Flip Cups for Pups

Well, today marks the last day of NaBloPoMo, and I know that you want to hear about my dog.  Who doesn’t want to hear about my dog?

As the days have been getting shorter and it’s been getting darker, I have to admit that Daphne has been getting less exercise and stimulation.  In the fall, I could come home from work and take her to run in the woods, where she could frolic and sniff around to her heart’s delight; now, I’m nervous that it will get dark out before we make it back to the car, or that she’ll find delicious evening animals like porcupines and skunks.

teach her to dance!

So the question became: what can we do to keep her entertained?  A couple of things are to play with her more in the yard and around the house, and to take her for more leash walks around the neighborhood.  But my new favorite thing is our new way of feeding her.

This was inspired by our friends’ dog, who eats the food that they toss outside on the ground for her.  It slows down her eating and gets her to forage a little, using at least SOME mental energy.  It was also inspired by Shiva’s mad skills at a Nina Ottosson toy.  You can do this at home with very little effort, folks! The only downsides are: 1. a dog who drools while she watches you set it up, and 2. drool spots on the floor from where your dig licks up the kibbles.

First, collect some empty cups; we used six paper cups.

Second, make sure you have someone to supervise; it keeps things interesting.

(“Is this dog food?! I LOVE dog food!”)

Next, measure out the appropriate amount of food.  Daphne gets around 1 1/2 cups.

Divide food evenly between all cups.

This is the point where I usually send Daphne to her crate, and then stack up the cups to bring in to the other room.  Truman is very helpful in this process.

Daph waits… uh… patiently? Eagerly is a better term. I’m not sure you can see the drool in this picture.

Truman helps her with the kibbles.

Watch the whole thing in the 30-second video below!

Right now she just nudges the cups over and pushes them along the floor to get the food out.  It usually takes her about 20 seconds to eat a cup and a half of kibble out of her food dish; this process takes her about 5 minutes, which is a fantastic improvement.  I’m not sure where to go from here, though.  Some ideas were to put out some empty cups, or to hide the cups around the house, but I’m worried she would forget them, we would forget them, and we’d find dog food on the floor months later.

What do you do to keep your beasts entertained as it gets colder and darker outside?




Filed under Menagerie

14 responses to “Flip Cups for Pups

  1. I am having the same problem with Harriet right now… lots of sleeping, since she doesn’t want to play out in the cold as much!

    The other day I did the cup game with something much harder to turn over… She already knew the concept, but it took her way longer! Oh, and I did it with really good treats, so she knew there was something under the tupperware, because it was leaving a trail of delicious smell!

    • I’m really interested in trying to figure out some other mentally stimulating toys/games, too. I might try to teach Daph some new tricks; maybe some useful ones but also just fun ones. Like, how entertaining would it be if you could say, “Where’s Jake?” and Daphne would go find him? VERY entertaining, I tell you. Or I could teach her different rooms… the possibilities are endless.

      Oh yeah, I could also work on desensitizing her to the doorbell, like the trainer said, but that feels like homework and thus is no fun.

  2. This is such a good idea, I think I’m going to try it with Perri! I read that hiding treats can also be a fun game for dogs (the thrill of the search?) and I do that with Perri sometimes too, bury her bully stick in a blanket or something…

    • Yeah! And take videos! I feel like kind of a dork for being all, “Here’s my wedding/current issues blog.. and here’s my dog. And here’s my kitten. Some more dog, yes? KITTEN.” But I’m finding myself really enjoying other people’s pet posts, too. And your puppy is SO CUTE.

  3. Julie

    This is SO cute. I’d love to try it with my pup, but I don’t think it would work. She’s the only dog I’ve ever met who doesn’t get excited to eat. I’ll put kibble in her bowl. She’ll sniff at it, pick up a few pieces and scatter them across various rooms of the apartment, then leave the remainder anywhere from ten minutes to hours. This occurs 98% of the time. We’ve tried different brands of food, different feeding schedules, removing the food when she’s not actively eating, etc. She’s just not an enthusiastic eater. The vet says she’s a healthy weight so I guess she knows what’s best. I love your idea so much, though!

    • How strange! Daph was definitely not excited about food when we first got her – I had a really hard time at puppy training class because she was NOT interested in me and my treats. Then I got hotdogs, and that changed things. Now she’ll work for any food.

      Can you train your dog since she’s not interested? Tell me more.

      (Is it weird that I can talk obsessively about dog training FOR.EV.ER.??)

      • Julie

        I love talking about it too! Not weird at all.

        My pup is interested in most treats, and I was able to teach her basic behavioral commands and some cute tricks (high ten, anyone?). It’s only kibble that she avoids. I’ve tried mixing kibble with wet food. She ignores that too and it eventually congeals into something inedible, so I stopped. Yet at the same time that her bowl lingers, she’ll happily work for treats. I think it has something to do with her being the only pet. She knows the food will be there later, so she doesn’t feel pressured to eat it. (When we have other animals visiting, she’ll eat everything in her bowl within seconds). She LIKES having a surplus of kibble for her to enjoy at her luxury! If I leave her bowl empty, she’ll tap at it with her nose until it’s full. Then she’ll ignore it until she feels like eating.

        As I write this I am realizing that she, in fact, may have trained me… and not the other way around.

        I also loved your video, by the way, because Daph is so well-trained! Laying down in her crate with the door open? Running out only when you say “free”? That’s amazing.

        • Hahaha she totally trained you! We had a similar thing with our cats: they would graze all day if they could. Then one of them had to be on a special diet, so now they get mealtimes. It’s a little hard to train them (hard because they look so sad! Heartbreak! Starvation!), but it’s been really convenient now that they are trained. Plus, if they don’t eat, we know it’s a sign of sickness, not just that they already grazed.

  4. Raffe

    I’m not going to lie, I think my favorite part of the video is watching Truman pouncing on Daphne’s food in the background. I am a self-avowed Cat Person though.

  5. Kristine

    This is such a great idea! We’ve hidden food under a coffee mug before But I’ve always been worried over the potential breakage. Our mugs are very precious to me. I’m buying plastic cups the name time I’m at the grocery store, for sure.

    Loved the video. Your animals are so much fun to watch. Our cat loves dog food as well. Once when I put Shiva’s dinner bowl down the cat headed straight for it and the dog let out this high-pitched sound because I hadn’t released her to eat yet. It was hilarious.

    I talk about my dog too much, I know. But I could read about your dog all day as well. Thanks for the shout-out! 🙂

    • I LOVE reading about Shiva, which made me finally admit that maybe other people would like to read about Daphne. And boy do I have a lot to say about her… I just thought dog blogs were kind of dumb until I read yours and now I’m hooked. AND I’m all, Look my dog can do tricks too!

  6. Oh my goodness, Truman is so adorable! My kitten will do ANYTHING for dog food and my dog will do ANYTHING for cat food (the older cats don’t care so long as they get /their/ food). I love that Daphne can remain in a stay in her crate with the door open! That’s awesome!

    I could talk about my furbabies all day every day forever. They’re just so adorable! Reading about other people’s animalies makes me haaappy and giggly.

    • Our old kitten would run over and grab a bite of dog food before Daph could even get to the bowl; I was pretty sure she wasn’t food protective before that, but that sealed the deal.

      The “wait” command is A.MAZE.ING. She’ll wait at doors, in cars, and mostly in her crate. She knows if she comes out before she’s released, she won’t get any of the good stuff. Best trick ever – almost more valuable than “sit”. Almost.

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