Working for food

There is no fun in the life of a bored dog and that’s why so many dogs display unwanted behaviours when they don’t have something constructive to do. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated is also good for his mental health and is actually easy to do at home.

The bored dog

You might ask why dogs get bored. Consider that wild dogs used to spend most of their day searching for food, meaning that they were up and about and being active. They couldn’t afford to lay around sleeping or doing nothing. Also keep in mind that dogs were originally bred to do a specific job, which could include herding, hunting or guarding. And these jobs also kept them occupied during the day.

Today, dogs are kept as companion animals and many dogs don’t have a job to keep them busy and neither do they have to search for food. And the dogs who stay at home while their owners are at work, have little social contact during the day.

A bored dog’s mental and physical needs are not met, especially if he doesn’t even go for a walk in the park or get to play a game of fetch in the garden. With nothing much to do, behaviour problems naturally start to arise, which can be prevented by simply giving him a ‘job’ to do. Interestingly, dogs actually prefer to work for their food, even if it is a short or simple game, like scatter feeding on the lawn.

Working for food

Working for his food doesn’t mean any physical labour for hours to find some food, it is more about being creative and bringing fun back into your dog’s day. Here are some ideas on what you can do.

1. Food toys One of the most popular food dispensing toys is the Kong. You can stuff food inside a Kong, which provides a good chewing outlet for a dog. When a dog chews, endorphins are released which helps to promote calmness. You can soak some pellets before you stuff them into a Kong or mix it with wet food. Once your dog enjoys the Kong, you can make it more challenging for him by freezing the food inside the Kong. Place a straw through the two holes of the Kong to prevent suction. Remove the straw before you give the Kong to your dog. Ideally, you want to do this on warmer days when your dog will appreciate a frozen treat.

2. Scatter feeding Dogs smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans and they love to use their noses, which is their main sense. Let them use it by sniffing for food around the house or garden. Sprinkle some of your dog’s food in a safe and small area around him. When he gets used to this game, scatter his food in a larger area so that it takes longer for him to find the food. Nosework is extremely tiring for dogs and this is one excellent way to alleviate boredom. You can also use a snuffle mat to keep the food in one specific place.

Would you like to read the rest of this article? Get the August 2022 edition of Animaltalk magazine now at retailers or order a printed or digital copy now from



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