Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Pets

Making mealtime a challenge can be good for dogs

For many of our dogs, mealtime is over in a minute or two. Then what? They look for something else to do.

Unfortunately, when dogs are left to find their own entertainment, we aren't usually pleased with their choices.

"They're not going to sit down and turn on the TV," says trainer Joan Mayer of Santa Barbara, Calif. "They'll chew up the couch or bark all day."

Ask trainers how you should feed your dog and many will say you're wasting a golden opportunity by feeding out of a bowl.

At any pet store you'll see balls, puzzles and other food-dispensing objects. (The Kong is the most familiar.) Some owners worry about weight gain from extra goodies if they use them. In fact, you can use these toys to feed your dog's regular diet. If you feed dry kibble, toss it in and you're good to go. Or you can plug the hole of a Kong with canned food and freeze it for a longer-lasting meal.

Getting animals to use their natural behavior to get food is part of what zoos call "enrichment." Rather than serving a bear out of a dish, say, keepers hide food so the animal has to search and dig as it would in the wild. This technique helps reduce stress-related behaviors like pacing.

It works for dogs too, as dog trainer and former zookeeper Stephanie DeGesero DeYoung of Abilene, Texas, showed in her thesis, using the same research method used to evaluate enrichment techniques in zoos. She found that giving dogs a stuffed Kong reduced the number of stress behaviors observed, even after they were finished with it.

Tearing things apart is a basic instinct for a meat-eater, but when a dog gets that out of his system by digging breakfast and dinner out of a dispenser, he'll feel less need to shred the furniture.

Some advice for dog owners who want to get started feeding their animals this way:

First, if you've got multiple dogs, separate them to prevent conflict.

Second, some dogs need help at first, as trainer Kate Abbott of Vista, Calif., found the first time she gave a stuffed Kong to her Jack Russell, Qwill: "He was very interested, but after a few licks shrugged and went off to chase lizards."

Abbott put food in a clear plastic bottle so Qwill could see it, and then cut off the top so the food fell out easily.

Food toys can also be made with items you already have at home. DeYoung suggests putting food in the cups of a muffin tin and covering them with tennis balls. Or you can put food in an empty cereal box, tape it shut and cut a small hole so your dog gets a hint of what's inside — a toy that may reveal the vicious carnivore inside the cutest little pup as he shreds it to pieces.

Comments
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 22

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 22

Hernando County Animal ServicesDusty is a 3-year-old black and brown tabby. She was found wandering in a yard off Spring Hill Drive and brought to the shelter. Dusty is sweet, friendly and looking for a forever home. Inquiries about adopting Dusty or...
Published: 06/18/18
Find A Friend: Sky the hound

Find A Friend: Sky the hound

It’s time to salute fathers, and Second Chance Friends has exactly what dear old Dad wants: a perky, young, blonde. Sky is a 2 and a half-year old fawn hound that came into rescue at the brink of starvation. Now a healthy 41 pounds, Sky deeply loves ...
Published: 06/15/18
Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

There’s so much to celebrate, like Adopt-a-Cat Month and Father’s Day. In a proper salute to dads everywhere, Second Chance Friends proudly presents a very cool cat: Charlie, the man-sized Maine Coon. He’s large, rugged, golden-eyed, and so-o-o-o goo...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

June is national Adopt-A-Cat month, and Molly’s ready. She’s all over this calendar celebration. Molly was rescued around Easter, just in time to give birth and TLC to five little ones. Now, it’s Molly’s turn to be a pampered inside kitty. The pretty...
Published: 06/07/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando County Animal ServicesNadaysha is a beautiful 2-1/2-year-old red female terrier mix. She is a sweet and shy dog. Nadaysha is being treated for flea allergies, and has been spayed, microchipped, vaccinated and has a 1-year county animal licen...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Dedicated volunteers for New Life Dog Rescue often have their hands full turning around the community’s neediest pets. But they also save and foster perfectly healthy pups, too, like Delilah. This 9-week-old, 10-pounder is the princess of spunk. She ...
Published: 06/05/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Humane Society of the Nature CoastBonnet is a 2-year-old pit bull terrier. He’s a show stopper and is looking for a family to love. Inquiries about adopting Bonnet or other dogs and cats can be made at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast shelter a...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/06/18
Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Most dorm residents at Southeast Missouri State University will show up this fall with bedding, a laptop, a backpack and other typical accessories. A few dozen others will tote something furrier — and breathing: Their pets.The school in Cape Girardea...
Published: 06/04/18
Updated: 06/05/18
Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

June is National Adopt-a-Cat-Month, and this one’s a diamond in the rough. She once lived as a stray where neighborhood kids had created a homemade collar out of fishing line, adorned with a shiny little bead. That led the community to give her a pro...
Updated one month ago
Find A Friend: Tabitha the Terrier Mix

Find A Friend: Tabitha the Terrier Mix

It’s more than nostalgia. There’s something bewitching about a baby-faced beauty named Tabitha. This white sock-wearing chestnut is an energetic little heartbreaker that loves to party and prance. Tabitha is spellbindingly cute, even as she learns pr...
Updated one month ago