The benefits of scatter feeding dogs

Play Video

Many common dog-behaviour issues like barking, digging and destructive chewing are because dogs are bored and anxious, and aren’t getting enough physical and mental stimulation in their day. That’s where scatter feeding dogs can help.

It is an easy way to add more enrichment into your dog’s day…and scatter feeding dogs will help with those fast eaters that inhale their food before you even put the bowl down.

Scatter feeding taps into their most dominant sense, they sense of smell, and the way they naturally explore the world around them.

How scatter feeding dogs is done

Scatter feeding is best done with dry food, but if you raw feed only, you can use air or freeze dried options, or healthy treats.

When starting out, keep it simple and in a small area, especially with puppies and older dogs. You can get more creative and turn it into a treasure hunt once your dog really gets the hang of it, or for dogs that need higher levels of stimulation.

A grassy patch or shaggy rug is the best area for scatter feeding dogs, so they’re using their nose, rather than their eyes, to seek it out.

Ideally, you want them to be spending at least 20 minutes foraging for their food for maximum benefit, so widen your scatter area if you need to.

Avoid over feeding

To avoid over feeding, or over treating your dog, measure out their daily food and treat allowance and use that. Remember treats should make up no more than 10% of their total calorie intake.

Fling treats across a wider area so your dog has to work more for the higher-calorie treats. Given their motivation is generally higher for these than it is for dry food, they should be more than happy to put in a bit more effort for the greater reward.

Benefits of scatter feeding

There’s so many benefits to scatter feeding dogs. Dogs are natural scavengers so scenting and foraging for food mimics what they would be doing in the wild, and releases dopamine which makes them feel good. As mentioned, it can also slow down fast eaters.

Exercising our dog’s brain and bodies through their nose helps them to become calmer, more settled and satisfied.

It also helps to build their confidence, which is important for nervous dogs, though generally anxious dogs do tend to prefer predictability and eating where they feel safe, so it may not be for them.

Or perhaps see how they go using just the high value treats in a small, quiet area indoors instead before trying it with some of their food.

Finally, the great thing about scenting is that the reward is built into the game. So, scatter feeding dogs is a perfect enrichment tool to use when your dog is left home alone.

To leave you dog with an enriching game when you leave them home alone, ask them to ‘sit’ and show them you are hiding treats around the home and yard and on your way out you can release them to “go find your treats'” to create a positive and fun association with your departure.

Check out the Vitapet dog treat range, as well as some long lasting chews that you can also use when leaving your dog home alone, on their website HERE.


About the Author; Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog


Looking for more dog tips and fun facts?

Get your paws on Lara Shannon’s best selling books ‘Eat, Play, Love (your dog) and World of Dogs.

Available in Australia, USA, UK and Canada.