Welcome to Day 13 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
Saturdays during #100daysofenrichment are all about emphasising the dog in all our dogs; all about sniffing and doing dog things.
You really can’t find an easier way of adding sniffing to your dog’s life than Scatter Feeding. It simply involves you tossing food for your dog to sniff out…that’s it!
Last week, for Sniffing Saturday, we went on a Sniffathon. I asked you to get your pet sniffing, for sniffing’s sake; trying not to use food so that your dog can just sniff, interact with his environment and let his nose run wild.
This week, we’re going sniffing for food!
Sniffing for food
Ideally, we would like our dogs to be sniffing out their regular meals, as much as possible. But, some dogs will need a little help to get them going and we can have our dog sniffing for treats too!
Kibble is a pretty versatile food type for enrichment type feeding, and works well for scatter feeding.
You can add kibble in with other yummier treats and scatter those. Or you can make a Training Mix so that kibble smells and tastes yummier, but without having to add extra calories or other foods, should the dog be sensitive or restricted.
You can improve the smell/taste of kibble by grilling it a little, so that it becomes crunchier and oilier. You might also soak it in stock or other flavouring.
Wet and fresh foods can be a little more challenging:
- Fresh meats and meat mixes (e.g. raw and home prepared diets) – cut up into small pieces, boiled or baked, frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small individual treats.
Alternatively, you could use dried or semi-moist meats and cut them into small pieces for scattering. (Note that you feed a smaller volume of dried or dehydrated foods as they are more concentrated.)
- Wet feeds (e.g. canned foods) – frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small, individual treats.
Don’t forget fruit and vegetables too, if you’re dog likes them. Frozen peas are one of Decker’s favourite scattering treats!
Scatter Feeding Challenges
This is something your dog will excel at and it’s not a whole lot of work for you. If looking to convince a pet owner that enrichment feeding is the way to go, Scatter Feeding is the perfect gateway drug.
Measure out the dog’s food in their bowl, and instead of putting the bowl down, toss the food on the floor – simples!
Throughout our 100 day project we will talk lots about further applications of scatter feeding in different situations and as a training tool, but for today, just scatter and sniff!
We’ll look at lots of different ways that you can enhance Scatter Feeding, presenting different types of sniffing challenges to your dog. The basic rule is that the more visible the food is, the easier it will be to fine. As the dog improves in both their ability to locate food and their willingness to persist with the challenge, you can use different substrates that will require more sniffing.
Option 1 Scatter Feeding
Simple for humans, sniffing for dogs; win-win!
Scatter your dog’s food on the floor, carpet, concrete or artificial grass. The dog can see it, but will likely sniff for lots of it, as that may be more efficient for them.
Scatter in the grass or bushes. The longer and denser the growth, the more of a challenge.
Scatter food in piles of leaves, very long or thick vegetation or, if you’re lucky enough, snow.
Somebody told me that, where relevant, piles of leaves can harbour ticks (ewww!). That’s not really a problem for us here in Ireland, but if this is an issue in your locality, scattering elsewhere is better.
Snow changes the olfactory landscape, presenting great sniffing challenges for dogs and an overall wonderful enriching experience.
Option 2 Snufflemats
Snufflemats have become so popular in the last few years as a wonderful addition to go-to enrichment for many pet owners.
You can make your own Snufflemat, buy one or re-purpose a bathmat or rug that offers great sniffing challenge for dogs.
If you are crafty and have the time, making a Snufflemat is pretty straight forward. The ones we use at AniEd have been made by one of our amazing trainers, Caterina from Canis Major! There are lots of small businesses making Snufflemats to order.
You need suitable fabric; fleece or microfibre towels work best, but you can use any blanket, denim or firmer material.
And a mat with holes in; door mats and shower mats are best. Choose lighter models as the entire mat can become pretty heavy once all the material is added.
Due to their rising popularity, you can buy commercially manufactured Snufflemats too, like this one.
The easiest and most cost effective approach is to re-purpose a suitable bathmat or rug.
These are usually easily cared for and washed and reasonably priced so if damaged or chewed, they are easy to replace.
No matter the Snufflemat you choose, the rule is that the more visible the food is, the less of a sniffing challenge it will be. Choose a Snufflemat that is appropriate to your dog’s abilities.
If making a homemade Snufflemat, don’t fill in all the gaps with fabric; add more as your dog gets better and better.
Snufflemats allow for intense sniffing, no matter the weather or your schedule. They are wonderful for older dogs, or dogs on rest or restricted activity. We will even use them, later in our 100 day project, in training exercises.
Option 3 Alternative Snufflemats
To try to make enrichment as easy and obtainable as possible, for most pet owners, there are some alternatives to Snufflemats that can add a wonderful sniffing challenge to your dog’s meals while not requiring hours of crafting while keeping costs down.
All of these items suggested here I found versions of in homeware and hardware retailers and none of them cost more than €5 (~£4.40 or ~$5.70).
Obviously, be safe whenever using something not meant for dogs. Supervise them closely and know your dog’s tendencies. Don’t use things that you think your dog might chew or ingest, or that might cause him harm.
Some ideas for alternatives include:
- a car mat with a grid
- shower mat with holes (instead of adding fabric to make a Snufflemat)
- doormat with holes (instead of adding fabric to make a Snufflemat)
- pot holder (lots of different designs)
- baking cooling tray or grill/oven shelf
- a dish drainer
Getting your dog sniffing and snuffling has never been easier!
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!