Eating out of toys

One of the best recommendations I’ve received from our trainer is this: Feed your dog all its meals out of interactive toys.

Her reasoning is as follows: Dogs, in their most natural state, spent a lot of physical and mental energy finding, stalking, killing, and consuming their meals. Today, dogs eat out of bowls in the kitchen and barely use any brain power or calories during dinner. We waste a huge opportunity for physical and mental stimulation when we just plunk down a bowl of kibble and let them scarf it down. Instead, she recommends, feed your dog all its meals from interactive toys that make them “work” for their food and solve problems in the process.

For a few weeks now, we’ve been trying this recommendation and feeding Pyrrha from a variety of toys. Verdict: Very pleased, and why didn’t we try this sooner?

The presentation of the feast
The presentation of the feast.
Eating out of a ball
Making it roll.
If I make it roll this way...
Only use those bowls for water now.
Getting a little help from Guion
Getting a little help from Guion.
With the Kong
With the giant Kong.

Now, Pyrrha eats her meals in about 5-20 minutes (depending on the toy difficulty), instead of in a mere 60 seconds, as when she was eating out of a bowl. She’s learned how to solve problems on her own and adapt to the changing rotation of toys. She’s very engaged in mealtime now. Even though our floors are now slobbery and coated in food remains, I think this new feeding ritual is totally worth it.

Do you ever feed your dogs out of interactive toys? And why, after having read 60 books, have I never read this recommendation in a book before? It’s such a great idea and such an easy incorporation into one’s daily routine! I’m a big fan.

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13 thoughts on “Eating out of toys

  1. Sometimes we feed Athena from the Bob-a-Lot. It takes her about 20 minutes to get all of her food out (you can also change the difficulty on the toy to allow more or less food to fall out of the hole). Someday we would like to feed Athena from interactive toys more often, but we like having a mellow dog and more often than not interactive toys turn her into crazy dog!

    1. This makes sense (your comment about mellowness/craziness): Pyrrha is very mellow, and so eating out of food toys is a nice way to draw her out of her shell. I will have to look up the Bob-a-Lot!

  2. We do this with Pearl too! I forget who recommended it at first, but we have tried a ton of different interactive toys. We now use the aikiou bowl, which is awesome because we can use it to feed her wet food as well as dry food, pills and powders that she gets with her food, etc. Plus it fits more food in one and its dishwasher safe. Glad this is working out for you guys and slowing Pyrrha down when she eats 🙂

  3. We use them all the time. Not for meals, but when we leave, or when we need to distract them (like when they need to be brushed or something). Keeps them busy, engaged, and preoccupied!

  4. I do find it very strange that it’s not more popular to feed dogs out of toys.
    One person has even said: We got her a Kong, but she’s not interested in it.
    Trainer: Well, what kind of food are you stuffing it with?
    Person: You put food in it?

    Like, really?

    I don’t use toys for regular meals anymore, but often use them as ways to store ground meat rewards for Nose Work (after she’s found the birch/anise scent) and play the find it game with them when I leave her alone at home. My favorite stuffing recipe ever is a bully stick in a PB-filled Kong (frozen). Takes her about 45 minutes to empty it. 🙂

  5. Yes we do, at least with Kuster! He loved the tug a jug when he was little, but it got too easy for him. The hard thing is finding things he can’t outsmart in thirty seconds! 😛

  6. I recommend the Buster Cube and cube shaped toys because it is more work and a challenge for the dogs. And the cubes and treat balls can accommodate traditional kibble food. The risk with the Kongs is that people tend to feed higher fat foods like peanut butter inside of them and so you have to keep control of what is going inside the toy.

    I recommend using these for dogs who are on weight control diets because they get their daily ration while doing some work to get it. They are also good for separation anxiety because they give the dog something to do when the owner is not around.

    See my video of Daisy demonstrating the Buster Cube:

  7. We have used this technique a lot in the past. It can get messy if you have them on a raw meat diet though! Now we have three dogs, it can be tricky as Hendrix is greedy and will gather up all three and eat them all if we do not constantly supervise! A previous comment mentions an aikiou bowl….I will have to see if I can get them in the UK. It might slow mr greedy down :o)

  8. That is really interesting! I know they make those for treats, but I would never have thought to use it for dinner time. It would certainly make their suppertime more amusing for Eric and I if we did that for our pups!

  9. We love the food toys! I haven’t managed to use them for all meals lately. We have to strategize who gets each one based on how they use them. It requires close supervision for Gambit who knows how to open all of them and lots of encouragement for Rusty who was getting bored of the one he usually used as well as his food.

  10. This is one of my all time favorite tips. We started feeding Honey out of an object when she was 8 weeks old. She was a bit young to manage a Kong or more complicated toy. So we started by putting kibble into a plastic water bottle and standing it on the opening. She’d tip it with her nose and we’d balance it again so she could tip it over.

    Eventually she moved onto the Kong and Tug-a-Jug and assorted other toys.

    We even feed our foster dog out of a very simple ball with holes in it. I thought it would be a confidence builder.

    Not only does it teach problem solving but it lowers the risk of bloat from eating too fast.

    I’m glad Pyrrha is having fun. She’s such a smart girl that it’s good to challenge her.

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