Category Archives: #100daysofenrichment

Day 77 Sunday Fun day!

Welcome to Day 77 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

 

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Every Sunday during #100daysofenrichment is Sunday Funday! This means you and your pet repeat your favourite challenge or challenges from the week.

You can do it exactly as you did first time round, you can try a different option, build on your progress already established, reinvent and rejig it…what ever you want to do with the last week of challenges!

Day 71 Chasing!

Day 72 Food Dispensers

Day 73 Play: Be Goofy!

Day 74 Snuffle Roll Ups

Day 75 Freestyle Friday

Day 76 Sniffing Saturday – SNIFFARI

Your challenge

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!

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Day 76 Sniffing Saturday: SNIFFARI!

Welcome to Day 76 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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SNIFFARI!

Saturdays during #100daysofenrichment are all about emphasising the dog in all our dogs; all about sniffing and doing dog things.

Last summer, in one of the workshops run for AniEd trainers, we discussed Scent & Sniffing. For this first time, I tried out something that I had been putting together in my head for quite a while…a sniffari!

I would love to say that I originated the term, but I think the credit goes to dog trainer Kristi Benson. And I would also love to claim that I came up with this idea, but I saw some similar version of this on an Australian company’s page: Dog Solutions. 
Here’s their fantastic Mobile Snuffle Park:

Mobile Snuffle Park

AniEd’s version of this is possibly a little different and I am hoping to develop it more and more.

What is a SNIFFARI?

Sniffari is an olfactory adventure for your dog. It can be as elaborate or as basic, as large or small, and as complex or simple as you like. You are limited only by your imagination, and how far you want to take this.

We went all-out-elaborate for our workshop. Attendees from around the country brought lots of bits and pieces to build the Sniffari. AniEd is already filled with “rubbish” that we use for puzzling and enrichment, so we contributed lots too.

Here’s a quick tour of the more elaborate set-up:

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Here’s a less elaborate set up from a PlayDates session:

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Our Sniffari is not just an olfactory journey, but a multi-sensory one. The dogs are drawn in and around many substrates, obstacles, sights AND smells. Many layers of cognition are engaged, meaning that so much brain power is involved.

A full enriching experience!

Setting up your SNIFFARI!

You can see the sorts of bits and pieces we have used, everything from fur to furniture!

You can set up your sniffari indoors or outdoors.
Outdoor sniffaris provide more space and extra challenge in the way air and the breeze moves through the obstacles.

When holding sniffaris outside, I tend not to include as much local vegetation etc. as it’s presumed the dog has olfactory information about this already. But when held indoors, I have tried to add vegetation of different types and from different locations as much as possible.

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Adding plants, like this lavender, to snufflemats in a box, to contain the odour, proved a big hit on our Sniffaris.

It features a lot in this Sniffari with Ned and Dexter showing great interest in it:

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In our Sniffaris we have used tents, chairs and tables to add different dimensions. We used a wooden frame, pool noodles, streamers, mats of different substrates, tubs of water, platforms and hula-hoops to add in physical and tactile challenge. We used seaweed, plants, old shoes, fur, feathers, toys, boxes, old food and cosmetic containers, vegetation, twigs and branches, sweeping brush, different containers, and lots of bits and pieces to add real olfactory interest.

We have also presented the interesting odours in different ways; up high, down low, under or behind other obstacles, hanging up, poking out, in tubs and boxes to contain and concentrate odour and most importantly, laid out with plenty of space in between each obstacle.

This space allows the dog to choose how they move in and around the course, and also to allow for lots of airflow to move.

Make sure the item/s aren’t dangerous and are safe to be sniffed, that they don’t contain or have never contained substances toxic to dogs, and make sure they’re appropriate for your dog. For example, it’s not a good idea to bring back vegetation that strange dogs may have peed on to unvaccinated puppies.

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Really, there should be no food used in this Sniffari. It changes the dog’s approach to this challenge. By using novel and interesting things and presenting them in new ways, most dogs will be encourage to explore if given time. As usual on Sniffing Saturdays, us humans are just hanging out letting our dogs do what they do best.

Group sniffaris aren’t always going to work. After this cooperative group had each had an individual chance to explore, under very close supervision they got to sniffari as a group:

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You can see more about our workshop sniffari and how the dogs benefited here, and also see how different dogs got on with AniEd sniffaris: Posie on Sniffari, Busy on Sniffari, Arlo & Brady on Sniffari.

Take your pet on Sniffari!

Your challenge

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!

 

 

 

Day 75 Freestyle Friday

Welcome to Day 75 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Freestyle Friday

Now it’s your turn to get creative! Every Friday is Freestyle Friday. We’ll give you the ingredients for a puzzle or enrichment device and you build it.

Rules:

  • you must use all the ingredients
  • you can add anything else you like, or nothing at all
  • whatever you come up with must be enriching

Day 75 Ingredients

You must use the following:

  • face cloths, blankets, towels and similar

You can add food or toys or anything else appropriate, if you like. Or you can use this as it is.

We can’t wait to see what fun and brain games you and your pet get up to with this one!

Your challenge

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!

 

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Week 12 Equipment List

Only two full weeks (and a couple of days) left after week 12 so we are counting down and savouring every last minute of this #100days project!

Keep up with all the resources and challenges relating to #100daysofenrichment here
and join our Facebook group too!

All challenges are presented with multiple options so you won’t lose out if you don’t have one or two of the items.

For Week 12 you will need:

  • a variety of different treats & toys
  • Stuffables
  • small cloths such as dusting cloths, face cloths, tea towels etc. and Ziploc or similar sealable plastic bags, small sealable lunchboxes or tins.
    Cut each into small pieces about the size of your palm, or so.
    Bring a cut up cloth to each place you go, without your dog this week, and wipe the cloth on some surface or in some area. Once it’s loaded with scent, pop it into a sealable container and store where your dog can’t access it, until you are ready for it on Day 81.
    You are collecting olfactory information and bringing it back for your dog to investigate!
  • you might also like to use SAFE essential oils, herbs or spices for this BUT the dog cannot have contact with the cloths dosed in these. Instead, add the scent to the cloth and pop it into a container to cook for a few days, if possible. When presenting it to your dog, put some holes in the container so that odour can travel, but so the dog doesn’t have direct contact.
  • novel items that your dog could interact with, but hasn’t interacted with yet
  • shallow, open boxes, tubs or similar
  • portable device such as smart phones, tablets, laptops etc. with internet connection
  • paper or plastic cups or similar small tubs etc. (you need 3 or 4 that are the same or very similar to one another)

And for Freestyle Friday you will design your own enrichment device with the following ingredients:

  • plastic bottles (make sure they are safe and remove all plastic parts, labeling etc.)

We have lots more fun and brain games for you for next week. Start getting ready…

Subscribe to this blog so that each day’s plan is delivered right into your inbox each morning.

 

 

Day 74 Snuffle Roll-ups

Welcome to Day 74 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

 

Snuffle Roll-Ups

At a glance:

  • snuffling puzzles that challenge noses and brains
  • food based enrichment
  • roll treats or toys up in blankets, cloths, towels, sheets, clothing to make snuffle puzzles
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best blanket snuffle puzzles for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Prepping some of these puzzles is really quick, and some require more commitment! Then your dog does all the work!

What do you need?

  • blankets, towels of different sizes and types, face cloths & tea towels, mats, sheets, dog beds, clothing, socks
  • boxes, tubs, buckets, (plant) pots, old shoes
  • a laundry basket or any basket with holes
  • a range of toys and food rewards
  • Stuffables

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Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than eating; we can use toys in these ones too, but the foraging behaviour is still feeding related behaviour
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the blankests
  • by carefully varying the design and adjusting the difficulty, we will facilitate carrying out a range of different behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the roll-ups are examples of cognitive challenge.

I set up these puzzles in front of the dog, often times, so they can see me putting the rewards in and under the cloth or towel. Cognition research has demonstrated that dogs are capable of object permanence, meaning that they understand that an item or individual continues to exist, even when it can’t be perceived.
So, hiding a ball out of sight, for your dog is not like playing peek-a-boo with a baby…your dog knows the ball is in there to be found where as the baby may not!

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Snuffle roll-up puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the blanket is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of snuffle roll-up puzzles, we can help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • give your pet plenty of space for working on puzzles and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods or toys to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the reward (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Snuffle Roll-ups:

Snuuffle roll-ups are simple and straight forward, but no matter how much practice your pet gets with these puzzles, they are always challenging because the roll-up will always fall in random ways, adding to the challenge for your pet.

These puzzles are truly adaptable – there really is no limit to how they can be adapted to suit different puzzling levels. But, they are also incredibly simple so can be used when very little equipment is available, and when space and time are tight.

I love to use these puzzles when waiting around with a dog, for example at seminars, classes and workshops. Keeps ’em busy and engaged, and prevents boredom.

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Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in these, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog!

Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the something they shouldn’t.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure there’s nothing that your pet will be able to detach, swallow or get injured on. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

As usual, we are bringing you and your pet through different levels of challenge so that you can introduce them to the puzzle and so that they have time to develop the behaviours required to solve it while avoiding frustration.

Option 1: Things in Blankets 

This is your starting point so as to allow your dog to find their feet (paws?) with these challenges; important to help build confidence in the process and reduce frustration and blind-destruction. We did lots of Blankets puzzles on Day 29.

And it doesn’t need to be a blanket; you can use anything that works. In one of these challenges, I have even used some of Decker’s bandannas!

Beginners: Things Under a Blanket

  • place some food rewards on the floor
  • cover with the blanket, loosely

Let your dog find it and watch for the types of behaviour used to  get to the reward.

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Intermediate: Treat Blanket

  • scatter some food rewards on a flat blanket
  • cover them over and swirl the blanket so that everything is mixed and messed up

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Ball in a Blanket

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Stuffable in a Blanket

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Advanced: Blanket Roll Up

  • scatter some food rewards on a flat blanket
  • roll it up like a Swiss Roll

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Advanced: Things in Blankets in Things

Once your dog gets the game, add an extra level of challenge to your Advanced options.

Things in Blankets in Tubs

Add some food rewards to a smaller blanket, tea towel, face cloth, or, like in this video, some dog bandannas.

You can have just one or more and swirl and mess them about, in the tub, so that the food rewards get well mixed up.

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Things in Blankets in Buckets

Use a larger blanket, towel, duvet or sheet. Add food rewards, a toy or Stuffable and mix the whole lot up in a bucket, tub, box or plant pot.

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Box of Roll-Ups

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Roll some treats up in tea towels, towels, clothes etc. and stuff the roll-ups into a box or tub.

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Option 2 Snuffle Balls

Use holey balls or toys for these great snuffle challenges, or make your own!

Beginners: Snuffle Pom Poms

Use a towel or fleece blanket to make these simple puzzles:

 

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Bath Balls are cheap to purchase and make great, simple snuffle balls:

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Intermediate: Roll Ups Balls

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Add food rewards to socks stuffed in a lattice ball.

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Even without food, this might offer dissections opportunities:

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Advanced: Inside-Out Snuffle Ball

  • cut strips of cloth or fleece
  • tie each piece to a holey ball
  • tuck the ends of each knot into the ball
  • leave some holes free
  • add food rewards for snuffling fun!

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Option 3 Stuffed Roll-Ups

Stuff treat roll-ups into things for more puzzling!

Beginners: Roll Ups Stuffed Basket

Roll some treats up in cloths and slot into the gaps in a laundry basket.

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Intermediate: Snuffle Basket

Like making a Snuffle Mat, instead feed the cut lengths of fleece or towel through the gaps in a basket for 3D snuffling!
If using a particularly big basket, like this laundry basket, add a snuffle mat to the base too.

Advanced: Roll Ups Stuffed Shoe

Roll Ups stuffed into old shoes – exactly as it says on the tin!

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Your challenge

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!

Day 73 Play: Be goofy

Welcome to Day 73 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Be goofy!

At a glance:

  • toyless/treatless interactions that are playful and silly
  • develop your goofiness as we work toward no-toy play that is truly cooperative and joyful
  • play is the ultimate in relationship boosting, stress busting fun
  • social and cognitive based enrichment
  • play and engagement form the foundation of relationships and successful training
  • lots of these exercises can get pretty exciting, so it might be better that smaller children not take part but help in preparing training rewards.
    Children can be great dog trainers but require lots of guidance and support.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • no formal training sessions today, no contrived enrichment scenarios – make it natural, make it delightful, make it goofy

What do you need?

  • just you and your pet!

We will talk about human-dog play throughout this program, and have already started with Fun with Food games on Day 32.

 

Enrichment Goals:

  • to make the fun about the engagement and interaction and not training exercises, food rewards or toys
  • to build engagement between dog and human
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans

We are not working on training exercises today but I do want to make sure that we understand that all behaviour is reinforced or punished. Reinforcers increase behaviour, punisher decrease it.
So, if behaviour is happening something is reinforcing it, and if it’s not happening, something is punishing it.

Play is no different. Just like cueing behaviour and your dog responding is a dance of communication, play is too. Perhaps, even more so.

You do behaviour, your dog responds, you respond, your dog responds, you respond and so on and on.
This allows for a wonderfully complex level of communication between two species, forging a most health relationship between our two species.
This is a level of social and cognitive enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

 

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How can we achieve these goals?

Today’s challenge is about keeping it simple and collecting information from your observations.

What sort of interactions, between your dog and you, make your dog smile?

No treats, no toys, just you and your pet.

Maybe it’s just a passing interaction, a little touch, a fun movement, a silly voice.

There doesn’t need to be any duration to these interactions, a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes is good.

Sit on the floor. Wait for your dog to check you out. Try some different moves and see which ones cause your dog joy and get them wanting more.

Practice those.

Keep it really simple today – get a good understanding of inter-species play, and how we humans often get it pretty wrong.

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Applications of Fun with Food games:

Play is a tricky thing that we think we recognise if we see it, but might not be able to adequately define it. And that’s the case in the literature too.

We think that animals play, but we’re not really sure why. The play research suggests we start by defining play so here’s a simple run down…

  • play for play’s sake, because you choose to play
  • play is fun, and that’s enough
  • play feels good and we want to engage in play (you don’t have to play)
  • play can sometimes look serious, but there are important differences; the serious parts happen out of order or in the absence of normal triggers relative to the serious stuff
  • play is creative, spontaneous and improvised
  • play happens when we feel safe – time should fly, you should feel less self-conscious

And although there might be some agreement on how we might define play, when it comes to deciphering the functions of play, there are lots of differences.

Play probably helps animals prepare for swings in emotion, gets them ready and honed for life and let’s not forget, play is fun! Having fun is a viable function of behaviour.

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Dogs and humans play differently and dog-dog play differs from dog-human play (and differs from human-human play). But, like in so many areas, dogs and humans share tons of the basic rules of social interactions.

As is so often typical of us humans, we often approach play in the way we think the dog should play or in the way we think the dog should enjoy playing. And this so often turns the dog off play, changes the nature of games and ultimately causes break downs in communication and relationship.

We even have research that looks at how people play with their dogs and how our play behaviours overwhelm our play partner, yet we continue to push, presumably believing that this is fun and this is how it should be done.

I spend a lot of time working on improving relationships between pets and their people; that’s what this entire project is about too. I also spend a lot of that time helping people play with their dogs (certainly not the worst job in the world!).
I incorporate play in almost every training and behaviour program I design. My most common problem is that people don’t appear to know how to play with their dogs and sometimes don’t value play’s importance, whether that be toy based games, or just silly, playing interactions.
Our trainers will tell you that that is something that causes me great stress and concern – I take play very seriously, playfully serious!

I believe that play is life, and play is a way of dealing with life. Improving your play with your dog does so much more than just fun with food.

Just because you (think you) utilise reward based training, R+, “force-free” or whatever “positive” label, doesn’t mean it’s a happy, playful learning experience. Teaching playful behaviour isn’t the same as playing.

The beauty of establishing these foundations is that the more you play together, the more you will each shape one another’s behaviour. Your behaviour will evolve, adapt and adjust to your player.

The ultimate goal in play is to get really nice play-interactions, without treats or toys. The two players, dog and human, are participating for the pure joy. That’s coming soon!

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Play starts with an invitation and consent, the players make eye contact and ask if they want to keep the game going; play is cooperative so we ask and answer. Play involves mirroring of behaviour and balanced participation.

Today, we continue on the road to wonderful, consent-full, choice-led, partnership based play between dog and human. What could be better than that?

Play Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • play in really short sessions
  • get their attention first
  • invite play
  • get consent
  • and keep asking if they would like to continue…
  • practice – play is like any other behaviour

Don’t

  • bring too much intensity
  • push the toy at the dog
  • make it too exciting when the dog is just starting to show interest
  • expect too much
  • rely on food too much
  • get stuck
  • play too long

Your challenge

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!

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My favourite playa, whose capacity for joy, fun and play apparently knows no bounds and has me in amazement and awe (and sometimes bewilderment) every day.

 

Day 72 Food Dispensers

Welcome to Day 72 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

 

Food Dispensers

At a glance:

  • toys that dispense food when pushed, rocked, or manipulated
  • may be commercially available toys or homemade
  • food based, cognitive based and sensory based enrichment
  • may provide outlets for cognitive challenge and puzzling, but care must be taken to avoid frustration
  • get the family involved in this one – for the most part, the dog will be doing all the work but children might like to help prepare food dispensing toys for their pets
  • look closely at the sorts of behaviours required to solve the puzzle – most are pretty similar but some will stretch your puzzler’s abilities

What do you need?

  • Pringles or similar tubes
  • old tennis balls or other old toys
  • lattice balls

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  • commercially available treat dispensing toys

 

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage manipulation of the toy
  • provide outlets for puzzling and cognitive challenge
  • to encourage interaction with their environment and help in the development of behaviours/strategies for manipulating the item, acquiring edible parts or dissecting
  • to encourage feeding behaviours, beyond just eating
  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours by offering toys of different design, expanding the dog’s behavioural repertoire

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the toys are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the toy is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of puzzles, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

How can we achieve these goals?

  • provide your dog with a safe, comfy space for working on puzzles
  • remember, there might be mess so think of that for clean-up
  • try a range of dispensers to assess which your dog prefers and to see which behaviours they need help with
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of food dispensing toys:

Some of the first and most widely available ‘enrichment’ toys for dogs were food and treat dispensing toys so they have been around a long time, in one form or another. Many pet owners will be familiar with them and will have seen them in pet shops and suppliers.

Because they are so often referred to as ‘treat’ dispensers, many pet owners might think them relevant only to treats and occasional use. Now, there are a wide range of these toys available, in lots of different designs requiring different puzzle busting skills.

I split food dispensing toys into two broad categories, depending on the type of behaviour they encourage: pacifying and activating.

Stuffables and lickables/lappables, when used appropriately, are pacifying encouraging lapping and chewing.

Activating toys, like today’s food dispensers, will invariably encourage the dog to move about, often having to manipulate the toy with more force and movement.

Use can use stuffable toys and fill them with drier food and treats which will encourage the dog to bounce or roll them, providing an activating effect.

Because some of these toys are heavier, wobbly or big, some dogs may be cautious of them. But, I am more concerned about how these toys tend to be introduced. There is often limited means to decrease or increase the challenge so dogs are left to work it out, experiencing frustration and the resulting arousal.
This may not be enriching after all.

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Enrichment Options

Food dispensing toys might be homemade or bought.

Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in of the puzzles today, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to them.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, take great care and supervise them closely.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating something they shouldn’t.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fasteners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!

Care should be taken with bought toys too as they may not be built for chewing or particularly destructive efforts.
Watch your dog closely for behaviours that might eventually help solve the puzzle. Be ready to toss some food rewards to the dog for those behaviours, even if they don’t solve the puzzle. This will help to prevent them becoming too frustrated or destructive.

Homemade Food Dispensing Toys

Make a simple food dispensing toy using a Pringle tube or similar:

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Use an old tennis ball or other old toy with a hole in (or make a hole):

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treat balls

Any lattice toy (toys with holes) will work too!

 

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If you can get your hands on a giant cardboard roll, from flooring, for example, they make great food dispensers and items of great interest to dogs:

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Bought Food Dispensing Toys

There are a wide range of toys available in shops and online. Most require that the dog move the toy, either with their feet or nose, to move the toy so that food falls out.

Kong Wobblers typify this category of activating food dispensing toys:

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Using the Wobbler, or similar food dispenser, in a crate or even a plastic dog bed, can make it easier and less messy:

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Introduce these toys carefully to avoid the dog becoming spooked or frustrated by their use. This clip shows how to introduce a toy, in this case a Wobbler, that requires the dog to tip and move it so that the food falls out.

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To make it easier, hide a treat under the toy to encourage the dog to tip the toy.

Fill the toy with smaller sized food so that some will spill out easily. Use drier hard foods to that move readily.

To make it more difficult, use more moist foods or add something such as balls of kitchen roll to the toy to slow the movement of food.

There are many, many food dispensing options on the market, for example: this search on amazon.co.uk, toys from zooplus, Busy Buddy range, Nina Ottosson range, Starmark range and Kong range.

Our friends at Tough Enough for Charlie have lots of options too: here and here.

Your challenge

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!