Thinking Outside the Bowl

Getting Started

Not every dog is born with an insane enthusiasm for dinnertime. That’s fine—even picky dogs can learn to love solving puzzles and working for their meals. But like most behaviors, parts of these puzzles and games need to be taught. Don’t expect your dog to be an interactive feeding PhD in the first week: start simple. You didn’t train your dog to hold a ten-minute sit stay right away, right? You started with just “sit.” It’s the same here.

Additionally, different dogs enjoy different kinds of interactive meals. Just because your dog isn’t interested in food toys doesn’t mean they won’t love using their nose to hunt for their dinner. Experiment. If something doesn’t click with your dog, try a different chapter. Come back later to what your dog didn’t like—they might change their mind. Always start with the easiest version of a game and slowly make it more complicated. We want our dogs to be interested and engaged, not frustrated because something seems impossible or they don’t understand what to do.

Some dogs need a lot of encouragement while they figure out their first interactive meals. Other dogs don’t need any help at all. Pay attention to what your dog is doing. If they get to work right away, then let them figure things out for themselves. If they stand there looking baffled (Why is my food all over the FLOOR? Are you DRUNK?) you might have to talk to them, and encourage them, and praise them for every bite they take. After all, sometimes change takes some getting used to.

We’ll start with three simple assignments. Try them all, and think about your results. How did your dog react? What did she seem to enjoy? What is she naturally good at and where might she need help?

Assignment One: Dump the Dish

Assignment Two: Go Sniffing

Assignment Three: King Kong