CONTRAFREELOADING.....google it

For those googly challenged I have dutifully provided the definition. "The term was coined in 1963 by animal psychologist Glen Jensen.[1] In his original study, around 200 rats were given a choice between food in a bowl and a food dispenser which required that the rat step on the pedal a set number of times. In this experiment, Jensen found that the rats chose the foot pedal option as a function of the number of foot presses required to receive the food reward. Similar studies by Jensen and other researchers have since replicated his findings with gerbils and other animals including canines, mice, rats, birds, fish, monkeys and chimpanzees. The only animal that did not display similar behavior was the domesticated cat, which preferred to be served."- Wikipedia


It is the premise that almost all creatures on earth enjoy the act of playing with their food. Human's strongly discourage this in their offspring, but occasionally you will still find people making castles with gravy moats out of their mashed potatoes or building delicious tents with waffles to house their side of eggs. In fact, some have so mastered the art that tic toc is full of these feats of engineering and artistry that I question the ability to eat these creations at all.


If we consider the fact that dog play is dedicated to the rehearsal of predatory behaviours in various parts of the sequence, then it makes total sense that they would enjoy the act of outsmarting and devouring their food. The feelings of accomplishment and a job well done resulting in delicious reinforcement.


In fact, some behaviourists estimate that 90% of behaviour problems can be mitigated (if not totally eradicated) with the addition of a mental stimulation program. There are an awful lot of behaviour problems we can attribute to boredom or a lack of direction as to what to do all day while you go out and earn the kibble. Zoo's and sanctuaries have known this for decades and work very hard to provide environmental enrichment for all their animals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js-apSg4M5A


I would argue that if you keep any animal at all in your home, you owe it to them to provide appropriate enrichment opportunities to forage, chase, hunt, and "kill" their own meals. If they were left to their own devices in the wild, they would spend most of the day hunting for food. They would feast or starve according to their luck and efforts. Some dogs are more skilled at this and some breeds would arguably starve to death given a lack of human intervention, but all dogs enjoy the opportunity to "hunt" given a healthy mental and physical state. If we leave dogs to job seek on their own they almost always end up in criminal activities.


So throw out your food bowls and come up with some creative ways to facilitate the hunt. Use food balls, wobblers, kongs, snuffle mats. Come up with some ways to use every bit of your recycling bin first for dog toys (all drink containers go through two levels of recycling in our house). Feeding breakfast in a taped up cereal box in the backyard, freezing their raw onto a lick mat, stuff breakfast into a two litre pop bottle, and watch the fun. Start off easy and come up with more and more complex and fun ways to ensure your dog is mentally challenged and receiving fulfillment from their day. Join one of the many enrichment facebook pages and learn how to employ your dogs daily.



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