Wild canids spend a lot of time working for their food and although our average domesticated dog is quite far removed from this wild origin in many ways, some breeds more so than others, it is important to recognise that our pet dogs still possess the instinct to hunt, chase and forage. In comparison to their wild ancestors who hunted for their food, and even in comparison to street dogs that still exist today in certain countries around the world, our average pet dog is provided with a meal in a bowl by their owners at least twice a day that takes only a few minutes to ‘find’ and consume.
With this in mind, it is important to consider how we are catering for our dog’s needs and providing the mental, and sometimes physical, stimulation that could otherwise be fulfilled by these natural instincts to chase, hunt and forage. It is, of course, not appropriate to let our domesticated dog’s hunt, chase and perhaps even kill wildlife to fulfil these natural instincts. Nor is it safe to allow them to hunt and chase objects such as cars, bikes or even joggers for example. This is where our toy box is important! The toys we select and use with our dogs are vital in helping our dogs to exhibit natural behaviours and fulfil important needs by mentally and physically stimulating their senses.
For me, food dispensing toys are a great way to help fulfil these needs and are a vital part of any dog’s toy box. They make the ‘hunting’ and ‘foraging’ for food possible and, with some food dispensing toys, they can even provide a small ‘chase’ element. I use them with all ages of dog, from puppy to senior, to encourage natural behaviours and enhance a dog’s day. Remember though that it is important to consider your dog’s physiology when selecting a food dispensing toy. Not every toy on the market will be suitable for your individual dog. Thankfully there are a wide range of toys on the market to suit every size, shape and temperament of dog. If you’re stuck, your local pet shop can often advise you on this.
Luckily for you, I have also teamed up with Barking Heads to provide a seven part video tutorial series to give you the low down on the common types of food dispensing toys on the market and help make your selection and use of food dispensing toys easier. During these tutorials I will also cover what food dispensing toys might suit different ages and sizes of dog best, how each type of food dispensing toy can be used, and how these can be ‘filled’ (with tasty Barking Heads goodies of course!) to bring your dog the most enjoyment and mental stimulation, helping to enhance their day and improve their mental wellbeing and happiness further.
Whilst food dispensing toys should not be used as a replacement for exercise or positive interaction with your dog, they can play a vital role in your dog’s day and have many benefits. Some of these include helping to keep their teeth clean, stimulating their senses, alleviating boredom, and allowing your dog to express natural behaviours. They can also be a useful tool in helping to address and alleviate common behavioural issues such as fears and phobias or separation anxiety.
Disclaimer: If you are concerned about a behavioural issue I, and Pet Food UK ltd, recommend that you seek advice from a certified behaviourist. All training is attempted at the owner’s risk and Pet Food UK ltd and Adem Fehmi accept no liability for any injuries to pets or owners sustained during training. If your dog is showing signs of aggression, especially around food, please seek professional advice.