Throw the feeding trough away!

Indeed, you read that correctly! Discard your dog’s feeding trough! In this blog, you will learn how to make the meal (or should I say: the experience) for your dog much more enjoyable, smarter, and satisfying. Through brainwork, also known as food puzzles (for every meal, not just ‘occasionally’ pulling them out of the cupboard!). Dogs are constantly learning from their environment! So, if you allow your dog to eat their food from a feeding trough, you are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to easily delight your dog. Read more about the scientific insights on this matter.

Challenge without frustration

The most important aspect is that the food puzzles should present a challenge but not lead to frustration. Food puzzles give your dog the opportunity to explore the environment. So instead of standing (or sometimes even sitting) ‘boringly’ in front of their bowl and gobbling up the food, it’s preferable to give your dog a food puzzle. And I can hear you thinking: “But they are difficult to clean,” and “Then it’s extra work for me.” Firstly: there are enough food puzzles (I will provide some links below) that are easy to clean. Secondly: did you know that a good food puzzle can replace a short sniffing walk (not for the necessary poop and pee rounds, of course, but brainwork is a must, especially for our poodle mixes). So why not turn mealtime into a brain teaser? After all, they have to eat anyway!

Did you know that?

Many people think that dogs want to go outside all the time and they they need to move-move-move, but here’s the surprise: it’s not just about movement. Our dogs seek brain stimulation! Enrichment, as it’s called in the ‘dog industry.’ Perhaps the dogs needs to use its paw to set a ball in motion with a food puzzle and figure out how the treats come out, and undoubtedly, the dog will also use its nose considerably too. By allowing our dogs to find a way to access its food, we are giving them a puzzle to solve.

Contra freeloading

The scientific term for ‘having to work for your food’ is ‘contra freeloading’.

“This term was coined in 1963 by animal psychologist Glen Jensen. In his original study, approximately 200 rats were given the choice between food in a bowl and a food puzzle, requiring the rat to press a pedal a certain number of times. In this experiment, Jensen discovered that the rats chose the foot pedal option to receive the food reward. Similar studies by Jensen and other researchers have since replicated his findings with gerbils and other animals, including mice, rats, birds, fish, monkeys, and chimpanzees. The only animal that did not exhibit similar behavior was the domesticated cat, which preferred to be served.”

And that last sentence made me chuckle. A dog has an owner. A cat has a servant. True or not?

So, if you want to challenge your dog more and make them ‘work’ for their food, don’t make them do that silly ‘sit’ before they can ‘attack,’ but give them a different food puzzle every day. Seven days a week. I’ll share some of my favorites with you.


Planet Dog (made in America, BPA, lead, and phthalate-free): this food puzzle

Effect: promotes slower eating, leading to better digestion, aids in sniffing.


Lickimat Wobble (made of natural rubber, silicone-free, BPA-free): this food puzzle

Effect: relaxation through licking, calms, reduces stress, helps maintain clean teeth, decreases aggressive behavior.


Slow Feeder Dog Bowl (made of high-quality materials): this one is good

Effect: Anti-gulp bowl, slows down eating time hence improves digestion, results in better bowel movements.


Snuffle Mat: this one is fine, can be closed on the sides and easy to shake out, with convenient anti-slip at the bottom. Yay.

Effect: Every dog household should have a snuffle mat. It literally trains your dog’s ‘sniffing nose’, your dog expends energy, keeps your dog busy, preventing boredom or destructive behavior.


Bob a lot: a type of ‘tumble cup’ for dogs, adjustable in difficulty levels in several ways: this is it.

Effect: Adjustable toy for finding treats, large enough and suitable for whole meals. The new adjustable gate at the bottom accommodates larger kibble sizes and is easier to adjust.


Snuffle Ball (made of high-quality, non-toxic, environmentally friendly ‘polar fleece’ that is soft, safe, and gentle on your dog’s teeth): for my own Doodle, I bought a handmade Snuffle Ball, personalized and super cute (but that was a lot of money but unfortunately, she stopped making them!), so I mean this one, which is cheaper and just as good!

Effect: it stimulates your dog’s intelligence, enhances their sense of smell when they get to find it themselves, they can expend their energy on it and stay occupied for about 15 minutes.


Zogoflex (made in America, BPA-free, non-toxic); this one here

Effect: makes your dog use their brains to get to the food. Eating slower, better digestion as a result.

Transparency statement

I have been impressed with the nature of the inventors of these food puzzles. The above link is an affiliate link, meaning when you are buying from them using the above mentioned link, you also support me financially (a bit). When the creator of the puzzles profit, so do I. I love it – I get to promote people and products I think are excellent, like this. If you like it as well, they get more business and you get a benefit. And I get a kickback. Everyone wins. If that doesn’t feel right for you for any reason, you can google the products and it will take you to the same page but I won’t be tracked as an affiliate. No worries, I can still pay my rent 😉 

About me: Senior Behavourial Trainer/Coach

Working in the field of behavioural training 2007, Carolien has trained and educated over 1400 individuals nationally and internationally. She's a seasoned human behaviorist helping dog owners bond with their dog while winning mentally themselves on that path too. Because, let’s reveal the hidden reality – canine companionship isn’t all bright days. Carolien's coaching style embraces Tough Love and intelligence, saving months of circumlocution seen in others. Her methodology has been shaped over 15 years of working with individuals with compassionate hearts and intricate minds.
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