Food for enrichment
One of the many things manufacturers of dry, tinned and pouch dog food totally and disdainfully ignore is what is known in animal husbandry terms as food-based behavioural enrichment. It’s all part of behavioural enrichment for dogs. Making our dogs’ lives better in other words.
It sounds a bit of a mouthful but actually it’s pretty simple. All animals, even domesticated dogs and cats, are hard-wired to work for their food. Further more, they are pre-programmed to enjoy this challenge. It provides them with both mental and physical stimulation.
Food for dogs
Take the case of my two dogs. As every man and his dog (every pun intended) is aware, I make homemade food for my dogs. In addition to numerous treats and samplings as befits their roles as chief and assistant chief taster, my dogs are fed two meals a day. Importantly, no two meals in any given day are exactly the same. In their case, it’s more than possible that no two meals in a week are exactly the same but that’s my choice. I love my dogs and witness first hand every single day the joy and excitement of dogs who really do look forward to their food. It’s a fact that food is one of life’s great pleasures for most human beings. Why should it not be the same for our companion animals?
So I use bowls that make my dogs work hard for their food. It’s a bit like us using cutlery or the likes of chopsticks. Now we could simply scoop the food off our plates with our fingers and shovel it straight into our mouths. But how much more pleasure there is in savouring our food, one mouthful at a time as we are compelled to do if we use eating implements. As is the case of my dogs, our food – and by inference the pleasure – lasts longer, and it’s a whole lot healthier because we don’t suffer with bloat, something which, in terms of dogs, is potentially fatal.
Food for life
So my dogs never know what food they’re going to find in their bowls from one meal to the next. I like to think that before every meal there is that mentally stimulating question for them. I wonder what we’re going to be eating today? Chicken? Beef? Fish? If it’s beef will it be PAD beef, stewing steak or minced beef, because the smell and the texture of each is totally different. Then there’s the liver, heart and tongue they enjoy so much and which offer them so many health benefits. Which of those might we find in our bowls today, they might ask?
Or maybe it will be fish, in which case will it be cod or sea bass? Or will it be fresh or tinned mackerel because once again each has a different smell, taste and texture. Whatever it is, will it be boiled, steamed, casseroled or slow cooked? What fruit and vegetables will accompany the protein – pick one of dozens and you could still be wrong. Tonight, as it happens, it’s potatoes, kale, courgettes, runner beans, tomatoes, apples and wild blackberries, all grown in my garden, that will accompany their low-fat beef mince.
Food for thought
Bottom line, my dogs spend a lot of time thinking – and thinking is good for dogs by the way – about what they might be eating and enjoying next. Compare that with a dog fed twice a day on dry dog food who, if he or she lives to, say, fourteen, will eat 10,220 meals which apart from being nutritionally compromised and exactly the same, offer nothing whatsoever in the way of imagination or mental stimulation. Where’s the behavioural enrichment for dogs in that?
For me personally, that simply doesn’t bear thinking about!