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Make Him Work for His Food
Buster, Grass, Bowl, Puzzles, Challenges and Advanced
Interactive dog food bowls and treat dispensers

You may have used a peanut butter filled Kong toy to keep your dog occupied while you're gone. Today, we've moved way past that to puzzle toys that serve as food bowls.

Many owners, including my vet, have moved 100% to feeding their dogs using these puzzles.

Benefits are many:

  • Reduces the potential to gulp air with their food with side effects of vomiting, gas and belching, or gagging;
  • Mentally challenges dogs especially those left at home alone; and
  • Helps curb overeating and the epidemic of overweight dogs.

Owners of large dogs are using these to avoid a potentially fatal condition called bloat. In fact, bloat is the second leading cause of canine deaths (right after cancer). A dog’s stomach fills with air, fluid or food which puts pressure on his other organs.

This can cause difficulty breathing, and eventually may decrease blood supply to a dog’s vital organs In severe attacks, a dog's stomach rotates partially or a full 360° on the ligaments that support it.
Symptoms usually include restlessness and pacing, an enlarged stomach and vomiting. Immediate veterinary care is required.

No one knows with certainty what causes bloat, but owners of large dogs are often advised to slow down their dog's eating, avoid one large daily meal, and keep their dogs from drinking large quantities of water or exercising right after eating.

Below are some of my favorite food 'bowls.'

Buster Interactive Food Maze Feeder

My dog loves this one and I get a kick out of watching her search every nook for food.

This is a wonderful 'bowl' for owners who work out of the home. Put the food in right before you leave and your dog will hardly notice you heading out the door.

It's big but every dog, even the tiniest Chihuahua, can use it. My little poodle has no problem. See the video at the top of the page.

Plus, it's dishwasher safe. The maze is a hard plastic but not too heavy. Highly recommended.

color image of green Interactive Dog Food bowl that looks like patch of grass
Green Interactive
Dog Feeder

Northmate Green Modern Interactive Dog Feeder

This looks like a patch of thick plastic green grass. You scatter dog food or treats in the plastic blades and let your dog hunt for them.

It's fun to watch a dog tracking the food; it's dishwasher safe; and one size fits all.

This is another good choice when you leave the house.

color image of stainless steel slow feeding dog food bowl
Stainless Steel Non Tip
Slow Feeding Dish

This is one can be used
for canned food

Classic designs to slow down your 'wolf'
nnnnnnnnSlow Feeding Bowls

The essence of slow feeding bowls is to force your dog to eat around or through posts in the bowl so he can't just inhale a pile of food.

I especially like the stainless steel one on the left because it has a rubber base so it doesn't slide, and it goes into the top rack of your dishwasher.

I favor dog food bowls made of stainless steel because they can be washed and sterilized; and they don't stain or retain odors the way plastic can.

Other styles of slow feeders use multiple posts in the bowl but the plastic ones usually don't have rubber on the bottom so they slide all over. You may want to put the bowl on a towel.

Puzzle toys as feeders

Dog trainer friends recommended the Star Spinner on the left. It has three rotating star shaped trays and 10 treat chambers. This is a physically demanding puzzle for small dogs.

There are two other styles of dispensers that I also like:

  • Paw Flapper - as the name implies, a dog has to open the flap to get a treat. My dog uses her mouth rather than her paw but it works. It has eight treat chambers.
  • Treat Triad - this, to me, seems the most challenging. Your dog has to rotate the top spinner to unlock the three covers and then use paw or mouth to lift a cover and get a treat.

Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs

Deceptively simple toy that frustrated my smart little poodle. I tried it on three dogs and only one of them figured out how to do it and seemed to enjoy it.

If regular food toys are too simple for your dog, this is a good one to try.

This plastic set includes a somewhat heavy base and 3 plastic breakers with two sets of lids.

Start your dog off by placing treats in each beaker without any lids. Once he figures that he has to flip the beaker to get the treat, add a lid.

The lids have different types of holes. Once your dog figures out one, go the other. When he's at a senior level, mix the two types of lids.

For very smart dogs - Trixie Chess Game

If your dog is ready for post-graduate work, try this game.

Four levels of play require practice and concentration (by both of you - this requires effort to set up):

  • Level 1: Lift up cones. Design prevents cones from being knocked over. They must be lifted straight up.
  • Level 2: Move multiple sliders using nose and paws to reveal hidden treat compartments.
  • Level 3: Stack on a second row of sliders that must be moved in the opposite directions from the first level.
  • Level 4: Place cones between the sliders and use as stoppers.

Fortunately, this comes with a booklet showing how to set it up. This one also is dishwasher safe.


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