McDonald’s drive through is not. Which would you enjoy more?

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place your dog in his crate. While your dog is crated, scatter food around your living room.
  • Release your dog to find the food!
  • Once your dog is enthusiastically “foraging” in your living room, it is time to make this game harder. You will want to both expand the search area (until eventually the dog is searching all over the house!) and make your hiding spots harder (when you start initially, you are just scattering the food. Once your dog “gets” the game, you will want to start hiding it to make it more challenging.). Consider elevation and challenge of access when increasing the difficulty of your hiding spaces – I like to hide food on bookshelves, in the bathtub/behind the shower curtain, inside the door of a closet with the door barely cracked open, under the bed (increasingly pushed back farther until the dog is crawling to get it), etc. You can also “hide” some of the food in paper bags so your dog has to crawl in to retrieve the food. Taking the game outside can add new levels of challenge and stimulation, playing in the back yard is as much fun as playing in the house and may be preferable for those who are averse to spreading kibble all over the house!)

Does your dog enjoy “kibble hunts”? What variations on this game have you tried at home?

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