Nutritional enrichment is the easiest and most fun form of enrichment to do with your dog.
Dogs, like us, are omnivorous, so they need to eat various meat, roots, fruit and vegetables to meet their nutritional requirements. Most pet dogs eat wet, dry or raw food, leaving plenty of room for some novelty and nutritional enrichment when it comes to meals or snacks.
We’ve mentioned using feeding toys to provide some enrichment before, but nutritional enrichment aims to bring more variety into our dogs’ lives.
Things to consider before introducing nutritional enrichment to your dog
- I frequently include the trusty “poisonous for dogs” list on our posts. It’s self-explanatory, don’t feed any of the foods on the poison list!
- Consider your own dog’s needs when it comes to nutritional enrichment: Do they have allergies? Are they trying to lose weight? Tailor your choices in nutritional enrichment accordingly. 60-pound Gunther can get away with much higher calorie options than 22-pound Bing.
- Does your dog tend to resource guard high-value objects, such as food? If so, be careful of what you give them and how you do it.
- Nutritional enrichment can be messy. Be ready to clean up after your dog. Maybe keep them away from any nice furnishings too.
How do I provide nutritional enrichment to my dog?
You can start simply by adding some novel veggies into their regular meals, but we use nutritional enrichment as an opportunity to provide a completely new stimulus to our dogs’ days.
About once or twice a week, Bing and Gunther will receive a buffet of new veggies, novel fruit, a little bit of meat, and some familiar treats to encourage them to snuffle through the bits they may not like to get to the yummy stuff.
We also have multiple feeding toys that we stuff with layers of different foods and then freeze to provide long-lasting enrichment. Use these as an afternoon calming activity if you’ve had a big runaround that morning and your dog needs something to keep them busy but doesn’t require much physical exertion. Add foods with different textures to keep them interested and some longer-lasting chews vertically to keep them working.
Nutritional enrichment gets addictive. There are Instagram accounts dedicated to it, and the creations featured on them are ridiculously aesthetic. Different feeding toys, lick mats and trays, all designed to be suitable for dogs, offer a load of novel ways to add random foods to your dog’s daily diet.
Gunther’s Favourite — Sodapup Mandala Feeding Tray
This mandala-shaped feeding tray from SodaPup comes in various colours and is extremely Insta-friendly. The large subsections are great for liquid, puree or paste-type foods, and there are many different segments to hide treats and snacks in.
We recommend supervising naughtier pups, as it doesn’t hold up very well to chewing—and, in fairness, it’s not meant to. Gunther has had a sneaky nibble or two on his one while trying to get the last few scraps of food out when we’ve left him alone for a few minutes.
As far as buffet-style nutritional enrichment goes, this one is the best.
Dishwasher and freezer safe.
Deep sections allow for multiple layers of food but are not too deep for flat-nosed breeds who can’t always get the last bits out of some toys.
Made of high-quality TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomer).
Some subsections are very small and tricky to clean properly without a dishwasher.
It’s large and too big to fit in our (admittedly tiny) freezer.
Bing’s Favourite — Westpaw Toppl
It took me a long time to be able to justify spending the money on a WestPaw Toppl, but as soon as I did, I understood the hype. Made of zero-waste “Zogoflex” in the USA, WestPaw describe this toy as being for moderate chewers.
Bing LOVES his Toppl and vibrates with excitement when I open the freezer to grab it for him. The small size is perfect for his shorter snoot, while the large is Gunther’s pre-nap snack on busy days.
The rounded bottom of the Toppl provides a slight challenge as your dog has to steady it to get the treats out.
Easy to layer different food into.
Very easy to clean without a dishwasher.
Expensive at $20 for the small (€23 in Ireland).
Less of a puzzle, so definitely more of a nutritional enrichment tool for our dogs
Liquids can leak out of the hole at the front when used by a novice stuffer!
Nutritional enrichment is our favourite way to add a bit of extra fun (and healthy calories) into Gunther and Bing’s days. Leftover fruit and veggie scraps are easy to find in our house, so it’s also a great budget friendly enrichment option for us.
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