Hint: It’s in the presentation
Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary devised many clever, easy ways to turn food, even basic kibble, into stimulating experiences for their dogs to enjoy in their kennels.
By presenting food in many different ways throughout the week, Mackenzie’s is able to use food to provide multiple sources of stimulation:
This variety of food experiences is particularly good for dogs with food-guarding tendencies. Having an abundance and variety of food experiences throughout the day helps reduce these dogs’ impulse to protect their food by decreasing the “value” of food. “Mouthy” dogs who really enjoy a good chew also benefit.
Mackenzie’s offers each food enrichment below at least twice a week. They use their enrichment schedule (.doc) to keep track of what the dogs receive.
Note: Save the really good stuff, such as hot dogs, chunks of cheese, “cookies,” and other high-value foods, to use only in training and behavior modification. You want these treats to retain their high value as incentives for desired behaviors.
Volunteers can prepare these interesting food dispensers so that they are ready to distribute by the staff who feed the dogs. Rick Wiersum of Mackenzie’s estimates that a volunteer can prepare the day’s dispensers for their 75 to 80 dogs in about an hour. You’ll need another hour or so of a volunteer’s time for cleaning any of the reusable food dispensers, such as the Kongs.
What to Do
Meals in bags or Kongs:
Treats in paper and cardboard tubes:
Treats in Kongs:
Experiment with other simple treats, such as:
Check out Mighty Mouths canine enrichment for more simple, inexpensive ideas for presenting food, especially for dogs who really love to chew.
Plan to vary both the presentation and the foods throughout the week. For example, Mackenzie’s dogs receive kibble meals in bags twice a week and kibble meals in Kongs twice a week, with meals in bowls on the other days. The other treats are varied throughout the week.
Monitor how the dogs respond to different foods and presentations to fine-tune your offerings. Mackenzie’s dogs were unimpressed by applesauce Kongs, so these were replaced with Kongs stuffed with canned dog food, which is much more popular.
Be alert to the needs of dogs who cannot eat certain foods or who don’t enjoy the food or its presentation. Choose substitutes for these dogs, and note their preferences on your enrichment schedule.
You can view a sample enrichment schedule (.doc) from Mackenzie’s that lists meals and treats and notes requirements for individual dogs.
Photo courtesy of Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary