Dogs not only need physical exercise but also mental exercise!
#banthebowl is something which has come up recently in the veterinary world and aims at educating owners to use meal times to mentally (and physically) exercise their dog (or cat!). With pet obesity on the rise, a shocking amount of 65% of adult dogs are classed as overweight (German et al., 2017), I recommend enriching feeding times most during weight clinics to get animals to work for their food.
But your dog doesn’t have to be overweight for you to incorporate this into your routine. By removing the bowl and getting your dog to work for their food, it can also help to revive stress. With your dog using their brain to problem solve it can increase their confidence and mentally tire them. This method can help to slow eating, making their meals last longer and potentially lowering the risk of a GDV.
Recently we’ve added the SnuffleMat to our feeding times. It is a rubber mat with fleece strips tied through it. The quality is of a really high standard, but I always pick it up after feeding just in case he decides to use it as a chew toy! It comes in a range of different designs, we have the ‘multicoloured paw print’ design in regular. The mat can be handwashed which I think we’ll need to do soon since we use it so much!
When I first introduced the mat, I put some smelly treats on top of the mat and buried some as well. I was a little worried Neville would struggle with using his nose to sniff and search for the treats, as he hasn’t been very good previously when we’ve played sniff and search games. But Neville got the hang of it fairly quickly. Some dogs may take a bit longer to understand how to do it, some may even work out if they pick up the mat they can shake the food out! Luckily, Neville hasn’t figured that out yet!
By spreading Nevilles meal in the mat, he has to use his innate foraging skills to search and find the food within the mat. This makes him really work for his food and since using the SnuffleMat it has really slowed down his eating. I have noticed if I use his normal slow feeding bowl, he is more excitable in evening, so his SnuffleMat must mentally tire him!
The SnuffleMat would also be great for any pets on restricted exercise, such as after surgery.
SnuffleMat also recommends that you can use snuffle time to train your dog. While your dog is engrossed in finding their food, you can groom them, touch their feet or get them used to objects such as the vacuum cleaner. If your dog has separation anxieties you can use the SnuffleMat to help when you leave for small periods of time.
If you want a SnuffleMat of your own visit their website here.
*We brought the SnuffleMat ourselves and all opinions are our own
Beth & Neville xx