Assuming you feed your dog (hopefully our brands of food), don't squander the opportunity for mental enrichment that mealtime can present.

Currently, perhaps you simply plop your dog's food in its same standard bowl, same place, every day which makes your dog very happy to eat, but does not ask much of her/him.

Bring out the inner genetic wolf in your dog (wolves forage and hunt for food), by changing how you feed breakfast and dinner and let your dog find its food. It's a job your dog will love.

I  like to take 8-12 small bowls, divide up Rosy's meal into them, have her sit in the middle of the living room, cue her to wait, and then plant the bowls all over the various rooms of my condo – No, of course not the bathroom. When I return to her, I tell her to go find. Tail starts wagging, ears perk up, with intense sparkly eyes, she springs from her sit, and darts off, her wiggling nose leading the way.  

How good at smelling is that remarkable canine nose? shutterstock_134308931

To give you a bit of perspective, your nose has about 6 million olfactory receptors, which detect different scents in your environment – your dog's nose has up to 300 million! Also, proportionally speaking,  the part of a dog's brain devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times greater than yours.  And, their noses are very sensitive to the specific odors they can detect. For example, a tracking dog may be able to follow the trail of a particular person that walked a path 24 hours before, even if thousands of people have crossed the same trail.  

Letting your pet use that natural scenting ability to purposely and specifically locate their dinner, breaks up the routine of a day, capitalizes on their desire to hunt, engages their love of food and exercise, and uses their critical thinking while burning mental and physical energy. Good things all around.

 Added benefit, by dividing the meal into many smaller portions, it slows the dogs eating down and turns it into a fun seeking game.

I'm sure once you start this, you can think up many other creative ways to feed those meals – change them so your dog stays interested – just make sure the containers, props you use are safe and your pet can't swallow something it's not suppose to.  Even if you only stuff a kong toy with canned food, freeze it and feed them their meal this way as you're walking out the door to get to work, it still provides variety and more of a challenge to get fed.

By the way, on your walks together, be a bit more patient when your dog wants to stop every second and sniff EVERYTHING. It's their way of reading the newspaper – taking in all the news of the day/hour. Solution to frustration on either of your parts? Take turns. Walk for 5 minutes with the dog by your side on a short leash, then say "go sniff" (you are providing the reward this way) and then give your dog some loose lead to sniff on the trail for a few minutes. Then return to controlled walking. Back and forth. Both happy.

What about cat's noses and why it's REALLY best not to free feed your kitty. Next blog….