To say my pup Riggins is food-motivated is an understatement. If you are eating dinner at my house, there is a strong possibility that my sweet mutt will try to grab a bite or two. Of course, this is bad parenting on my part, since he has been taught to just steal food when begging doesn’t work. Still, that is what you must live with if you share a meal with us, so it isn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “Watch my food for me,” when a guest has to step away from the table.
Due to his obsession, I’ve had to come up with ways to slow down his eating and use it to my advantage, all while trying to keep him satisfied.
Here are a few of our food-related tricks and tips.
1. Slow down his meals
At 10 years old, Riggins doesn’t gobble up his food like he used to. It was a real problem when he was younger. Like any crazy single parent, I had spent enough time on the internet researching what could go wrong when a dog eats too fast. Vomiting, chocking, and bloat, oh my! Obviously, I had to find a solution.
It turns out the best arrangement for our rambunctious and hungry puppy was to skip the bowl altogether and put his food into a puzzle toy feeder. We tried them all, but our favorite is just a ball with a hole in it. You unscrew the halves, add the kibble, and screw them back together.
The problem with feeding via a treat ball is that your dog gets to roll the ball all over the house in an attempt to get all of the tasty morsels out. I tried doing things like isolating him in the bathroom or kitchen, but I eventually just let him have the run of the house. What can I say? Mi casa is Riggins’ casa.
We tried slow-eat bowls and feeding a little at a time, but the treat ball was a two-for-one. It slowed down Riggins’ gobbling and gave him an outlet for some of his energy.
2. Make frozen broth treats
We live in Los Angeles, where it can get really hot during the summer (and winter and spring and fall). To help keep Riggins cool and occupied, I started making him frozen broth treats. The recipe is always the same — part broth, part water, and any treats or dog-friendly veggies I can toss in.
When Riggins was younger, I’d stuff one end of his Kong with peanut butter, add the broth water and peanut butter up the other end before freezing. If you didn’t apply the peanut butter perfectly, it could go horribly wrong. After a few leaks that caused my freezer to turn into a frozen chicken-broth lake, I made it easier on myself and just used his food bowl to make a giant ice cube.
As Riggins has gotten older, he has less patience, so now I just make broth cubes in an ice tray and pop them out to put in his bowl.
3. Treat frozen veggies
Riggins loves treats. The problem is he loves them so much he tends to gain a little weight during high-treat times, like the holidays. Although I’ve always fed Riggins carrots as a snack, I’ve recently discovered he is perfectly happy chomping on frozen veggies. A bag of frozen veggies is not only inexpensive but a healthy alternative to a cookie treat.
When I have people over for a meal, I’ll have a bag of frozen carrots or green beans next to me to give to Riggins so he leaves everyone alone and is happy. Sure, I should be a better dog mom and train him not to beg at the table, but let’s face it, that isn’t going to happen.
4. Hide his meds
Riggins loves food so much, he used to just eat any medicine I had to give him right out of my hand. As he has gotten older, he has gotten wiser, and he eventually started to carefully separate his pills from whatever food item I had them wrapped in.
But I’ve found the PERFECT pill food disguise. Natural peanut butter. You know the kind — that goopy stuff you have to mix or it gets all liquidy and weird. That stuff is great! If you don’t mix it, the consistency makes it easier to just dip a pill in and glob a bunch on top. Riggins is so happy to eat the delicious peanut butter, the pill is stuck in his mouth before he knows what has hit him!
5. Fake his training treats
Training treats need to be small so they can be gobbled up quickly. The biggest problem that I have with buying these bite-size treats is that they can get expensive. Instead of purchasing something special, I just use Riggins’ kibble.
The small pieces are the perfect size, and if he gets too many, I can just limit the amount of food I give him for his next meal, although he isn’t very happy about that.
Bonus tip: Keeping the ants away
I like to feed Riggins outside. Not only is it convenient for me, but it’s nice for him to be able to hang out in the backyard. The problem is our house sits on what is obviously the biggest ant colony of all time. If you leave any amount of food outside, even a teeny, tiny crumb, the ants will come and overtake that area in a matter of minutes.
To keep Riggins’ food bowl safe from these little creatures, I draw a couple of chalk circles around his food area, like a bullseye. I’m not sure why ants don’t like chalk. Something about it getting their feet powdery so they can’t grip as well, I guess. But whatever — they don’t like it. It isn’t foolproof, though, so as an additional barrier on bad ant days, I’ll put Riggins’ food bowl in another bowl filled with water. It’s like Riggins’ delicious dinner is protected by its own tiny moat!
There you go! That’s a few of our food tips. I’d love to learn yours. Let me know what you do in the comments!