Enrichment With Raw
Things are crazy right now with COVID-19 on the loose. Kids are home from school, you're working from home, the routines are all askew, and somehow your dog has more energy than ever. Well, does he have more energy or are you just seeing it for the first time? Either way, let’s look at a few ways you can enrich your dog’s life and help him have a constructive outlet for his extra energy.
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What Is Enrichment?
Enrichment is when something is made more valuable. So, essentially, when you are enriching your dog’s life you are making it better. Enriching your dog’s life can be done in many ways. Walks enrich your dog’s life, play and fun enrich your dog’s life, eating in a fun way, not just eating from a bowl, enriches your dog’s life. So, let’s look at a few ways to enrich your dog’s mealtimes, treat times, and his life.
Raw Food In Interactive Toys:
If you feed your dog raw food you can easily stuff it into a Kong or other stuffable toy. Grinds are easiest to do this with. However, if you know your dog well, and know what he loves best, you can stuff the small end of the toy with his favorite part of the meal. For some, this may be a chunk of organ meat or a bit of fish. This will make your dog excited to get to the “best” part and keep him working at his toy until it is all gone.
Depending on how you feed raw, and the size of your dog, you can also put a bone in the Kong and then stuff ground meat around it. Good options might be duck feet, chicken feet, a pork rib, or chicken necks.
If your dog is getting really fast at cleaning out his toy, you can freeze before you feed it. This will make the meal last even longer. If you do this, you can all a bit more liquid to make it freeze harder. Good options might be bone broth, kefir, fermented fish stock, or raw goat milk.
Of course, we don’t want raw food all over the house. How to keep the house clean and let our dogs enjoy a Kong filled with delicious raw food? Well, you have a few options. First, you can train your dog to only eat his Kong in a designated area, perhaps on a towel or two. This is what I do with my dog. If he starts to get close to the edge of his mat I’ll say “stay on your mat.” Then he will back up onto his mat.
If your dog is a little bit more rambunctious and not into staying in his eating spot, then you can feed him is his crate. Another option is to put up an exercise pen or put up a baby gate in a room that is easy to clean. Good options could be the kitchen or a bathroom.
Keep an eye on your dog, especially with a frozen Kong. Some dogs are pretty smart and will just wait until the Kong thaws out. This can leave quite a puddle on the floor. So keep an eye on your dog to know if he likes a frozen Kong or if he just waits for it to thaw.
Cleaning Food Toys:
Cleaning a food/treat toy is not as difficult as you may imagine. This makes feeding your dog his raw food in these toys a bit less daunting. All rubber Kongs and most other rubber treat toys are top-rack dishwasher safe. Which makes cleaning a cinch.
If you have left a dirty Kong for a little too long, you can soak the Kong is warm water and dish soap. Then use an old toothbrush or bottle brush to scrub out the Kong.
There are other brands of stuffable toys for dogs, but not all of them are so easy to clean. It pays to do a little research before buying them. Check to see what the cleaning instructions are for the toys.
Slow Feeders And Other Options:
You can also feed your dog his meals out of a slow feeding bowl or mat. These will slow how quickly your dog eats which will make meals last a bit longer. There are “bowls” that look like mazes that your dog chases his food around in. There are bowls that have a rounded bottom so they roll all around as your dog eats. There are also mats that contain nubs and little walls that slow your dog’s eating speed.
These typically work best with ground food, but you can use meat chunks if that is how you feed. Be sure that these bowls and mats are easy for you to clean. Most of them will be top-rack dishwasher safe.
There are lots of plastic and wood puzzle toys available on the market. There are also lots of DIY options if you want to make your own. Just Google “DIY Dog Puzzles” you will find lots of options. You will typically use freeze-dried or dehydrated treats for this vs raw. Only use raw if the puzzle is very easy to clean.
One potential issue with these puzzle toys is that the first time your dog does the puzzle it takes them a while. But with each successive time, your dog will get faster and faster. So, while a brand new puzzle toy could last for 10-20 minutes, once your dog has it figured out it it will only take a few seconds.
If you go this route you will need to really have lots of puzzle toys for this to give your dog much stimulation. Get several puzzle toys and then rotate their use every week-month. This will help to keep the puzzles a bit harder for longer.
For a treasure hunt, you will typically want to use freeze-dried or dehydrated treats. This is just in case your dog doesn’t find all the treats. You can buy the treats or make your own dehydrated treats. In addition, you can do a treasure hunt in your home or outside! If you choose to take your treasure hunt outside you can use raw meat chunks.
Anyway, to get your treasure hunt started you will want to prep your treats. Then put your dog in a different room and close the door so he can’t see where you are hiding the treats. It works best to hide the treats in only one room, to start. For the first few times hide the treats in easy to find places. Release your dog from the room and encourage/help him to find the first few treats.
The more treasure hunts you do the harder you can make it. Hide the treats in harder to find spots, expand to hiding the treats into another room, or hide the treats in a paper towel roll or small boxes. If your dog really likes this game you can make eventually hide the treats throughout the whole house!
Be sure to hide the treats in areas that your dog can actually get too. Hiding places that are too high or out of reach for your dog are not the best places. Also, keep hiding places away from breakables. You don’t want your dog to accidentally knock over your favorite vase in the pursuit of treats.
Not sure you want to hide treats all over your home? No problem. You can hide treats in a much smaller space. To create a treasure chest you are going to want a box. The box should be low enough that your dog can easily put his head over the side and still reach the bottom of the box. For smaller dogs, a box that your dog can fit in is a great option. You could use a kiddy pool too if you have that laying around.
Fill the box with your dog’s toys, if you have Kongs you can put a few treats in them, then sprinkle a few treats over the top of the toys. Another option would be to fill the box with wads of paper, then sprinkle on the treats. Put the box on the floor and let your dog go crazy getting the treats! Freeze-dried or dehydrated treats will work best for this too.
If you are using a kiddy pool you can take this activity outside and fill the pool with dirt, soil, and/or sand. Then hide treats in the dirt. This is a wonderful outlet for dogs who love to dig. Feel free to hide raw-stuffed Kongs or recreational bones in the dirt too. Be sure to choose organic soil, if possible.
This is a great way for your dog to use his amazing sense of smell. Get a treat that has a strong smell. If you are doing this inside a dehydrated or freeze-dried treat is best. If you are doing this in your yard you can use a raw meaty bone.
Put your dog in another room. Then drag the treat on a short little trail and hide the treat at the end of the trail. Release your dog and help him find the beginning of the scent trail. Then watch him work! Most dogs will find this quite enjoyable.
Start with shorter trails and slowly increase the length. Also, try to use different treats or different rooms for each successive scent trail, at least at first. This will help him to learn the game.
Bones can be a wonderful outlet for a dog’s desire to chew. Recreational bones are those bones that your dog can’t really eat but enjoys chewing on. These bones are weight-bearing bones and include things like pelvic bones, knuckle bones, bison hooves, femur bones, and more.
Again you will want to set your dog up in an area that he can chew without messing up the carpet or hardwood floor. Most dogs like to have space to chew on a recreational bone, so it’s best to cover the floor of a bathroom or the kitchen with towels. Then put up child gates to keep your dog in that room. Outside is another great option. Be sure to provide your dog with water while he is chewing.
Recreational bones are way better than the typical “chew” you might find at the pet store. Chews like bully sticks, lamb ears, and pig snouts can be great options for your dog. However, a recreational bone is going to last a much longer time than one of these chews and is likely not going to add as many calories.
If you really want to make things interesting you can combine some of these techniques. Have scent trail that leads to a kiddy pool filled with dirt, and in the dirt is a raw femur bone! Or have a treasure hunt and hide puzzle toys around the room. Or have a treasure hunt with a special scent trail that leads to a treasure box in another room! Get creative and have fun with your dog.
It is always a good to praise your dog when he is engaging in an activity that you want him to do. Praise him while he munches on his Kong, hunts for treats, or chews his bone. This will give him a little extra incentive, just in case the food is not enough.
Hiding treats or using toys and bowls that slow how quickly your dog eats can be a lot of fun for your dog. These are great ways to keep things interesting and they stimulate your dog’s mind. This, in turn, will enrich his life.