Food Engagement for Puppies
With puppies eating multiple times per day, meal times can often be boring and monotonous. There are many ways that you can keep food exciting and interesting for your puppy – while staying healthy!
Whether your puppy is not very food motivated or is a complete chowhound, there are several ways to use food to your advantage. Whether that be training new skills, mental stimulation, or enriching their overall health- food can (and should!) be much more than just filling the bowl with dry food twice per day.
Here are some tips to help freshen up your puppy’s meal and engage their everyday life!
Changing up the flavor of what you feed your puppy can help prevent boredom, food allergies & will keep mealtime and training exciting. Most pet foods and treats come in a variety of protein sources and yummy ingredients, which makes it easy to switch and rotate for a fresh and fun flavor profile for your puppy. Do keep in mind, if your puppy has a sensitive stomach, you will want to transition their food slowly to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Most dry foods have a transition guide or recommendation on the bag that you can use as a reference when switching foods.
Common examples of different protein sources found in dog food:
Earthborn even has some novel proteins like rabbit, Alaskan pollock and wild boar!
Dogs, like people, oftentimes have their favorite flavor preferences. You can use flavor to your advantage when you are training your puppy to increase the value of the behavior that you are trying to reinforce.
Ranger, my puppy, goes crazy for fish proteins that have a high smell value. I am able to use this flavor as a special training tool when enticing him to spend time in his crate and when learning new tricks. Associating these new skills with his favorite flavor makes the experience positive for him as he continues to learn and grow.
If you feed primarily dry food to your puppy, you can switch up the format of food that you feed to easily provide engagement. Wet food adds moisture back into the diet which eases stress on internal organs and can give them some much-needed hydration – especially during the summer months! Most wet foods are complete and balanced meals and can be fed by themselves or mixed with dry food to give your dog a balance. Wet food also has a strong aroma which can help entice picky eaters!
My puppy eats wet food during his lunchtime meal, as he needs additional calories and hydration due to having a lot of energy and not always drinking enough water. I also use wet food to “hide” medications, such as flea/tick and heartworm preventatives because the appetizing smell creates a strong drive to eat.
Wet food can also be helpful during stressful times for your pet, such as vet appointments and after spay/neuter surgery when your puppy does not have their usual appetite.
Reminder: you will want to keep in mind the calories you are adding in to the diet and cut back on the dry food accordingly if you have any weight concerns for your pet.
Food can, and should be, FUN for your puppy!
If your puppy is a chow hound, there are many foraging type feeders that will not only be engaging for your puppy’s brain, but will help slow them down.
Some of them are:
- Slow feeder bowl
- Puzzle feeder
- Snuffle mat
- Wobble feeder
- Throw their food in the grass and let them search – free!
These options are great to fill with wet food, like Earthborn Holistic’s K95, & are great mental engagement tools when your puppy needs to self-entertain or time in their crate.
- Licking mat
- Freezable treat molds
When my puppy has a lot of energy and we cannot always get outside, a fun way to mentally and physically exercise your dog is to feed their normal dry food while you train them. This is a great time to learn new tricks, hide the food in cups and make them search, practice sit/stay/recall, and more! Food can help make learning fun for dogs and keep them interested, entertained, and engaged with you.
Puppies love to use their brains! Keep meals healthy, engaging and fun!