Enrichment is so important for your dog at any stage of life but especially for seniors. It can be easy for them to fade into the back ground of life once they start to lose enthusiasm, mobility or mental capacity. As senior dog parents this is a time to get creative and keep our old dogs engaged in life and happy along the way! In this blog I am sharing my top 3 favorites for food enrichment for senior dogs.
What is Enrichment For Your Dog?
Enrichment is just a fancy way to say stimulation. It is important to stimulate your dogs mind and body as it ages with different kinds of enrichment.
Enrichment comes in many forms and probably some you are already doing. There are 5 kinds of enrichment. Nutritional, social, sensory and occupational and physical.
Nutritional enrichment for dogs in the wild would be foraging for food so using something like a food puzzle would where your dog has to use it’s brain to get it’s food would be close to that.
Social enrichment can be seeing new dogs and people that live outside of your household family. A supervised playdate with a dog your dog gets along with or a trip to grandma’s house would be great for this. I know this can be tricky for some dogs so use your best judgement.
Sensory enrichment would be smelling new things. A great way to incorporate this would be a sniffing safari during a walk around the neighborhood or a nose work class. Nosework is great for old dog!
Physical enrichment includes walks, hikes, or activities like digging. Yes, digging is a natural dog behavior. Agility is a really fun sport for physical enrichment in younger dogs. for the oldies it might be a leisurely walk around the neighborhood or a massage!
Occupational enrichment is when your dog has a job. A good example of this having a dog like a border collie that herds sheep or a great pyrenees that guards livestock and keeps predators away. Some fun ideas for this with your dog could be herding, agility, barn hunt, noseworks or rally classes, it just depends on your dogs age and physical activity level.
Okay now that we know what enrichment is here’s my 3 favorites food enrichment ideas for your old dog!
#1 Kong Wobbler
The Kong Wobbler is great because it includes mental, nutritional and physical enrichment for your dog.
This is also a great way to replace a dogs meal if they eat kibble. Just skip the bowl all together! Twist off the bottom of the wobbler and fill with as much kibble as your dog eats usually at meal time, twist the bottom back on and put it down for your dog. Your dog may need to be shown how to use it but once it realizes food comes out they will catch on fast. Your dog will activate it’s natural instincts as it knocks over and moves the wobbler to get it’s food out. If you are not using this as a meal replacement you need to plan your dogs meals accordingly. For example on the mornings I give this to Bella she gets 1/4c less food in her bowl at breakfast since she will be eating it from the wobbler later in the morning. Too many calories will add weight to your dog so make sure to balance out meals and food enrichment activities. The wobbler is also great because you can wash it in the dishwasher.
Pro Tip! If the wobbler gets too easy for your dog just make a ball of tin foil and add it to the inside of the wobbler. I would make it golf ball sized. It will block some of the treats of kibble from coming out making it more challenging.
Buy one for your dog HERE or click on photo.
#2 Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat
These Hyper IQ Mats are great because when dogs repetitively lick they release endorphins.
I love these mats! The different textures on them help keep your dog engaged and interested especially when you add different flavors to each quadrant. This is perfect for dogs who have limited teeth since there is nothing hard and crunchy to break down. It is also good for dogs who can’t can’t stand long, they can easily just lay and lick! For Bella I love to make a sampler of delicious licks. Some days I will put a tablespoon of pumpkin, a tablespoon of greek yogurt, a tablespoon of Honest Kitchen Roasted Beef Stew, and a stable spoon of unsweetened apple sauce. You could also use a little bit of peanut butter, baby food plain sweet potatoes, or any kind of wet food your dog likes. If your dog eats wet food this would be a great alternative to a bowl. I like to really spread it out and get the food in there so she really has to work to get it out. Another great thing I love about using these is during the summer I will load it up and freeze it! This way Bella has a cold treat to entertain her for a while when it’s hot out.
Buy lick mats for your dog HERE or click on the photo
#3 Toppl By West Paw
Out of the three I have shared today this one is my favorite!
Toppl’s are a great alternative to eating from the bowl. The wide opening at the top makes it a bit easier to eat from in my opinion in watching Bella eat from it, it’s still a challenge just not as challenging as filling up a regular Kong. The inside grooves hold on to the food you put in till your dog licks it out. I love to make a parfait for Bella with a mixture her wet and dry food from Honest kitchen. If your dog doesn’t eat wet food you can always soak their food in hot water and let it get mushy and then put it in. Some times I add a small fish stick, a little bit of fruit she likes to eat like blueberries or veggies like carrots. There are so many possibilities with what you can use in this as far as flavors and textures.
PRO TIP! cover the side hole with plastic wrap or Glad Press and Seal while filling so everything doesn’t come out the side hole.
It also has an option to add a top piece and then you can use it with dry food an make a small version of the oof something like the wobbler. It is so versatile!
Buy a Toppl for your dog HERE or click on the photo
I hope this helps give you some ideas on some ways to help enrich the life of your old dog. If you try any of these out make sure to connect with me on INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK and let me know how it went! And like any time your dog eats you will want to supervise them during food enrichment time too.
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