Like lots of dog trainers, Mark was fairly adamant that dogs do better if they are not fed from a bowl. He might even have said, “Get rid of Teddy’s food bowl!” – the idea being that working for food not only lets your dog act like a dog (they naturally scavenge) but also keeps boredom at bay, stops them wolfing down their food and gives them a bit of exercise into the bargain.
We’ve been down this road with Teddy before. He had a dog puzzle with flaps for hiding food which was far too complicated for Ted: he barked at it, pawed it, nosed it, barked a bit more and, despite some dedicated encouragement on our part (the toy was not cheap, and surely Teddy was not thick), he eventually gave up and walked away.
Then we discovered a twisty spinning thing that Teddy loved. With a gentle nudge of the nose, it was meant to deliver a slow trickle of food. Trouble was that Teddy learned to spin it so frantically and so efficiently that food was soon flying in all directions. The fun was over in a 30 seconds max: too easy.
The Beaphar Activity Ball is an altogether different dog feeding toy. It comes in two sizes (Teddy has the larger one – the smaller one is popular with puppies and, interestingly, rabbits), and has been a steady seller for over 20 years. The concept is simple. It’s a big plastic ball with two holes through which you dribble dry kibble (the ball doesn’t come apart, so you wouldn’t want to put anything mucky or sticky in it). When rolled, the ball randomly dispenses the food.
There’s something about the design, possibly combined with the size of Teddy’s current dry food (Royal Canin Sensitivity Control, since you ask) that clearly works, because the food doesn’t just spill out, but keeps Teddy guessing, and going.
Watching him course around the kitchen – nose glued to ball, head down and body low, doing his Schnauzer-best to look like a pointer – he is an entirely different dog. Completely engaged and utterly focused on getting the job done.
The only down side? When the ball gets stuck in a corner Ted barks. A lot. Although last night he also managed to work out that purposely nosing the ball into the corner and continually pawing it sends kibble out of the little holes more predictably. See? He is a clever boy, after all.