Puppy Puzzles save lives
One of the biggest complaints about puppies is their high activity, chewing, mouthing, and attention-seeking behaviors. In addition, puppies can be very pesky by grabbing the remote or and anything and chewing it up. These are normal investigative behavior but test the patience of any puppy owner. These behaviors typically start at 12 weeks of age and worsen as the puppy grows up unless there is an outlet for sniffing, seeking, and chewing.
One of the best ways to redirect investigative behaviors is to switch from using a food bowl to a food puzzle at mealtime. Not treats, but all the food needs to come from the food puzzle. By using the food in the puzzle, your puppy gets a daily outlet, at least twice a day, for sniffing, nosing, and chewing. This activity exercises your puppy’s brain and body. So, there is less interest in getting into the dirty laundry or grabbing the remote. Now you can attend the online meeting without constant interruption from your furry friend.
What are food puzzles? They are any item that can hold food, and when rolled, pawed, or opened, the food will fall out. So, empty water bottles, cardboard boxes, yogurt containers smeared with soft food, or purchased toy-like items are puzzles. Be sure to look at the food puzzle, and think of how voracious your puppy is about chewing and mouthing. For example, keep the caps off plastic bottles, but cardboard boxes are fine as the cardboard will disintegrate in the stomach. Always inspect the food puzzle for strings or pieces that may swallow. Many companies have developed very durable silicone and rubber materials to withstand strong chewers, and some companies provide a guide to the durability of their products.
Some clients worry that their puppy will not get enough food from using only food puzzles. So, I tell my puppy parents to start with easy puzzles to help the puppy learn to sniff, paw, and knock this item around to release the food. Then as the puppy learns how to use the puzzle, they will get plenty to eat and a lot of fun in the process.
Follow this puppy puzzle guide to choose the right puzzle for your puppy
3-4-month-old puppy –
Toy breed and small breeds a 16 oz empty water bottle with holes cut into the sides. Put 1/4 of the kibble into a bottle so it will roll easily. The holes make it easier for the food to fall out. Make up four bottles for a meal.
Medium to large breeds– one water bottle without holes cut in it, and 2-3 purchased puzzles to roll and work the food out. These puppies have a high drive to sniff and mouth. Make working the food out a little tricky. The kong puppy ball is a good choice – the food comes out of a hole in the top, and it takes work to roll it.
Puppies who like to rip, chew and pull things apart will enjoy the ballistic hide and treat puzzle. This durable fabric puzzle allows the puppy to paw, grab with the mouth and pull the puzzle open to get the reward.
Toy and small breed – sniffing and chasing engages these breeds the best. Water bottles without the added holes and the Nina Ottoson style puzzles that spin or the dog has to slide little doors with the nose are best.
Large Breed and working dog
Our Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Huskies, and Shepherds need to stay busy! To increase the complexity and the need to bounce, roll or mouth the puzzle to get the food out.
My favorite for the big dogs is the Twist and Treat This durable, rubber frisbee-like puzzle holds a lot of food, can be offset to make it more challenging to get the food out, and can be bounced or flipped and rolled for fun.
Food puzzles can last for years. My own dog Bella has a variety of food puzzles that have lasted over ten years. She had only eaten out of food puzzles since she was 12 weeks old to manage her high activity level. I would be crazy if we did not discover how well food puzzles help a dog’s behavior.
Clients may complain it is too much work to load a puzzle for instead of filling a bowl. Yes, you have to make an effort to pick out the puzzle and fill a few of them to spread out a meal. However, if you don’t use food puzzles, much more work will stop naughty behaviors and bowel problems from chewing on things.
Puppy problems become dog problems. Biting, nipping, destructive chewing, and over barking are leading reasons for the surrender of dogs over six months of age. . 48% of dogs in shelters are six months to 3 years old. A simple switch to food puzzles is one solution that can save a dog’s life.
How to make your own food puzzle!
Train your puppy at home with my online training course Available here