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Food puzzles provide your dog with endless benefits, like mental stimulation, a physical connection to his food, and just plain old fun!
But, many pet parents make the mistake of filling a new puzzle, plunking it down, and waiting for their dog to just figure it out. That can lead to frustration, which can lead to your dog losing interest in the work.
Instead, you have to teach your dog to do a food puzzle. Here’s how:
Instead of filling a puzzle with your dog’s entire dinner and expecting him to get to work in order to eat, start with a super smelly, very tasty treat. Pick a treat or food you know will motivate your dog to try and try again. For my dog, Cooper, it’s broken-up string cheese!
Set Up a Win
Make sure your dog “earns” the food reward on his first try. If that means toggling the puzzle’s controls to an easier setting or placing the food in a spot or chamber without any obstructions, do it. For his very first practice session, your dog should get the food on every attempt. It’ll help keep him excited, focused, and motivated.
As your dog engages with the toy, even if he hasn’t “found” the food yet, say, “What a good boy!” It doesn’t really matter what you say, as long as you’re cheering him on every step of the way. Make sure he knows you’re happy about his efforts–the food reward is just gravy!
If it seems like your pup is starting to get the hang of it, make it a bit more difficult step by step. Puzzles should be fun and enriching for your pup, not frustrating. A gradual introduction in small steps will ensure that he enjoys the game to its fullest!