WILL WORK FOR FOOD
If you are struggling with crate training your puppy, with puppy boredom or with an overactive puppy or dog, this blog post is for you! All dogs and puppies are happier, healthier and easier to train when they are mentally stimulated. One easy way to challenge your puppy is to have them work for their food. Every time we set down a bowl of food, we are missing a great opportunity to entertain and stimulate our puppy. These are also great for fast eaters, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety (offer when leaving) and for in crate entertainment. Oh, and in case you have lacked any "intimate time" since purchasing your puppy, these are also great for escaping to your room in peace for long enough . . .
Not sure how to make your puppy work for their food? Here are some examples:
LEVEL ONE - SNUFFLE MATS AND SLOW FEEDERS
Many breeders use snuffle mats with puppies as a part of the weaning and play process. Start by hiding a few high value treats in this mat and work up to feeding an entire meal. Placing a high quality kibble in the mat will slow your dogs eating, entertain them in a crate or pen and allow your dog or puppy to learn to work to find their food. Most LierChonPoo puppies and dogs will have been exposed to one of these options:
Small Snuffle Mat - This mat is inexpensive and travels easily. It's suitable for both puppies and adults.
Medium Snuffle & Play Mat - We love this medium mat with multiple places to hide treats and food for entire litters, households with more than one small dog or larger breeds. We also love that it's easy to wash and we recommend doing so weekly.
Slow feeders are similar but are simply a mechanism to slow a fast eater and are not as stimulating as a snuffle mat. You can increase the entertainment value of a slow feeder by mixing your kibble with a quality wet food which takes significantly longer to eat when spread on the walls of the feeder.
LEVEL TWO - SNOOPS
Snoops are advertised as being an interactive treat dispenser but we regularly use them as a bowl to feed and entertain puppies by placing a mixture of kibble and other food inside and using it as a bowl. We start these before feeding in Kongs because they are easier for the puppy to manipulate. To make it tougher, you can purchase the smiley face insert; however, we've found it easier to simply put a mixture of food and larger components in the Snoop to make it more challenging. For example, we will introduce these with a small amount of kibble mixed with a few high value treats. Once the dog has acclimated we will replace the treats with some larger pieces of cooked chicken or jerky that make getting to the food more difficult. Plugging the whole in the bottom with a treat or kibble or adding something like peanut butter (never with artificial sweetener) or plain yogurt can also increase the challenge. Snoops can be placed in the dishwasher (top rack) and we love that they are coated with a mint oil to help keep breath fresh. Our young dogs will work on these for 20-30 minutes which is great entertainment while we clean their space, sneak out the door for errands, etc.
LEVEL THREE - KONGS
The Kong is perhaps the most popular "work for food" toy on the market. For puppies, you want to begin with the small binkie Kong and get the multi-pack as you will need multiple kongs in order to keep them cleaned and stuffed. As your puppy progresses and grows (or to feed entire meals), move up to the medium. We have done an entire blog post HERE on how to stuff a kong from simple to more complex. What we will repeat here is that the Kong is a great way to make a puppy work for food and a great way to reward and entertain a puppy in the crate.
LEVEL FOUR - PUZZLES & INTERACTIVE TOYS
It is rare that we use a puzzle or toy to feed an entire meal but it can be done. If you are feeding a high calorie dense kibble such as PawTree, you can actually fit an entire meal in one of these toys.
Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy and Tug-A-Jug are very popular with our puppies but we don't use them as often as they can be difficult to clean and are really only suitable for kibble or treats (no option of mixing in wet or raw ingredients). They can also be a little loud depending on how the dog learns to dispense the treats. Again, if using these frequently, please make sure you are only using high quality single ingredient treats and are factoring in these calories so your puppy or dog doesn't end up overweight.
Puzzle Toys are also fun but with a few warnings. You MUST supervise both dogs and puppies with these type toys as most of them have pieces that can be chewed and even swallowed if care is not taken. They can also be a hassle to clean.
Lick Mats - These popular lick mats are also a hit with our puppies and dogs. We generally pull these out only for special occasions where we want to both reward and entertain the dogs for a while (think furniture being delivered, neighbor stopping by, etc.). In order to successfully use these mats you must find a combination to spread on the mat that is both healthy and irresistible to your pooch. Several of the suggestions we've discussed in Kong stuffing can also work here. For our dogs, we take it up a notch and keep these in the freezer already prepared with one of the following: natural peanut butter mixed with plain greek yogurt, puree pumpkin mixed with peanut butter or yogurt, Ollie dog food spread and re-frozen or Ollie mixed with yogurt.
We hope this post has been helpful and that you'll let us know what works and what doesn't, Please remember that any toy or bowl which doesn't entertain your pet can be donated to your local shelter for a dog in need so it's never a waste to experiment.
HOW TO HANDLE PICKY EATING
Lots of puppy owners claim to have a picky eater, but more often than not we've found the owner might me misreading cues or making assumptions. If not careful, before you know it owners determined to pamper their pup are literally feeding filet from their hand without really understanding the issue.If you aren't careful, it's very easy to CREATE a picky eater. Before labeling your puppy or dog as a picky eater, try these tips:
If you have considered all of these factors and determined that your dog really is a picky eater, here are the steps you should take (in order) before offering filet from your hand.
We specifically ask our Guardian Homes and owners NOT to ask strangers on Facebook what to feed their dog. The majority of owners on forums are not veterinarians, do not properly research animal nutrition and often recommend foods that are poorly rated simply because someone else suggested them (or their vet sells them). We wrote this post to share what we feed our own dogs and the options (kibble, fresh and raw) we share with our owners. We do not cover foods sold in many veterinarian’s office but would recommend you research those options as well. If a food is recommended and you would like to read a neutral review, we suggest using Dog Food Advisor to look up any food. You may be surprised at what you find from some of the most commonly recommended and expensive vet suggested brands. Please note for us to recommend a food it must have a 4.5 or higher rating with at least 30% protein and real meat as the primary ingredient.
Please remember that we aren't veterinarians, but we are very careful and picky about what we feed our dogs. We talk to our vets. We do our homework. We talk to other breeders. We read labels. We study dog nutrition. We know that when breeding dogs, proper nutrition is the foundation to healthy animals and we've seen first-hand which brands work best on Cavaliers, Cavachons and Cavapoos. We also know that every owner and every dog is different. We do not judge other people's decisions on what to feed, as long as they are doing the best they can for their dog. We would encourage owners to investigate all of the following options:
KIBBLE - Kibble is only a small part of our dog's diet; however, most owners prefer kibble as the primary source of their dog's nutrition. We would encourage you to also consider adding home cooked and / or raw to your dog’s menu if possible. If you plan to feed only kibble, it's vitally important that you choose the best one you can afford. Kibble can often get a bad rap due to recalls, poor nutritional value and low-quality proteins but some are better than others. Here are our choices (based on where you prefer to shop):
PAWTREE OPTIONS - We were approached to test PawTree kibble on our dogs and have really enjoyed this company. We have found their claims to be true (less food, less poop, healthier dogs) and our dogs enjoy their products. We are currently feeding a rotation of Salmon & Sweet Potato, Whitefish & Brown Rice and Chicken & Oatlmeal formulas. We are also in love with their raw treats and superfoood seasonings (for that picky eater in the pack). By joining their PawClub and setting up an EZ-Ship these products enjoy free shipping!
1. Instinct Original Small Breed Dog Food (Grain Free) - This is a grain free option whose first five ingredients include chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas and tapioca. We only recommend this for dogs who require a grain-free option. Contains 39% protein.
2. Diamond Naturals Small Breed – This is a grain inclusive option whose first four ingredients include chicken, chicken meal, cracked pearled barley and ground white rice. It contains 30% protein.
1. Nulo Freestyle Small Breed (Grain Free) – This is a grain free option whose first four ingredients include Deboned salmon, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal and salmon meal. There is chicken in this recipe so it’s not suitable for dogs who are allergic to chicken. This kibble contains 34% protein.
2. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed – This is a grain inclusive option whose first four ingredients are Deboned turkey, chicken meal, salmon meal and oatmeal. This kibble contains protein. This kibble contains 31% protein.
HOME COOKED - Many new dog owners get confused with the difference between "raw feeding" (which is based on foods that are not cooked) and "home cooked" which is simply preparing your dog’s food at home from ingredients such as lean meats, vegetables and carbohydrates. This is easy to confuse. For example, we will share a puppy loaf (below) which can be served raw or cooked - it would fall in both categories.
While we do make home cooked meals for our dogs, we find it a challenge to provide all the nutritional elements necessary. We also find from our owners that truly nutritionally balanced home-cooked meals can also be time consuming, more expensive and frustrating (to make sure your dog gets all the nutrients needed). A few of our favorite recipes can be found on Damn Delicious and Food.com. We also regularly add grilled or dehydrated chicken or boiled eggs to our dogs other meals.
Luckily, today's dogs also have another great option which is "home cooked" meals delivered to your home. Many are less expensive than you may expect. Our dogs currently LOVE Ollie. This is also a great option for dogs who need a limited ingredient diet for allergies.
RAW FEEDING - This is a passionate and controversial topic. Those who support raw feeding feel that anything less is acceptable. Meanwhile, new dog owners find raw feeding confusing, time consuming and not often in line with their vet's recommendations. If you have an interest in raw feeding a Cavalier or a Cavalier hybrid, we suggest you turn to Dt. Judy Morgan. Her recipe for puppy loaf is a great introduction to raw feeding.
Another great option to get started in raw nutrition is using freeze dried and frozen raw products available through retailers and your local specialty dog food store. We rely heavily on freeze dried raw when we travel, want to introduce a new dog to raw gently and want to supplement with raw. These products provide raw benefits without you having to grind, chop, measure or mix the ingredients yourself! Here are our suggestions to help you get started on raw feeding your dogs:
1. Primal Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food – This brand has tons of flavors and are a breeze to serve. You literally just re-hydrate the nuggets with water (or bone broth) and serve.
2. Instinct Frozen Raw Bites (Grain Free Options) – Also available in patties. Another reputable brand with a wide variety of flavors. This is a grain free option that contains 85% beef and organs. Stored in the freezer, you do need to thaw these prior to serving but they thaw quickly.
AMAZON.COM OPTIONS – Please note that we don’t purchase frozen products from Amazon so this only includes their freeze dried options.
1. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw Dinner Patties – Another brand we love for travel but not all the flavors are created equal. We were surprised to learn that some of the flavors are not highly ranked so please keep it to Chicken, Venison Blend or Rabbit in this option.
2. Vital Essentials Beef Entree Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food – This is a great grain free option that is beef only (for those sensitive to chicken). We do not recommend this as the sole food in your dog's diet as
Let us conclude by again repeating that nutrition plays a fundamental role in your dog’s health. You shouldn’t be afraid to try a few different things to see how their skin, coat and energy change. At the end of the day, dog food is a personal choice based on your dog, your time and your budget. Don't surrender that choice to strangers with little to no knowledge of any of those factors and always discuss any dietary concerns with your vet first.
WHAT TO FEED YOUR NEW PUPPY?
Several times a day, well-meaning members of various Facebook forums will ask other well meaning members what they should feed their puppy. Members who are not vets, are not breeders and have not read the ingredients on their own dogs food will then tell new dog owners what food to buy usually based on what their dog "likes." And then inevitably, others will chime in criticizing the choice to feed kibble in the first place and at the end of the day I imagine many group members regret asking the question as they get a 50+ responses, none of the helpful,
So as not to be a hypocrite please remember that we also ARE NOT vets, but we are very careful about what we feed our dogs. We talk to our vets. We do our homework. We talk to other breeders. We read labels. We study dog nutrition. We also do not judge other people's decisions on what to feed, as long as they are doing the best they can for their dog. Every breed, every dog and every owner is different. We would encourage owners to investigate all of the following options:
HOW TO STUFF A KONG
We've mentioned in prior posts that we are a fan of the Kong for training and occupying puppies; however, we've also found that people can be confused about what to do with the Kong and exactly how to get a puppy interested in playing with it. We also know there are a lot of products available at pet stores to stuff Kongs but they aren't necessarily healthy options or good for young puppies. Here are a few basic ideas and recipes to get you started on Kong stuffing and to give you the confidence to start creating your own recipes and strategies.
SHOPPING LIST: You don't need all of these items but will want a combination of dry goods and "mashable" healthy foods to layer your Kong:
These are just a few ideas to help you understand the progression of Kong stuffing and how it can occupy your puppy. Don't be afraid to experiment with different recipes to find a few favorites that your dog will love. Just be aware of the added calories and sugar and consider stuffed Kong when making sure your dog gets a balanced diet.
Does your dog have a favorite Kong recipe? We'd love for you to share it here!
OCCUPY YOUR PUPPY: AN AMAZON LIST
Occupying your puppy is a key element to training success. It makes crate training easier, it helps to reduce destructive behaviors like chewing shoes and furniture, it reduces teething pain and it allows for distraction when nipping or barking. In order to effectively train a puppy, it's best to have a full arsenal of tools on hand and to rotate them to prevent boredom. While this may seem like a long list, it will take trial and error to really figure out what will work for your puppy. And remember, any items your puppy doesn't use or enjoy can be dropped off at your local animal shelter for less fortunate dogs who would LOVE something new! Below is our list of items we have on hand and what we use them for:
CRATE TRAINING - One key to crate training is to make the crate or pen somewhere your puppy wants to go, Not only should it be a safe place, but it should also have some stimulation to reduce boredom, barking and whining. One easy way to make that happen is to feed your puppy in the crate and to also provide stimulating rewards. For crate training, look for items that last a while and don't require supervision. Items that could cause choking should be avoided - and never use rawhide. Here are our top picks (click on each to go directly to Amazon):
GENERAL CHEWING - Dogs chew for multiple reasons including boredom and teething. Getting to the bottom of why your dog is chewing might help you choose the correct toy or product. Also, if your dog is simply bored, the best solution is always increasing exercise and mental stimulation through training. Below are some of our favorite solutions for teething and mental stimulation:
TRAINING TREATS - Training your puppy is great because it's not only mental stimulation that reduces bad behaviors but it also helps the puppy bond with you. The key to training is high value treats that the dog really wants to earn. That being said you also want to make sure it's okay for their tummies. A lot of dog treats are loaded with bad ingredients and things that can be harmful for your puppy. Try a few of these treats to find one that your puppy really enjoys and when shopping always look for single ingredients, natural ingredients and treats that can be broken in to small pieces for training sessions. Here are a few of our favorites but don't be afraid to also try home cooked treats or pieces of deli meat, ground beef, etc.
While this blog has focused on puppies, we use every item here for our grown dogs, we simply size up on some of the Kong type toys and don't break the treats in half! Best wishes in occupying your pup . . .
REDUCING THE APPEARANCE OF TEAR STAINS
Online forums are full of misinformation on tear stains and owners are often too consumed with how to reduce the appearance without focusing on the cause of the tear stains. Before reading this post, please make sure you've read our post on the Causes of Tear Stains as the cause is much more important than the cosmetics.
Once you've determined what's causing your dog's stains, you now want to turn your attention to treating them and then minimizing their appearance. Some of these suggestions may not apply depending, again, on what's causing your dog's stains; however, none of them are harmful and may help reduce the appearance of the stains.
As a reminder, we aren't vets but we own lots of dogs and these are the solutions our vets have offered that we feel have worked. We do not recommend any tear stain supplement until you carefully research as many of them contain low dose antibiotics and are not good for long term use. We also don't recommend many other internet options such as tums or human eye drops!
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