When your pets mealtime rolls around, many pet parents follow a similar routine: scoop out the food, put the food in a bowl, place the bowl on the floor, and let Fido or Boots have at it. The entire process is usually over in a matter of minutes.
But what if feeding time was more than just a meal? Lots of pet parents use their pet’s dinner hour as an opportunity to teach or reinforce commands. Others use stuffed puzzle toys to slow down speed eaters, provide mental stimulation, zap energy, and satiate their pet’s prey drive.So how can you make the most of your pet’s mealtime? Read on to learn some tips.
Tip #1: Turn Mealtime Into Training Time
Many pet parents think that training should only happen at a designated time, and that the only appropriate reward for a job well done is a special treat. In reality, training can happen anywhere at any time, and a hungry pet will usually respond just as well to their normal food as they will to a delicacy.
You can feed your pet their entire meal by hand while teaching or reinforcing commands like sit
, lie down
, and heel
. When your pet performs, offer them a few pieces of kibble. For safety commands that you really want to reinforce (like come
and “watch me”
), offer a larger handful (this is sometimes referred to as a “jackpot”).Training your pet with their food not only reinforces important commands and stretches out feeding time (which can help with digestion), it also provides your pet with daily mental stimulation, which can improve their behavior.RELATED STORY: Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands
Tip #2: Stuff Puzzle Toys With Your Pet’s Portion
Puzzle toys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are complex games and others look like regular toys, but have small openings where treats or food can be stuffed. You can also make your own puzzle toy at home; for example, a tennis ball with a flap cut into it.Puzzle toys make your pet problem solve in order to reach a treat or food. Some puzzle games require a pet to move game pieces around to release a morsel. Other puzzle toys simply need to be dropped, nudged, or swatted to shake a piece of food free.Feeding your pet their food using puzzle toys not only slows down eating and extends meal time (some pets are occupied for 20 minutes or more!), it also provides mental stimulation, a bit of exercise, and will satisfy a pet’s desire to “hunt” for their food.If your have a large dog or large cat who eats large portions, you can buy or make several puzzle toys and divide the portion between them.Leave a comment and let us know how you make the most of your pet's mealtime!