If you've read this blog for long enough, and maybe even for not so long, you will know that Her Royal Highness Princess Hermione Sophia is one high energy dog. Sometimes she drives me nuts, but most of the time, I embrace her Crazy with enthusiasm and try to figure out ways to keep her occupied.
Since my aunt's been here from BC, most of my hard work has been non-existent. We've taken the dogs hiking about every second day and it's been great for Hermione. I know that if I could see, and hence could drive, most of Hermione's energy would be better spent, chasing rabbits/squirrels/chipmunks and running as fast as her little legs can carry her. However, since I am blind and can't drive, I have to find other ways.
So, yesterday I decided that I'd find a new way of dispensing her supper.
A few weeks back I started doing a lot of my obedience training with her during her meals. It's something that I've kept up and I think is helping. Most mornings if I don't ask her for a "touch" or a "hit it" she won't eat the food that is in her bowl. That said, I knew that since my aunt is leaving and our hours long hikes are coming to an end, I needed to find a way to get Hermione moving in the house in a positive manner.
I've always liked the idea of food dispensing toys. We used to have Kong Wobblers, but moving from country to country has meant leaving the toys behind. Not to mention, Hermione was afraid of the Kong Wobbler. I didn't have any food dispensing toys on hand so I tried to come up with something I could make myself.
When Hermione was a puppy I used to put part of her breakfast in a paper towel tube. I'm not sure why this particular tube was as sturdy as it was, but it seemed to be industrial strength. She used to push it all over the floor, her puppy kibbles spilling out. She loved it. An empty paper towel tube would be way too easy for her now.
What could I use?
Empty water bottles!
Hermione likes playing with them anyway, so why not turn one into a food dispenser?
I set to work with knife and scissors, cutting small holes out of the sides of the bottle. I made two and found that I had to tape the edges of some of the holes on my first attempt to cover up some sharpish edges. Other than managing to stab myself in the palm when shoving the knife through the first bottle, it turned out pretty good.
At supper time, I took the lids off of the bottles and funnelled Hermione's and Otis's portions into the bottles.
I fed the big dogs from their bowls as I don't want Nala thinking she should forage for food on the floor. I'm not sure using food dispensing toys would create this habit, but I wasn't about to take any chances. I'm sure it depends on the dog.
Lids tightly screwed back on, I set the bottles down on the floor and stepped back to wait. Otis, being the brave guy that he is, investigated the bottles and pushed one over. Hermione stomped her front paws and huffed, circling the still upright second bottle. She did this for some time and so I laid it down for her, thinking that it was too challenging. She still didn't know what to do. I stepped back and waited.
Didn't I want her brain to be challenged?
After about five minutes I could tell she was getting frustrated. She kept coming over to me and stomping her paws or woofing softly. It was time to get out the clicker since my verbal encouragement seemed to be confusing her even more.
I went and sat down on the floor beside the bottle. Hermione sat in front of the bottle, what she is supposed to do before eating out of her bowl. I placed my hand near the bottle and had her do a "touch." She did it and was rewarded with a click. Then, I had her do a "hit it." It was with this "hit it" that I think the lights started turning on. She moved closer to the bottle and I clicked. The instant I heard her paw hit the bottle I clicked. My clicking frenzy continued throughout the whole thing. Part way through I realised that I could use this to encourage her to play quietly. Every time she engaged with the bottle quietly, which could include soft grumbles, she got a click. If she full out barked at the bottle, no click.
I have to admit that this is not completely flawless as there were a few times where she hit the bottle and I clicked when she used her voice. My timing was off because I heard her paw before her voice.
by the end of her meal, Hermione had figured out how to whack the home made dog food dispensing toy around the whole living room. She even figured out how to get it out of corners.
Although I am going to count this as a success, if I want to have Hermione and Otis eat from my home made toys again, I am going to have to make new ones. Once dinner had been dispensed, Otis promptly tore one of the bottles in half and Roscoe squashed the second one flat trying to get one last kibble out that the small dogs had left behind. I haven't decided whether I want to risk stabbing myself or not again, but if I don't, I think actual dog food dispensing toys bought from a store may be our next purchase. That said, if you're ever in a pinch, the water bottle toys do work.