Seeking is Fatiguing!

I write so much about enrichment, nose work and mental games on this blog, and yet I realized after a fantastic “Creative Behavior Outlets” seminar last weekend that I am not even close to taking full advantage of how great brain work can be for Johnnie!  I had been so focused on walking the energy out of her that I lost track of how useful food puzzles and mental stimulation can be in tiring her out as well. Thank goodness I had the Your Dog’s Friend seminar to remind me of the gold mine I was missing out on!

The seminar was led by Leslie Clifton, CPDT-KA of Look What I Can Do Dog Training, and she spent lots of time explaining how to exhaust your dog without running them around for hours. She demonstrated lots of different kinds of food puzzles, as well as went over different “Find it!” games and home-made food puzzles. The best thing I came home with after that workshop was the idea that “seeking is fatiguing.” Whenever your dog is searching for how or where to get his food (an important natural canine behavior, by the way), he is working his brain. You can often see the concentration in his scrunched up forehead – a sure sign that those thinking wheels are turning.  Twenty minutes of mental games is thought to be equivalent to sixty minutes of vigorous exercise!

I immediately went out and bought a Kong Wobbler for Johnnie that will make her work for her kibble. She no longer eats her meals out of a bowl, ever. She either eats them from a stuffed kong (kibble & pumpkin mixed together and frozen), from her Kong Wobbler, or through “Find It” games. You can also use old Gatorade bottles or other various food puzzles. I have known about these tricks for so long, and yet I hadn’t been regularly implementing them with Johnnie!  Doh!  Now it takes her about 15 – 20 minutes per meal to finish all her kibble, instead of the 2 -3 it was taking out of a bowl before, and I can really tell the difference in how it keeps her energy levels lower (check out the photo below – she was so sleepy she knew there was food left in her puzzle and she still tucked herself into bed. . . an enrichment miracle!).  I am still kicking myself for not consistently using these puzzles for the first few weeks I had her :-).


Toy puzzles for dinner give us another opportunity to practice Johnnie’s “wait” cue as well.


Later this week I will go into other ways we keep Johnnie’s puppy brain occupied so that she expresses her natural behaviors in an appropriate manner. Stay tuned!


To adopt Johnnie Cash the food-puzzle-lover, email

13 thoughts on “Seeking is Fatiguing!

  1. We love food puzzles! My pup, Lily, also never gets her meals from a bowl, she always has to work for them! Have you heard of/tried the “Bob-a-Lot”? ( That’s what we use for most of Lily’s meals; it is hands down the best product I’ve ever bought for her. It has two adjustable openings so you wouldn’t have to use the tape to make the opening smaller like in your photo of the Kong Wobbler ;)

  2. Katie

    Mental games are a must around our house because they tire out my 13 year old who doesn’t play and my 2 year old who needs to get energy out. We will usually play fetch for a few minutes and then move on to “find the ball”. This works on her sit/down-stay cues as well as exhausting her. Can’t say enough about mental games!

  3. This is such a timely post for us! I used to use food dispensers for mealtime with my dogs, but haven’t tried since Beamer is blind. His nose works just fine though! And a few days ago I started wondering if I should try putting that nose to work and seeing what he can do. No shame in trying, right? Thanks for the links in your post!

  4. I think the Kong Wobbler might be my next purchase! We use a Tug-a-Jug and occasionally the Tricky Treat Ball for dinnertime- and we have some other puzzle toys that are good for treats, but not really a full meal. I’ve been thinking about the Wobbler for a while now (I love Kong!), and I’ve seen so many good reviews on it!

  5. Anthony

    Hello, I emailed yesterday inquiring if Johnnie was still available to adopt? She sounds like a really great dog, and I think this blog offers some great tips!

  6. We love these! We used the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball the first few months Ed was with us. He’s gotten pretty good at them and his energy has gone way done, so we don’t use them much anymore, but I’ve been looking into doing some nosework type stuff with him to use that big ol’ brain of his!

  7. Tug-a-Jug is INCREDIBLE! Our dogs absolutely love it. The only downside is that it gets mold very easily, so we may have to ditch the rope. We’ll have to look into the Wobbler and Bpb-a-Lot next. Great post!

  8. Liz

    I made a few interactive “dinner games” that help my dog bond with me as well as get his puppy energy out. We practice tricks with each individual kibble, especially “Find It!” throwing first on one side of the room, then on the other so he basically runs himself in circles for his food. We do “pushups” and “burpees” for kibbles, too – but usually he has to do at least three to get one piece of kibble. And for the mental breaks, we practice stays, downs, and recently “out” (leave the room and lay down). We also do scavenger hunts, where he has to stay while I go hide the kibbles. I like to put it under the bed so he has to crawl on all fours, a different kind of exercise than the usual walking and running. And I have loved having my Kong Wobbler and new Extreme Kong for less hands-on dinner games that he still loves,

  9. Pingback: Slumber Party With Frankie | Peace, Love, & Fostering

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