Debunking the label with Kirsten Dillon - Part 2
DEBUNKING THE LABEL WITH KIRSTEN DILLON
Last month’s blog post, looked into how dogs were biologically classified as ‘carnivorous scavengers’, meaning that their diet should mostly consist of meat, and be obtained via their natural behaviours of scavenging and foraging.
Meeting our dogs’ ethological needs
If we simply put down a bowl of food, we are not necessarily meeting any of these needs. Studies have shown that when we meet our dogs ‘ethological needs’ i.e. their natural desire to perform certain behaviour patterns, we can actually change our dog’s brain structure and improve their cognitive (learning) abilities.
This is why, if you have ever met me, met one of my clients, or listened to one of my live Q & A sessions on Natural instinct’s Facebook page(INSERT LINK), you will hear me advise the use of ‘environmental enrichment’ via different food delivery practices, time and time again.
Using a Kong toy
Your very best friend in your enrichment endeavours will be a Kong toy. Many owners have a Kong, but few are using it to its best effect. Stuffing a Kong toy full of your (semi) frozen Natural Instinct foods and treats and feeding all meals exclusively this way has many, many beneficial effects.
What are the benefits?
Licking and chewing are known to be the two of the three most stress relieving things a dog can do, a Kong provides the opportunity for them to do both to their heart’s content. This is why we try to stuff them with the food still as frozen as is possible.
Kongs are also made to roll around in a certain way, mimicking escaping animals, this taps nicely into those with a penchant for stalking and chasing down ‘prey’. Basically, our dogs get to forage, scavenge, root, chase and stalk. All vital behaviours for their wellbeing.
Sniffing or scenting
I mentioned two of the three most stress relieving behaviours. The other behaviour is sniffing or scenting.
Scatter treats around the house, the garden and out on walks and encourage your dog to go search for them. Start out easy and increase the difficulty. Some dogs will search for half an hour for just one small treat as the benefit is in the looking as much or if not more, than in the finding. Natural Instinct’s fish skins, chicken hearts, whitebait and beef jerky (cut up) are perfect for these games.
One large study hypothesised that enrichment through feeding actually helps with all sorts of unwanted behaviours such as OCD type tail chasing, licking, shadow chasing etc., excessive barking, boredom chewing, coprophagy (poo eating) and also with a lack of appetite as it stimulates the desire to eat.
Lastly, there are numerous games and products on the market which help with enrichment feeding, so for more information on enriching your dog’s life through natural behaviours take a look at the wonderful Facebook group Canine Enrichment UK to start you off.