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What Is Canine Enrichment?

What Is Canine Enrichment?

Canine Enrichment and Why It’s Important

More than ever, we are hearing terms like “mental stimulation,” “decompression exercises,” and “canine enrichment” being thrown around in the dog-owning community. Some owners feel that exercise, food, and obedience are all that our dogs need to be happy. In some cases, this may hold true, but I believe that there is so much more we can offer our loyal companions. I mean, imagine how boring life would be for us if we never had the opportunity to challenge ourselves, both mentally and physically?

That’s where canine enrichment comes in for our dogs. As owners, it is our duty to our dogs to give them the fullest and most robust life we can while they are with us. This can be accomplished by introducing new training exercises, changing up regular meal-time, and setting aside some instances to make your dog hunt for their food. Walking routines can also become more exciting by taking different routes or expanding where you walk to increase sniff opportunities and experiences.

Food Enrichment

This may be one of the easiest types of enrichment that you can use in your day-to-day life with your dog. Sometimes called “ditching the bowl,” choosing to give your dog their regular meal in more challenging vessels can be a great opportunity for your dog to flex their brain a bit and have a more satisfying experience.

Snuffle Mats

Snuffle mats have hit the dog community by storm and offer a variety of benefits, from slowing down how fast your dog eats to reducing overall boredom. By feeding your dog either a full meal or a handful of treats in a challenging snuffle mat, your dog burns mental and physical energy by trying to “solve” the puzzle. The folds within the snuffle mat cover up the pieces of food and require your dog to sniff them out and use their nose to maneuver the food out from where it is hidden.

Check out our selection of custom-made, heavy-duty snuffle mats here.

Snuffle Balls

New to the canine enrichment scene are snuffle balls. These balls are unique in that you are able to pour a significant amount of food into the middle of the ball. You then give the ball to your dog and show them that by rolling the ball, pieces of kibble or treats will fall out of the small holes. The folds of fabric keep the food inside of the ball so that only a few pieces fall out at a time. This creates a challenging game that engages your dog completely as they try to figure out how to move the ball so that they can access the yummy food it is dispensing.

Take a look at our variety of snuffle ball color combos and sizes here.

Stuffed Kongs

Kongs are an exceptional way to turn mealtime into a longer activity that teaches your dog both patience and persistence to get the delectable treat they are looking for. You can stuff Kong toys with about any food that is dog safe, such as peanut butter, carrots, blueberries, apple slices, treats, chews, or kibble. My go-to Kong stuffing is some pureed kibble with a tiny bit of beef stock and whatever leftover veggies I have in the fridge. I’ll then stuff the Kongs with the mixture and place them in the freezer for use throughout the week.

Regular Walks vs Decompression Walks

Depending on your normal routine with your dog, you may already engage in “decompression” walks without even knowing it. This is basically a fancy expression for just letting your dog walk the way it wants to. There are innumerable benefits of having structured walks where your dog isn’t pulling at the leash and is walking calmly by your side. But, there is so much more to walking than keeping in line with your paces. The plethora of smells, textures, sights, and sounds in even the most mundane environment can be exciting to your dog.

There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to provide your dog with quality enrichment opportunities beyond what I have mentioned. I am merely scratching the surface with those I have gone over in this article. My goal is to get you thinking about your dog in a way you may never have thought about before. Challenge them. Nourish them. And above all, love them with your whole heart.

Nose Work

Given that dogs have a sense of smell that is at least 10,000 times stronger than ours, it’s a no-brainer to create activities that require them to use their nose. My favorite game, by far, is “Find it.” Start this game off by having your dog sit somewhere nearby you (inside or outside!) and hide a treat behind an object. Stand near where you placed the treat and release them from their position. Say “find it!” and help guide your dog to the place where the treat is hidden. Repeat this a couple of times until your dog begins to understand the concept.

To level up “Find it,” you can start by having your dog wait in another room or out of your line of sight. This will allow you to hide the treats somewhere they can’t immediately see. Then, release them and ask them to “Find it!”. Not only does this give them the opportunity to use their nose and burn some mental energy, but it also can give you the chance to brush up on “stay” training and releases.

Summary

No matter which activities you chose, your dog is bound to love the additional time spent working out their mind and nose. Depending on your situation, you may have to tweak some enrichment activities based on your dog’s age, activity levels, and food/play drive. Find what works best for you and your dog, and never be afraid to experiment with new ideas! Comment below with some of your favorite enrichment ideas or activities for us to try out!

How To Keep Your Dog Comfortable After Surgery

How To Keep Your Dog Comfortable After Surgery

Keep Your Dog Comfortable After Their Spay Or Neuter

Going through the often inevitable process of spaying or neutering your dog comes with a lot of preparation and aftercare for your pup. Ensuring their physical safety while also keeping them entertained and comfortable can be quite the balancing act. After working for several years as a vet tech, I have compiled a comprehensive guide on caring for your dog after surgery, as well as some ideas to make the process go a bit smoother.

General Rules Post Surgery

After your dog has had its spay or neuter surgery, it is best to keep them confined and at a low activity level for at least a week following the procedure. Your dog will still be under the effects of anesthesia for up to 24 hours so keep this in mind as they may have a decreased appetite and seem lethargic.

Be mindful of your dog’s medication schedule post-surgery, as well as they may be receiving a mix of pain medications and antibiotics, depending on what your veterinarian prescribed. You want to stick to the suggested dosing regimen and schedule outlined by your vet to create the most pain-free and comfortable recovery possible.

Lastly, keep an eye on your dog’s incision site to ensure no swelling and bleeding. Some discharge is natural, but as always, contact your veterinarian if you are concerned. Refrain from bathing your dog during the healing period, and this can irritate the incision or cause an infection.

To Cone Or Not To Cone

The first step to keeping your dog comfortable after surgery is to make sure you have some way to keep them from messing with their sutures or incision site. This can look different for every dog as some take to a traditional “cone of shame” quite well. Others have a difficult time navigating the world around them with so-called “blinders” all-around their head.

Here are some functional alternatives to keep your dog from messing with their incision and also comfortable during the healing process:

  • Recovery Suit: In lieu of a traditional cone, recovery suits can be a reliable alternative to keeping your dog away from their incision. Sizing is the most important factor when selecting an appropriate suit for your pup as you want it to be snug enough to keep them away from the incision but also not tight enough to irritate the sutures. This Suitical Recovery Suit makes it easy to select the right size and also rolls up easily for all of your dog’s bathroom breaks.
  • Inflatable Collar: Slightly less invasive and more flexible than a standard cone, an inflatable collar may be a good option. These collars blow up and create a barrier between your dog and areas they want to lick or chew on. Some dogs may be able to wiggle out of these collars but it can be much less disorienting than a large cone.

In terms of keeping your dogs movement to a minimum during the healing process, it is best to confine your dog in either their crate or small room so that they cannot move around too much. Jumping, running, or rough play can cause the sutures to reopen, causing discomfort and another trip to the vet. Baby gates and exercises pens are a great alternative to crates as it gives your dog a bit more room to move around without giving them free access to the house.

Depending on your dog, you want may to line their crate or resting area with soft blankets or towels that can easily be thrown in the washing machine if they get dirty. Only do this if your dog does not chew up these items as the last thing you want is the trouble of them ingesting something they shouldn’t have.

Keep Your Dog Entertained

Let’s talk about mental stimulation. For those with high-energy breeds (me!) such as Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Shelties, etc., keeping your dog entertained without physical exercise can feel like an impossible task. As someone who plays ball with my pups at least twice a day, there is a very stark difference when we are not able to get in that daily exercise. Fortunately, the surgery itself will have your dog pretty tired for at least a day or so afterward. From there on out, it’s up to you to provide them with appropriate toys, chews, and activities that will keep them mostly stationary or minimally active at the very least.

Turn mealtime into an engaging training session by having your dog perform some low-intensity commands such as sit, shake, go into the crate, or stay. If your dog isn’t the biggest fan of using their food as a reward, try putting their meal into a snuffle mat to keep them engaged while eating.

These mats make your dog work for their food by having to sniff around and figure out where each piece of kibble is. Depending on the size of the mat, it usually takes my dogs 20-45 minutes to find about one cup of food in the folds of the snuffle mat.

Summary

Overall, your goal is to keep your dog as comfortable and happy as you can during its recovery period. Sticking to a treatment regime, keeping them from itching their incision site, and keeping them mentally stimulated are the three areas you will need to focus on most. As always, if you encounter any issues with your dog, such as medication reactions or inflamed surgery sites, contact your veterinarian to receive further medical assistance.

Best Brush For An Australian Shepherd

Best Brush For An Australian Shepherd

What Brush Should You Use For Your Australian Shepherd?

With summer right around the corner, controlling your Australian Shepherd’s shedding has never been more crucial. Choosing the correct brush to use on your Aussie can require a bit of research, but I have compiled all of the best tips and products here for you.

Overall, the best brush to reduce shedding on an Australian Shepherd is a double-sided shedding blade. This will take out the dead hair lying in their undercoat with also protecting their topcoat from damaging bristles.

Given the Australian Shepherds have a double-coat, there is a lot that goes into maintaining their silky sheen while also reducing the dust bunnies floating around in your house. It’s also important to use the right brushes for the correct areas of your dog you are looking to brush (behind the ears, around their back legs) as the hair grows differently all over their body. Below I have outlined what brushes to use where and also have some tips to help you get all of that shedding under control.

What Is A Double-Coat?

Since you’re here, I can assume you currently have or have had an Australian shepherd in the past. So, you know all about the shedding, dust bunnies, and ear mats. It’s important to understand the coat structure that makes these Aussies so fluffy so that we can properly groom them without damaging their fur or skin.

All Australian Shepherds have a double-coat, which basically means they have two sets of fur. The topcoat is more coarse and protects the dog from moisture and debris. You may notice that it can be an exercise in patience to get your dog wet in the bath, and this topcoat is exactly why. The outer coat layer acts as a repellant to keep the undercoat safe.

The undercoat is the dense, softer fur that insulates your dog against hot and cold temperatures. This hair is usually the culprit for major shedding and can fall off in clumps during their shedding periods. Most Aussies “blow coat” twice a year, roughly when the seasons change. They lose their winter coat going into spring and lose the summer coat going into fall.

Best Brushes for Australian Shepherds

Deshedding

For de-shedding, I highly recommend using a double-sided shedding blade. This will take out dead-hair in their undercoat while keeping the topcoat undamaged. Furminators are a good tool as well but have been known to damage the topcoat with their sharp blades.

For brushing the backside of your Aussie (the infamous butt curtains), the best brush to use is a slicker brush. This will pull out the dead hair will be gentle enough to brush out any tangles or mats. You can also use this behind their ears and on their chest as some dogs are more sensitive in this area. I also use the slicker brush on their stomachs since there is not much shedding in that area.

Maintenance

In regards to how often to brush your Australian Shepherd, it can greatly depend on your individual dog as well as their age. Working Aussies tend to have thicker, more dense coats than the silkier “pet” varieties so in the end, find what works best for your situation. To keep up with mine, I generally brush every couple of weeks and do a thorough de-shed session before bath time.

In terms of bath time, getting the right de-shedding shampoo will save you a ton of time and frustration. With my Aussies, the Furminator brand shampoo really kicks the shedding and helps with overall dead-hair build up over time.

Shaving & Other Tips

There is a lot of discourse surrounding the topic of full shaves for Aussies or any other double-coated breed. The general consensus is that the process of shaving alters the undercoat of your dog and can make it difficult for the new fur to grow back incorrectly. This can lead to issues such as overheating as your dog’s temperature regulation can get thrown out of whack.

For my Australian Shepherds, I trim the “butt curtains”, if you will, with a shaver but only take off about an inch or two. This keeps a lot of “debris” off of them but is truly just optional. You can also trim up the areas around their paw pads to lessen the risk of stickers getting caught around their nails but again, this is really up to the owner.

Summary

All in all, keeping on top of your Australian Shepherd’s shedding can be easily accomplished with the right tools and a little bit of time. Remember to be gentle in introducing your dog to brushing, similar to getting them used to having their nails trimmed.

How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

As you may know, brushing your dog’s teeth is imperative to keeping up with your dog’s dental health. It can be difficult to determine how often you should brush your dog’s teeth as each dog differs in the amount they chew, the food they eat, and their genetic makeup. Considering all of these factors will help you determine what works for you and if all else fails, consult with your veterinarian about their dental health.

When deciding how often to brush your dog’s teeth, you should keep in mind that it is optimal to brush them at least three times per week, if not more. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth daily as this will best prevent the build-up of plaque.

Now, daily brushing may sound like an unattainable goal for most owners, as most dogs have not had their teeth brushed before. Dental health is an important part of your dog’s wellbeing, and therefore it is worth taking the time to learn how to brush their teeth and how to get them used to the concept. Dog’s are highly susceptible to numerous dental diseases caused by bacteria in their mouths, and it is crucial that you do everything you can to keep those canines fresh and healthy.

Why You Should Brush Often

Dog’s accumulate a significant amount of bacteria within their mouths, much like people do. While most veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth twice per day, I find it much more feasible to aim for a couple of times per week alongside natural chews and dental sticks. If you are having trouble getting your dog to let you brush their teeth, I wrote an extensive guide you can read here that details easy methods to get your dog acclimated to teeth brushing.

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth will prevent health issues such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, and plaque build-up. All of these conditions can cause wholistic health issues for your dog, which include difficultly eating, poor digestion, and eventual tooth loss. When there is a build-up of bacteria due to lack of brushing, these ailments are much more likely to occur. The best preventative for these conditions is routine brushing, which removes most bacteria from your dog’s teeth.

When you consistently brush your dog’s teeth with a good toothpaste, any pre-existing plaque build-up begins to dissolve with continued care. Not only will this reduce the chance of gum-related diseases, but it will also keep you out of the vet’s office for an expensive dental cleaning. Granted, if your dog already has a significant amount of build-up or discoloration and isn’t relieved by brushing, your dog may benefit from a dental exam.

Best Brushes For Your Dog’s Teeth

Depending on your dog and their comfort with having their teeth brushed, there are a couple of standout options when it comes to toothbrushes. Here are some of the best options I’ve come across that lead to healthy teeth and some seriously fresh breath:

  • Barkley’s 360 Fingerbrush: This is by far my favorite brush to use on my dogs as it fits firmly on the tip of your finger so you can really get into the nooks and crannies of your dog’s mouth. I really enjoy being able to have a couple of fingers free to move my dog’s lip around while brushing their gums.
  • Arm & Hammer Dog Toothbrush: Ergonomically designed for your dog’s mouth, Arm & Hammer offers a traditional brush that will get those tricky molars that are hard to get to. This brush also comes with an effective toothpaste you can use to reduce plaque buildup on your pup’s teeth.
  • Bluestem Brush & Toothpaste Combo: If stinky breath is a major concern, Bluestem has a specialized toothpaste recipe that tastes good to your dog and smells great to you. This pack came with a double-sided brush so that you can use the larger or smaller side, depending on the size of your dog’s teeth.

No matter what you choose, be sure to make brushing your dog’s teeth a part of your routine. Being equipped with the proper tools helps you loosen up that plaque and avoid dental-related health issues that can cause some serious distress to your dog.

How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

As you may know, keeping up with your dog’s dental hygiene at home can be a real uphill battle. Most dogs do not enjoy having their teeth brushed and will refuse all of your attempts. Knowing how to brush your dog’s teeth is just the first step in getting your dog acclimated and comfortable with the idea of having a foreign object rubbing all over their mouth.

To brush your dog’s teeth, begin by lifting their lips and using a toothbrush, gently work around their teeth and gums. Use a back and forth motion with the brush, paying close attention to working along the gum line. You can opt to use toothpaste as well to help reduce plaque buildup.

There are many schools of thought regarding the best brushes to use, how to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed, dental bones, and whether or not to use toothpaste. I will go over some of the best practices I have gathered throughout my experience that will make brushing your dog’s teeth a breeze.

Getting Your Dog Used To Having Their Teeth Brushed

Before you can begin actually brushing, you need to make sure that your dog is comfortable with having its mouth handled and lips moved around. If at all possible, begin touching your dog’s mouth when they are very young so that way they can get used to it early on. If you have an older dog, slowly introduce the concept to them each day and reward them with the best treats you have.

To acclimate an older dog to a toothbrush, let them sniff the brush and reward them immediately for the positive interaction. Place the brush in their mouth and then immediately remove it and reward with a treat. These slow steps will take a while, but your dog will begin to associate the toothbrush with yummy treats and lots of praise. Once they are more comfortable, start brushing one side of even a few teeth at a time. Reward them and wait until the next day to do any more as you don’t want your dog to feel forced to endure a full brush right off the bat.

How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Correctly

Now that your dog is acclimated, it is now time to go over exactly how to brush your dog’s teeth. If you are opting to use toothpaste, I would highly recommend using Petrodex, as this will loosen up any built-up plaque on your dog’s teeth. It comes in a poultry flavor which most dogs seem not only to enjoy but look forward to. Place the toothpaste on either your toothbrush or finger toothbrush and begin brushing along the gum line. You will need to get as close to the gum line as possible to remove the bacteria on their teeth.

Repeat the process for each side, top, and bottom of your dog’s mouth. Be sure to praise them often, as this can be an uncomfortable experience for them the first couple of times. It can be a bit challenging to maneuver around your dog’s mouth, especially having to get under their lip with the brush. I recommend using a finger toothbrush as this allows you to have a couple of extra fingers available. It also lets you have more control over where the brush is going when it’s inside your dog’s mouth and doesn’t have a long handle to contend with.

After a successful brush, reward your dog with a lot of praise. You can give them treats after brushing as the toothpaste doesn’t need to sit on their teeth to be effective. Depending on the level of plaque or natural chewing your dog does, it may be worth reading up on how often you should brush your dog’s teeth, which I have outlined in another post. With frequent cleaning and the right toothpaste and brush, your dog showing off some seriously pearly whites.

Summary

The more you brush your dog’s teeth and maintain their dental hygiene, the healthier they will be. Routine brushing significantly cuts down on the risk of periodontal diseases and can reduce the need for full dental cleanings at the vet’s office (which can be pricey!). Getting your dog used to your toothbrush of choice is imperative to your success in cleaning their teeth, but it is absolutely worthwhile for a happy, healthy pup.

How To Safely Cut Your Dog’s Nails

How To Safely Cut Your Dog’s Nails

Cutting Your Dog’s Nails Safely

We’ve all heard the impending sound of “click, click, click” from our dog scampering around on the hardwood floor and know that the time has finally come. It is time to cut their nails. For many, it can be daunting to cut their dog’s nails, and it’s important to know how to do so safely.

To safely cut your dog’s nails, place their paw in your hand and examine the length of their nails. Begin trimming each nail by cutting a quarter-inch off per session to reduce the chance of harming the dog’s “quick.” The “quick” is located at the hook or curved part of the nail, so be sure to trim below this portion only.

The actual act of clipping your dog’s nails is easy, and with an acclimated dog, this process can take less than five minutes. However, understanding the anatomy of the nail and the proper steps to take to get your dog used to the trimming process is critical to achieving a successful nail trim. Below, I will go over how to trim a nail successfully, how to avoid injury, and what to do if you cut too far. I’ll also touch on some helpful tips to keep your dog calm and relaxed during their nail trim.

How To Cut Your Dog’s Nails – It’s Not Always Black And White 

As you may know, dogs have either clear nails or black nails, depending on their breed. Or, some may have a combination of both. It’s important to understand the anatomy of your dog’s nails so that you do not accidentally cut the quick, which will cause them to bleed. With clear nails, the quick looks like a small vein and is pink in color. Use this as a guide as the quick usually stops at the top curve of the nail.

With black nails, you need to use more caution and look for the hook of the nail itself. You can also look for a “bullseye” on the bottom of the nail as you cut more off. When you hit the “bullseye” area, stop trimming the nail. Going any further would cause pain to your dog and would cause them to bleed by cutting the quick. Always cut the nail at a 45-degree angle and go slowly as you can always take more off, but you can’t put any back on!

For dogs with longer nails that are not regularly trimmed, the quick will grow with the length of the nail. This will require more patience on your part to get the dog’s nail to an acceptable length. Take a small amount off each nail until you reach the “bullseye” or the end of the quick. Repeat this process for four to five weeks, and the quick will naturally recede with the routine nail trims. As long as you keep up with it, you can get your dog’s nails back in shape in no time. 

Best Nail Clippers & Alternatives

Whether you’ve been cutting your dog’s nails for years or are just getting started, having a reliable and sharp pair of clippers is key to preventing headaches for you and injuries for your dog. My favorite pair that I own are the gonicc clippers, as they come with a guard to keep you from cutting off too much at a time. I use this as a guide rather than a rule of thumb as my dog’s nails often need more to be cut off than the guard allows, but it is still a useful tool.

If your dog is not too keen on the clippers, you can also opt to use a nail grinder that slowly grinds the nail down. This is a great way to reduce the chance of cutting too far with traditional clippers and allows you to get close to the quick more slowly. Some dogs may not like the noise that it makes or the sensation, so be sure to introduce it by giving them treats and continue to reward them when you use it.

The easier and cheapest way to keep your dog’s nails short is by walking them! For dogs that love to go on runs or long walks, you may never have to trim their nails as the environment wears them down naturally. If your dog has dewclaws (the little thumb nail farther up their leg), you will still need to trim those occasionally as they don’t make contact with the ground during walks.

What If I Cut Too Far?

If you accidentally cut too far or your dog moves suddenly while you are trimming, remember that this happens more than you can imagine. Not a day went by at the vet’s office where someone didn’t trim just a bit too far on a black nail as every dog is different.

If you’re going to be trimming your dog’s nails for now or in the future, I highly highly recommend getting some Kwik-Stop. To use Kwik-Stop, you simply place a small amount of the powder on your finger and place the powder onto your dog’s bleeding nail. The powder will adhere to the nail and stop the bleeding, allowing the nail to heal quickly. Usually, quicks will only bleed for about five or so minutes, but the Kwik-Stop will stop the bleeding immediately. If you’re in an absolute pinch, you can use a small amount of flour to obtain similar results. It does not bind as well but will work if you don’t have anything else available.

If you’re unsure about nail trimming or if your dog is very sensitive, you can always take your dog into their veterinarian’s office or a grooming salon. Each of these places offers nail trims aside from their other services, and pricing may differ based on your location. Mobile groomers are also a viable option. It is so important for your dogs to have their nails regularly cut as if they get too long, they can grow into the paw pads, which causes extreme discomfort and

Tips For Nail Trims

If you have a dog who just won’t sit still to have its nails trimmed, there are several ways you can get them used to the idea of the trim. This will take time and patience but, in the end, it will save you trips to the vet to have them cut. If your dog is a fan of peanut butter, I like to smear a bunch of it on a Lick Mat and let them go to town while I trim. You can also give them a stuffed Kong or chew that they like. If you have someone else in your home, try to have them be close enough to give the dog treats for standing still.

For dogs that are just terrified of nail trims or the clippers, the best way to get them used to the concept is to reintroduce them very slowly. Let them sniff the clippers and immediately give them a treat. Try this several times a day for the first day. Handle their paws and give them treats for you just touching their nails. Try trimming one nail in the morning and another at night, all while rewarding for success. And success can look like your dog simply allowing the nail clippers to be out and around while they chew on a toy. Just go slow. Rushing your dog into something like this, especially if they have an intense fear, will take you ten steps back rather than forward. Remember, be patient and generous with rewards!

Summary

Cutting your dog’s nails safely requires the right tools and a little bit of know-how but is quite easy once you master it. Always reward your dog for small strides if nail trims have been challenging for them in the past. Keeping your dog’s nails at an appropriate length is necessary for their health and can become a simple task when the proper steps are taken.

How To Keep Your Dog From Eating Too Fast

How To Keep Your Dog From Eating Too Fast

Slowing Down Your Dog At Mealtime

If you’re struggling to get your dog to slow dog when they eat or have noticed that they eat rather quickly, you have come to the right place. Nothing can be more jarring than setting down your dog’s dinner bowl and having them inhale their entire meal in about three to five seconds. Not only is this behavior concerning, but it can also lead to serious health complications or emergencies. When a dog eats too fast, the likelihood of choking or regurgitation increases, along with reduced digestion and nutrient processing.

To keep your dog from eating too fast, you must control the amount of food the dog can consume at one time. This can be done by feeding them with a slow feeder bowl, interactive toy, snuffle mat, or by hand feeding.

Investing in the right tools will ensure that your dog safely eats its food while also giving you peace of mind. Every dog is different, and you can use a variety of techniques to slow down your dog’s eating habits. Below, I’ll go over some of my favorite feeding methods that will keep your dog entertained and safe from the hazards of eating too fast.

Slow-Feeder Bowls

Perhaps the most straightforward and least time-consuming method on your behalf to slow down your dog is to introduce them to a slow-feeder bowl. These bowls are designed to have ridges or grooves where the kibble will rest, which will require your dog to lick up them up individually. You can use these bowls for regular mealtime and clean them about as frequently as you would clean a traditional food bowl.

Depending on how fast your dog eats and the size of their nose, there are a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right slow-feeder bowl for them. A simple spiral shape may do the trick, or you may need to get a maze or spiked bowl for voracious eaters. Either way, these will require your dog to really focus on getting to their food rather than inhaling it all at once. Labrador retrievers, I’m looking at you.

Kashi, our new puppy, has become the queen of inhaling kibble the moment she sees it. While she has been teething, I’ve added a layer of crushed ice on top of her bowl to help soothe her gums. She absolutely loves ice, so crushed cubes are safer for her the solid ones. You can also add warm water, low-sodium beef broth, or peanut butter to these slow-feeders for an added challenge.

Interactive Toys

If you’re looking for something more challenging than a slow-feeder bowl, you may want to consider interactive toys. For dogs that eat kibble primarily, there are numerous types of dispensers that slowly release pieces when your dog does something, like pressing a designated button.

Here are some of my favorite toys that provide ample food distribution and fun:

  • Kong: With three active and high-energy herding dogs, Kongs are a staple in my home. These are great for filling with kibble, peanut butter, dog-safe fruits, treats, or a combination of each.
  • Snuffle mat: Snuffle mats are taking the internet by storm and are perhaps the most difficult food challenge you can use regularly. You simply pour your dog’s kibble onto the mat and arrange the pieces are spread out as possible to get your dog really engaged in their meal.
  • Puzzle Toys: If you’re like me, the harder the game is for my dog, the more I can get done around the house without having to watch my puppy like a hawk. These puzzle toys, especially the Outward Hound series, provides them with mental stimulation while working for their meal. Creating a game out of mealtime is an easy way to avoid overfeeding with treats, and puzzles are a perfect way to achieve this.
snuffle mat with food

Handmade snuffle mats can hold up to 2 cups of kibble and make an enticing game out of mealtime. These mats reduce eating speed and help with mental stimulation for your dog

If you’re looking to get creative and save a few bucks, try using items around your home to make your dog work a little bit harder for their meal. Cupcake or muffin trays can quickly be repurposed into an excellent way to break up your dogs’ food into several small areas so that they aren’t consuming a lot of food at one time. You can also lay kibble across a towel and roll it up very tightly, making your dog work to unravel the towel to get the food bits wrapped inside.

Summary

Keeping your dog from eating too fast will not only allow you to give them some much-needed mental stimulation, but it will also prevent choking and regurgitation. Ensuring your dog is safe during mealtime is simple with the right tools and is definitely easy to achieve.