My dogs never eat out of a bowl. Never, ever. They live an entirely bowl free life…and I think they’re pretty happy…Well Aya is anyway, Riggs always looks kind of serious!
WHY A BOWL-FREE LIFE?
For the simple reason that as a dog owner the relationship that my dogs have with me needs to be golden. Not only do I love and adore those little bundles of fur and want them to like me, I also NEED them to LOVE being with me.
What’s the key to:
** Loose lead walking?
** Calm, settled behaviour?
** Reducing challenging behaviours like excessive barking, counter surfing, dog reactivity ?
** Having a dog I can trust to control their own impulses and that is a joy to live with?
Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!
If you chuck all of your dog’s daily food allowance in a bowl for breakfast and dinner then your dog is building a fabulous with their bowl! All too often all it takes is to pick up the bowl and your dog starts dancing with joy. I want my dog to dance with joy with me, not with their bowl.
Instead, I measure out my dogs’ food allowance at the start of the day and I pop some in a treat pouch, some in pots for different rooms in the house. Anything left at the end of the day gets put in a kong or snuffle mat, scattered in the garden for sniffing out, or used in a fun enrichment activity.
I like to think of each piece of daily food as one of those tokens used in arcade slot machines. Each time you use a piece in a training game or to reward your dog for say, choosing to go and settle down, for walking nicely a few steps on a walk, for recalling, for sitting next to you but *not* mouthing your arm, that’s another token in your slot machine. The more tokens you put in, the more rewards you get out of the other side.
Another fab bonus is how well this works for dogs who are picky eaters – use their food in games, in seek and find activities, throw it for them to catch or chase. Make eating a fun experience that is had with YOU and take the boredom away.
Food suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.
Starting that bowl free way of life can be quite daunting at first, it’s an adjustment, owners often worry about their dogs being hungry or confused. Remember, it’s about enrichment, not deprivation and it’s never too late to start.
So why don’t you give it a shot this week – measure out your dog’s allowance at the start of the day (kibble, raw, wet, whatever) and use it to reward behaviour that you *do* want, as rewards in your training sessions/recall and use the rest for enrichment – you’ll start to reap the relationship rewards in no time!