puppy kindergarten
week 5 homework

Enrichment - Meal-Dispensing Toys!
Enrichment this week focuses on toys that dispense food when pushed, rocked, or manipulated in some way! These can be commercially bought toys (some options and favorites in our household are listed below) or they can be homemade! Some of the enrichment in other weeks of class could easily be considered meal-dispensing toys, since they use many of the same skills and involve the same goals!

Goals:

  • To encourage manipulation of the toy

  • Provide outlets for puzzling and cognitive challenge

  • Encourage interaction with the environment and help in the development of behaviors / strategies for manipulating the item, acquiring edible parts, or dissecting

 

Applications:

  • Any meal you feed your puppy! Ditch the bowl and take advantage of meal time to provide some valuable enrichment!

  • Maybe your puppy eats too fast and you'd like to slow them down a bit.

  • Use a meal-dispensing toy for your puppy to keep them busy and occupied during human meal times or as you're getting the kids ready for school in the AM, etc.

 

Option 1: Homemade toys
These can be made from anything - towels, rags, packing paper, toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, junk mail, etc. - and can be made to whatever difficulty level you feel appropriate for your puppy!

 

Option 2: Commerical Meal-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.

  • Introduce these toys carefully to avoid the dog becoming spooked or frustrated by their use and to ensure they're using the toy appropriately (many of these toys are not meant for and will not stand up to even mild chewing).

  • Below are some options that my dogs have liked and that were introduced in class!

Socialization - Harmonious Meal Times

This week for socialization, we're working on teaching our puppies that people approaching them while they are eating is not big deal at all - in fact, it means good things for them! We want to teach your puppy that your hand brings good things to him versus takes them away!

The internet or well-meaning friends / family may suggest a variety of techniques for while your puppy is eating: handle the food bowl while your puppy eats; stick your hand in the food while your dog is eating; lift the bowl and return it; "mess" with the dog by petting them, touching their tail, ears, head, etc. Imagine if you were trying to eat a meal at a restaurant and the wait staff did any of the things mentioned above with your plate and the burger you're trying to eat...I can guarantee that I would start guarding my plate and food and I would definitely be on the lookout for anyone in a uniform approaching my table or trying anything with my food. Your puppy will likely adopt the same habits.

The above advice, presumably, is meant to teach your puppy to tolerate intrusions and disturbance while eating. However, I encourage much different advice: leave the dog alone while eating. Teach children to leave the dog alone when eating out of a bowl or a meal-dispensing toy and when they have a special treat or chew; and encourage guests, friends, family, pet sitters, etc. to simply leave the dog alone while eating.

If not leaving the puppy alone while eating, you can practice a small exercise to teach your puppy that anyone approaching is bringing good things:

  • As your puppy is eating, calmly approach and say Hello.

  • Drop a tasty piece of food or a treat in or by the bowl (or meal-dispensing toy your puppy is using or chew they're enjoying).

  • Walk away and repeat as you'd like! (Not too many times, though; no one likes that many interruptions while eating.)

It's that simple! After a few days of practicing this a couple times at each meal, it's very likely that your puppy will start looking up at you in anticipation of something tasty while they are eating, hitting a food toy around, or enjoying a special chew or long-lasting treat!

Other Skills

This week of class, we practiced some more polite greetings with humans! Visit the homework from Week 2 for a reminder of how we go about setting the scene for success.

We also practiced some more appropriate play skills with our puppies and the other puppies in class! Review the homework from Week 3 for a refresher on what we like to see and what behaviors we might watch out for and / or interrupt for your puppy to leave the experience with a good opinion of other puppies!