By Sara B. Hansen
Some dogs are finicky eaters. Some dogs inhale their food.
And then there are dogs like my sweet Sydney who are grazers. She eats her food, but always in her own sweet time.
Sydney’s also a social eater. My Australian shepherd-corgi mix likes nothing better than to bring a mouthful of her food from her bowl into the room where I am. Then, she drops it and then sniffs it out of the carpet and eats it — piece by piece.
So I was curious to see how she’d do with the PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat, which is designed to engage your dog’s powerful sense of smell and mimic the hunt for food in grass. The mat’s created to feed both their bellies and their brains.
We tried the PAW5 Wooly mat as part of our participation in the PAW5 5-day enrichment challenge.
I dumped a cup of her dry food on the mat and she immediately ran over and started eating. Considering she sometimes takes the better part of a day (or two) to eat a meal, it was exciting to see her tackle her food with such enthusiasm.
We’ve continued to use it, putting one of her scoops on the PAW5 Wooly mat most days. She still shows the same enthusiasm for eating meals off the mat.
Taking the 5-day enrichment challenge was fun for Sydney and educational for me.
I like to think I take good care of my dog and it was gratifying to see I’d been providing plenty of enrichment for Sydney without being conscious that was what I was doing.
From the time she was little, we’ve taken daily walks.
When she was a puppy, we took up to five short walks a day so she could stretch her little legs and take needed potty breaks.
And because she’s always been a pokey eater, I’d try to entice her to eat by filling a small Kong toy with her food each day. I’d come home at the end of the day to find the Kong empty.
As she’s gotten older, I’ve looked for new ways to make her meals fun. We tired a puzzle bowl, but it didn’t draw her interest. That’s why I was so happy to see her be intrigued by the PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat. It’s just different enough to catch her attention without being too daunting to intimidate her.
Over the years, we’ve tried different things to challenge Sydney’s sharp little brain. As a puppy, we took first puppy kindergarten and then basic obedience classes.
As an older dog, we started taking regular agility classes.
Sydney seemed to enjoy the agility components of her puppy classes and I always thought it was something she’d enjoy.
But I failed to make the time for it until I read an article about things dog owners could do to help their pets stave off doggy alzheimer’s disease. One of the suggestions was agility.
Not only do the classes provide physical and mental challenges for her, they’ve also been a wonderful tool to boost our bond.
She’s always been well behaved, but now we’re much more in tune. Sydney anticipates what I’ll want and she listens like a champ.
The classes also made my formerly very shy dog a lot more confident and assertive. She’s much better at meeting new people and dogs. And while before she was very rigid and only wanted to take one or two routes when we walked, now she’s ready to explore and we’ve wandered down most of the streets in our neighborhood.
Bottom line: Experiment and find the tools (like the PAW5 Wooly) and experiences (regular walks, agility) that work the best for you so you can make sure you’re helping your dog live her life to the fullest.
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She decided to create her own dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. She grew up with family dogs and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She currently shares her heart and home with Sydney, an Australian Shepherd-Corgi mix. You can reach Sara @ firstname.lastname@example.org.