We all know that dogs absolutely love food. It’s no secret that the way to their heart is through their mouth. This is why playing food games with your dog will give them the best of both worlds – games AND food!
So forget what your mother taught you about not playing with your food – it’s time to show your dog how they can play food games!
Food games have many benefits
Besides contributing to your dog’s physical health, playing different, fun and interactive food games also stimulates the brain, becoming a positive outlet for hyper energy, defeating boredom and increasing your dog’s confidence as a whole. Plus, it’s a great indoor pastime during the colder months when they’d rather be spending time indoors.
There’s also a subtle bonding exercise that goes on whenever you reward your dog with food. In your dog’s eyes, because you’re giving them food, they understand that you are their master – you are in charge of the yummy stuff! In turn, they understand the need to obey you.
Dogs love to sniff out new smells, including other dog’s butts or embarrassingly, other people’s! So when you call your dog over to a food game, your dog ‘nose’ it’s going to be fun!
Caroline’s fun food games for your dog
Here are some great food game activities that will exercise your dog’s brain as much as their body.
Search & Find
The game is played in a safe, enclosed area, such as your backyard or inside your house. The object of the game is to throw a treat and let your dog find it. It’s a great game for physical and mental exercise.
How to teach your dog to play Search & Find:
- Call your dog over to you and reward them for coming with a tasty treat.
- Show the treat in your hand and say ‘Find’ or ‘Search’ (whichever word you use, use that word consistently), and throw the treat a short distance away and in clear sight.
- When your dog pounces on the food, mark the behavior by saying “Yes” or “Good” (again, use the one word consistently) and reward them with another treat.
Do this process a few times and each time throw the treat farther and farther away into long grass, bushes and holes or even flower pots - if he’s allowed! Once your dog is familiar with the ‘find it’ game, you can stop rewarding them for finding the treat.
Dog Food Puzzles
Dog food puzzles are wonderful interactive toys with food in them to entertain your dog and exercise the mind. They particularly benefit puppies and senior dogs, giving them mental stimulation and challenging them to work out the puzzle for a treat reward.
Plus, dog food puzzles keep them interested in something other than chewing the shoes, the kids’ toys or the furniture.When choosing a dog food puzzle toy for your pooch, keep in mind that expensive toys don’t necessarily mean they are good quality, fun or more importantly, durable and safe to play with. Do your research, check with your vet and ask other dog owners for their experience before purchasing a food puzzle toy for your dog. And when you do get a new toy, it’s a good idea to supervise your dog playing with it and consult your vet if you have any safety concerns.
A variety of interactive dog food puzzle toys are available for dogs of all sizes.
The Entertaineze Dog Puzzle Ball
The Entertaineze Dog Puzzle Ball is made of a durable and slightly springy rubber, which is great for chewing. Simply poke treats through the hole with flaps on the top and it’s ready for your dog to start rolling and chewing to get the treats to fall through the maze inside and out of the bottom hole.
The Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Mazee
The Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Mazee is also an engaging and rewarding dog puzzle toy, featuring a translucent and colourful inner maze that can hold small-sized treats. It’s very durable but not made for excessive chewing. Your dog can kick and lick the toy to release the treat – a food game well played!
Dog Food Games
There are many dog food games that are simple yet challenging for dogs. Canines are smart and they’ll love a game where they get to exercise their senses.
The Shell Game
To play the Shell Game or Cup Game, you need two plastic opaque cups and doggy treats – each treat small enough to fit inside one cup.
- Take the two plastic cups and turn them over.
- Place a treat under one of the cups, with your dog watching.
- Prompt your dog to turn over the cup and get the treat.
- If your dog selects the correct cup, reward with the treat. If your dog tips over the empty cup, show them the treat under the correct cup but don’t reward.
- Repeat the process until your dog learns to select the cup with the treat.
As your dog masters the game, you can increase the challenge by placing the treat under one cup and then switching places with another cup. Later on, you can make it even more stimulating by adding a third plastic cup!
Tennis Ball in Muffin Pan Game
Another version of the Shell Game is one that involves tennis balls, a cupcake/muffin pan, and treats – each treat small enough to place inside one hole in the pan.
- Place 6 tennis balls in a 6 cupcake/muffin pan (or 12 tennis balls in a 12 cupcake/muffin pan).
- Hide a treat under one of the balls when your dog is NOT watching.
- Call your dog over and watch them pick up each ball and celebrate finding the hidden treat with a tennis ball game!
To make a food piñata, tie a string to the end of a small cardboard box stuffed with some yummy treats. Then, dangle the piñata or hang it somewhere sturdy, such as a strong tree branch, so it can hold your dog’s weight when they pull it down and tries to break into it to get to the treats inside.
More tips for dog food play
How about combining all the dog food games together so your dog can play one game after another, like a Dog Food Games Olympics!
If your pooch doesn’t want to play with a dog food toy or a game, don’t force them. It’s meant to be a fun activity, not a chore.
Whichever dog food toy or game tickles your dog’s fancy, it’s a good idea to stop playing before they get bored. That way, they will always want to play more!