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Ultimate Guide To Enriching the Life Of Your Pets

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Pawsitive Thinking has helped thousands of people with enrichment ideas for dogs, cats, chickens and other animals. For those new to enrichment or seasoned pros, this guide offers information and inspiration for animal enrichment.

What Is Enrichment?

In essence, enrichment means improving and enhancing quality of life.  In practice, enrichment encompasses activities or management methods that allow animals to demonstrate natural behaviour and give them opportunities to exercise control or choice. Enrichment can be anything that promotes positive mental and physical activity. 

Enrichment is for all animals and it can be provided at home, in the garden and away from home in different environments.  The aim is for enrichment to be about income for the animal and not outcome- promoting health and positive emotions through action, interest and mental stimulation.

Why Bother With Enrichment?

It is widely recognised that good animal welfare extends well beyond just the provision of food and water. Enabling and offering enrichment hugely enhances well being and it is considered just as important to good welfare as appropriate nutrition and veterinary care. 

Animals that lead enriched lives are often happier and healthier. The consequent benefits to humans are improved safety, less unwanted behaviour, easier management and reduced financial outlay. Enrichment supports natural behaviour and lowers stress, which promotes positive emotions in both animals and people. 

How Can We Provide Enrichment?

Enrichment can be incorporated into an animal's lifestyle and management, as well as being provided through specific additional activities. There are numerous ways we can provide enrichment for our pets, which can be categorised into 5 main sections-

  • Cognitive
  • Social
  • Sensory
  • Food
  • Habitat

Enrichment doesn't have to cost money. With imagination and creativity, enrichment can be offered to your pet in even the smallest of spaces. 

Enrichment Ideas For Pets

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Cognitive Enrichment

Brain games are a great way to provide cognitive enrichment to dogs. In fact many enrichment ideas for dogs can be adapted for other pets too. For all animals, mental stimulation can be provided by teaching a new skill with positive reinforcement, or training an existing skill in a new environment. 

Novelty is a fantastic way of offering cognitive enrichment. Think about how you can add new things, move items or change them to introduce novelty into your animal's lives. Even the arrival of the wheelbarrow to muck out our chicken enclosure causes interest and that's enrichment! Something new to perch on, look at and scratch in creates easy enrichment opportunities.

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Social Enrichment

Many pets benefit from companionship in some way. Whilst species-specific friendships are vital for animals such as horses, we can also enhance quality of life by providing choice and variation too.

Positive opportunities for social interaction are important. It's obviously not enriching if an animal is scared, anxious or stressed by social interaction but if carried out appropriately, then social enrichment can be incredibly beneficial.

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Sensory Enrichment

We can enrich our pet's lives through touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. ACE Freework is just one way to provide sensory enrichment and it can be carried out with lots of different animals, not just dogs. In summary, the animal is unclothed and free to explore a variety of 'stations' without human intervention. Different materials, objects and surfaces are used with food and/or scent for the animal to explore. Valuable information can also be gained by us humans about how the animal moves, makes choices and interacts.

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Food Enrichment

As well as changing up the type of food on offer, enrichment can be provided by presenting and delivering food in different ways. For canine inspiration, read our blog about Ditching The Bowl. As with many animals, chickens and cats can also benefit from ditching the bowl too.

Getting creative with food is great fun and whilst we offer many tools to help, you can also create enrichment activities at little or no cost using your pet's daily food allowance.

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Habitat Enrichment

A great deal of enrichment can be provided within an animal's habitat by offering choice. For example, a choice of sleeping areas, a choice of eating stations and a choice of physical environment. A simple log pile can provide enrichment to many different animals- they can sniff, perch on, climb, move around, chew or jump it! Or a pile of wood chip enables scratching, digging, searching, foraging and rolling. 

Free Enrichment Map

If you would like a free downloadable pdf of the enrichment map shown in the pictures above, head to the Pawsitive Thinking Facebook group and join us. Members can access a printable version in the files section of the group, alongside other free resources.

Once you get into the enrichment mindset, you'll find ideas will start to flow. Inspiration will come from everywhere and creating activities can easily become part of everyday care. Enrichment isn't always complicated and sometimes even the most simplest of ideas can bring great joy to both you and your animals.

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Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of enrichment ideas for dogs, cats and chickens as well as products to help you with their training and care-  SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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Loveable Valentine’s Toppl Recipe for Dogs

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Canine Enrichment can be fulfilling for people too! West Paw Toppls let me get creative and have some fun making different recipes for our dogs. They love the variety and enjoy the different tastes, textures and aromas that I come up with and I love watching them tuck in. Win- win!

Ingredients

  • Home made bone broth
  • Left over meat from the bone broth
  • Their usual raw mince
  • Any available fruit and veg from the fridge- this time green beans, pepper and melon
  • Anco Pate

Method

I love layering for the added enrichment it offers.

First off, our dogs love bone broth meat, so that went in the bottom of the Toppl as a favourite taste to finish with. The main filling was part of their usual dinner, raw mince from Paleo Ridge. The top layer was some of the bone broth jelly- tasty and enjoyable to get going. I then topped it all off with a selection of pate, fruit and vegetable hearts, cut with a pastry cutter.

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What’s the Point?

In short, fun! No, the dogs couldn’t care less about what the end product looks like and yes, the hearts are unnecessary! The overall aim should be to offer a positive experience to your dog, be that through the different eating experience or the varied food on offer. However, why not get creative? I enjoyed making it, my daughter enjoyed helping and we had as much fun as the dogs. That’s also the point, we gain enrichment too.

Variation

You might be thinking you don’t have the time or energy to make bone broth or cut out shapes. No problem! There are no hard and fast rules, you can literally make a Toppl with anything you like.

  • You only have one type of food? That’s ok!
  • You don’t feed raw? No problem, soak some kibble instead.
  • You don’t have a pastry cutter? Just use a knife and cut out squares.
  • You don’t have an ounce of creativity in your body? Your dog doesn’t mind!

Just have fun with what you’ve got and if you want to go all out with edible crafting, then embrace it.

Enjoy!

Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved dogs, cats and chickens. SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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West Paw Toppl Or Kong?- Battle Of The Titans!

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Many dog owners are familiar with Kongs, the stuffable dog toy. West Paw Toppls are a different version of this canine enrichment classic. Although they cost more to purchase, Toppls have many benefits over Kongs and have rightly gained a huge fan base. Their popularity even created a worldwide shortage during 2021! So what's the buzz all about? Here are the top 5 reasons why people prefer West Paw Toppls over the Kong-

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1. Easier To Clean

One of the favourite features of the Toppl is the ease of cleaning. Many people can relate to the repeated eye squinting, looking down a telescope act of checking inside a Kong to see if it's clean. Then having to shove a finger in the hole, twisting and wiggling it around in an effort to remove those last few stubborn bits of stuck food. No such bother with Toppls! Due to the open top, cleaning is a breeze and they can even go in the top rack of a dishwasher if needed. Toppls are consequently famed for their better hygiene and quicker, easier cleaning.

2. Extended Eating Time

You could be forgiven for thinking that with the open top, food can be eaten more quickly. However most people find this isn't the case and the Toppl actually extends eating time, longer than both bowls and Kongs. This is because Toppls have a clever internal feature- a number of soft, rounded 'teeth' inside the cavity. The inner teeth help to hold food in place and encourage dogs to lick, rather than grab at the food. 

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3. Easier To Fill And Layer

No need for piping bags or trying to scoop food in to a small hole, Toppls are so much easier to stuff with food than Kongs. For added enrichment, they can also be layered with different food and if you want to, you can really get quite creative with it. Here's an idea for layering-

  • Bottom layer- high value food that your dog absolutely loves
  • Middle layer- lower value filling
  • Top layer- something that your dog really likes, to encourage them to engage
  • Topping- a treat or two to grab, to gain attention, create interest and provide enrichment through varied textures

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4. Enhanced Engagement

Dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes love the unique design of the West Paw Toppl. For those with flat, short or wider noses, the Toppl is much easier to use compared to a Kong. The wider opening encourages greater engagement, whilst minimising the frustration that can often be seen with a Kong. One of our dogs will throw a Kong around in an effort to remove the contents, yet with the Toppl he will lay down and quietly lick.  For more experienced or determined dogs, Toppls can also be frozen to extend eating time.

5. Greater Versatility

Toppls offer much more flexibility compared to Kongs, enabling more variation in their use. They come in two sizes, which have the added bonus that they can be linked together. You can use one on their own as standard, or for a different, more challenging activity, use both sizes together as a puzzle feeder. Toppls are best used with wet food or raw but they are versatile enough to use with dry food and treats too. The West Paw Toppl can also be used as a toy in its own right, without food. It even floats!

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For our Collie who loves to exercise those working genes, he prefers to eat out of a Toppl rather than a bowl. For our lurcher who enjoys stealing shoes, the Toppl is a fantastic way of keeping him occupied more appropriately. For both dogs, they gain great enjoyment from a different eating experience, which can be varied each time too. So whether it's for mental stimulation, positive engagement, an enrichment activity or useful redirection and training, the West Paw Toppl can help. 

You can find out more about the West Paw Toppl and purchase it HERE. Or for recipe ideas, take a look at this blog.

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Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved dogs, cats and chickens. SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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The Ethics Of Ditching The Bowl

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Ditching the bowl is a fantastic way to enrich the lives of dogs and cats. It can offer mental stimulation, engagement, calm occupation and training success. Feeding pets by alternative methods other than a bowl can also help build positive relationships with their human family. The benefits of ditching the bowl are being increasingly recognised by modern trainers. However, there are fewer people who acknowledge the ethics of ditching the bowl. Doing it badly can result in-

  • Negative emotions
  • Emotional conflict and stress
  • Damage to the relationship
  • Unwanted behaviour
  • Training failure

For good welfare and mental health it is important to try and avoid the problems listed above. So let’s discuss the ethics of ditching the bowl…

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The Creation Of Emotional Conflict

Ditching the bowl should be a positive experience for both the animal and owner. It shouldn’t be a way for humans to manipulate behaviour purely for their own advantage. You may have heard trainers suggest that you use all of the daily food allowance for training. This can be beneficial, however it can also be unethical in certain circumstances. 

For example, if a dog is hungry and can only access food through human interaction, this may create emotional conflict. If a dog can only acquire food by fulfilling human requests, this too could create negative emotions. It is vital that fair choices are offered. 

DON'T put your pet in a situation where they have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

DO facilitate good choices through fair opportunities and positive rewards.

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A practical example of creating emotional conflict would be crate training. If a dog is unsure of entering the crate, or being shut inside, then this shouldn't be the only way they can access food. Whilst food could be used to build value inside the crate, the opportunity to eat shouldn't be dependant on compliance with going in.

If a dog can only access their daily food allowance by being somewhere they are concerned about, this could easily cause emotional distress. It is an unfair choice- do something you don't like or you don't eat. A hungry dog may well choose to go inside the crate but this doesn't mean they are are happy, they have just chosen what they are most comfortable with. Being most comfortable with something doesn't equate to acceptance, learning or contentment.

So to avoid emotional conflict when ditching the bowl, it is important to assess whether your requests are fair and that the animal is not fulfilling them just because they are hungry. 

Working For Food- Contrafreeloading

Our collie Milo loves working for food, he will choose a puzzle feeder over free roast meat sat right next to it. He prefers to eat out of a Toppl rather than a bowl, even if they both contain exactly the same food. So for him, working for food is great enrichment. It provides mental stimulation and positively engages his working genes. Our other dog Murphy is quite different! Whilst he enjoys a low level challenge, he gives up more easily and would take the free food first before having to work for it. So for him, some methods of ditching the bowl could create negative emotions, frustration or stress. If Murphy was expected to only gain food from lots of effort, this would not be as successful and could be detrimental to his welfare.

We therefore treat each dog as an individual and ditch the bowl accordingly, it's not one size fits all. We have also gradually expanded Murphy's desire to work for food, he's learning it can be fun and worthwhile. By progressively ditching the bowl and teaching him to try, this has created more calm behaviour as it occupies his brain. But neither dog are forced to ditch the bowl, they have the choice to participate or not.

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The Ethics Of Ditching The Bowl For Training

Both our dogs are rescue dogs, Murphy came to us with severe travel anxiety and a fear of cars, as well as being scared of other things such as thunder. Using food has been invaluable as part of the training process, to create positive emotions around situations he's usually scared in. There is however a BIG FAT BUT!

The training process has been broken down into tiny, tiny steps and he has only ever been set up for success. At all times I have aimed to work with him in a positive mindset, keeping him below his stress threshold and gradually expanding his positivity. Food is used as positive reinforcement but not a bribe. Ditching the bowl has been to help him, not to make him do something. Tux has been used in the car to make it a positive place to be, not to try and distract him from his surroundings. His daily food has been used to help change his mindset from negative to positive, not to reach a goal.

With Ditching The Bowl, Focus Should Be On Income For the Animal, NOT Outcome

Ditching the bowl shouldn't be a replacement for the required training and time it takes to achieve success positively. For example, ditching the bowl unethically would be me keeping him hungry, then using food to bribe him to get in the car. Once there he could be given a lickimat as a distraction, whilst I shut the doors, forcing him to stay inside. Instead, to be more ethical, he has been given choice to participate at every stage. He has been allowed to leave at all times and he has been given access to free food both inside and outside the car. Once he has been happy to jump in, we've done ACE Freework inside the car or he's had a stuffed food toy. These are activities we also do outside of the car in neutral situations, they are not just for working on something that worries him.

It is important to be mindful of coercion and extortion. Ditching the bowl should be about enrichment, building positive emotions and enjoyment for the individual animal. It shouldn't be solely about human gain, achieving goals or creating training 'success' via giving unreasonable choices.

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For Ethical Success With Ditching The Bowl....

  • Choose the timing, method and frequency for the individual animal in the individual situation
  • Make challenges progressive
  • Set your pet up for success
  • Offer trustworthy and honourable choices within the animal's capabilities at that moment
  • Focus on income for the animal, not outcome

Ensure it's fun, fair and frustration free!

If you're interested in learning more about contrafreeloading and the ethical considerations too, this is a great podcast with Hannah Brannigan and Chirag Patel.

Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved dogs, cats and chickens. SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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Welcome To The Pawsitive Thinking Blog

Pawsitive Thinking, canine enrichment, dog enrichment, dog enrichment ideas, ethical dog treats, long lasting dog chews, dog chews not rawhide, dog dental chews

Hello!

Thank you for popping by. This is the place to discover information, ideas and inspiration for you to help your pets lead their best lives. 

I love happy animals and happy people! Throughout my whole career I have strived to positively enhance welfare and promote mutually beneficial relationships between people and their pets. Please scroll down to find interesting and useful editorial on enrichment, training and care.

I originally started writing for newspapers and magazines, something which I continue to do 25 years later. Now with Pawsitive Thinking, a new home has been found for my writing. Informative guides, news, articles and thoughts will be added here, to share with you.

 Happy Reading!

Natalie


February 2, 2022

What is enrichment and how can we provide it? In our guide to animal enrichment, we present enrichment ideas for dogs, cats, chickens and other animals. With access to a FREE downloadable resource.


January 31, 2022

This fun and tasty West Paw Toppl recipe is sure to get tails wagging! Show your dog some extra love this Valentine’s day.


January 25, 2022

Many dog owners are familiar with Kongs, the stuffable dog toy. West Paw Toppls are a different version of this canine enrichment classic. Toppls have many benefits over Kongs and have rightly gained a huge fan base. So what’s the buzz all about? Here are the top 5 reasons why people prefer West Paw Toppls over the Kong.


October 6, 2021

Ditching the bowl can be fantastic enrichment and really useful for training success. Done badly it can create negative emotions, frustration and stress. Natalie highlights the importance of ethical consideration when ditching the bowl.


September 21, 2021

The complete lowdown on natural dog chews! Chewing time, key benefits, typical nutritional analysis, age guide and safety tips.
A whole host of ideas for training and enrichment.


September 13, 2021

Pawsitive Thinking is pleased to be working with Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) to help improve and extend the lives of dogs suffering with arthritis.


November 26, 2020

When is a natural chew not natural? Natalie identifies why some chews commonly sold as natural, could actually be detrimental to your dog. The hideous chemical processing of dog chews is revealed.


June 17, 2020

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is a major cause of rehoming and even euthanasia. An American vet specialising in animal behaviour, stress evaluation and canine aggression has reported some interesting findings.


June 12, 2020

Chickens don’t have any teeth, you’ve probably heard of the expression ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. Without teeth, they have a different way of grinding food and that’s where grit comes in.
Here’s the information you need to understand all things grit!


May 24, 2020

Dogs are making choices all the time, so we need to train our dogs to make the right choices. This is where reinforcement comes in. If you add the right reinforcer at the right time, it will encourage more of the behaviour you want.


May 19, 2020

What does ditching the bowl mean? Why bother? How often? What about Raw?

Your questions on ditching the bowl answered plus ideas to get you started.


May 16, 2020

Mighty middle is a really useful game that you can play with your dog to help with recall, proximity to you, confidence and focus in distracting environments.

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You can stay up to date with all our news, views, special offers and competitions over on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Your Ultimate Guide To Natural Dog Chews

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With a huge choice of dog chews out there, it can be confusing to select what is best for your individual dog. So we’ve produced the ultimate guide to natural dog chews to help you choose what is right for you and your four legged friend. We will give you the lowdown on a wide variety of chews, including-

  • Chewing time
  • Typical nutritional analysis
  • Key benefits
  • Suggestions for age suitability
  • Safety tips

The guide covers only natural dog chews- no raw hide or nylon chews. We believe natural dog chews are healthier and safer for dogs. We also avoid chemically processed, bleached or artificially puffed chews and you can find out the reasons why HERE.

Star Rating- Chewing Time

Short Chewing Time

Medium Chewing Time

The Longest Lasting Chews

Chewing time will vary hugely between individual dogs and breeds, so please note this is just a guide. Our star rating acts as a suggestion to be able to compare chews with each other, to help you choose suitability for your individual needs and situation.

We have a border collie and a lurcher, they are both strong chewers. The ratings are also based on how long each chew would last them. Your own dog may take a longer or shorter time than ours but we hope you will find the guide useful for ideas.

In general, harder chews are mainly for gnawing at, rather than eating or chewing. Natural dog chews that can be eaten most quickly have a lower star rating and those that are a combination of eating and chewing sit in the middle. Select a chew for your individual dog and situation; natural chews can be used for-

  • Training
  • Calming
  • Engagement without exercise
  • Fulfilling your dog’s natural desire to chew
  • Foraging
  • Enrichment
  • Positively occupying your dog
  • Promoting positive behaviour
  • Adding variety and different nutrients to your dog’s diet 

Natural Dog Chews With A Shorter Chewing Time

@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Omega oils, antioxidants and low in saturated fat.

Age Guide: From 10 weeks of age.

Notes: As shown in the bottom left of the picture, these are little cubes of fishy goodness made in Cornwall. Totally natural, made with 100% white fish skins from sustainably sourced fish. Contains fatty acids to help support itchy skin and fish is also rich in Omega oils which can support joints and mobility. Great for use as a meal topper, for training or canine enrichment. Perfect for foraging mats too.

Protein 84%, Ash 17%, Fibre 9%, Moisture 8%, Fat 0.3%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Hugely versatile and highly palatable.

Age Guide: From 4 weeks of age.

Notes: Available in 4 varieties- sea bass, venison, ostrich and kangaroo. A great first chew for puppies or a tasty snack for older dogs. Can also be broken into smaller pieces for training, ACE freework, enrichment activities and foraging mats. Combined with chews such as the tendon ostrich braid or fish twists, engagement can be extended with our best selling chew guardian the Qwizl.

Nutritional analysis dependent on the individual protein.

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Highly desirable, crunchy enrichment chews.

Age Guide: From 8 weeks of age.

Notes: Made from just 4 natural ingredients, including milk from free ranging yaks and cows. Cheese Puffs are the end pieces of yak milk chews, which puff up like popcorn when microwaved. Great for canine enrichment, dogs love the taste and crunch. Can also be used for training situations where you need to throw or roll a reward and they are perfect for a jackpot reward too. Suitable for small and large breeds.

Protein 52.6%, Ash 6%, Fibre 9%, Moisture 10.2%, Fat 0.9%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: 100% natural dental chew.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age.

Notes: Pawsitive Thinking sources only higher welfare free range rabbit ears and does not support caged farming. Our free range rabbit ears for dogs are complete with hair, which is thought to help with cleansing the digestive tract and natural de-worming. Fur is also a great source of manganese, needed for strong tendons and ligaments. Can be fed as part of a meal or used as a snack.

Protein 46.6%, Fat 33.1%, Ash 2.0%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Different textures for enrichment, meaty and tasty.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age.

Notes: Firm, dried ostrich meat, skewered onto an ostrich tendon to give the ultimate chewy enrichment. Naturally low in fat and hypoallergenic, ostrich kebabs are a great choice suitable for all breeds. An enjoyable and healthy dog chew made from 100% ostrich meat and tendon. 

Protein 98.93% Fat 0.46% Ash 0.61% 


Natural Dog Chews With a Medium Chewing Time

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: 100% natural dental chew. Supports skin & joints.

Age Guide: From 10 weeks of age.

Notes: Naturally dried, 100% fish skin twisted into a tasty long lasting dog chew. Fish is full of omega oils, fatty acids and antioxidants. Highly digestible and low in saturated fat. 

Moisture: 7.13% Protein: 87.8% Fat: 2.56% Fibre: 1.0% Ash: 11.7%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Low in fat, hypoallergenic long lasting chews.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age.

Notes: Easy to digest, this chew is made from 100% ostrich tendon. Very low in fat, so a great choice for dogs needing help with weight control. Ostrich tendon braids are engaging, satisfying and chewy.

Protein 98.78%, Natural oils & fats 0.46%, Ash 0.61%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Omega oils, antioxidants and low in saturated fat.

Age Guide: From 16 weeks of age.

Notes: Air dried and 100% natural chew made from fish skin. A great dental chew for dogs and highly digestible. Contains fatty acids to help reduce itchy skin.

Moisture: 4.76% Protein: 90.9% Fat: 8.66% Fibre: 0.1% Ash: 3.06%

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: 100% natural, long lasting chews.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age.

Notes: Our jumbo sticks are available in goat, lamb, deer and camel varieties. Approximately 45-50cm long per chew, some dogs may need more than one sitting. The camel chews are the thickest and harder of the 4 choices.

Analytical constituents vary depending on protein.

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Engaging, satisfying and tasty long lasting chew.

Age Guide: From 8 weeks of age.

Notes: Our yakers are handmade in the Himalayas from just 4 natural ingredients- yak milk, cow milk and a small amount of salt and lime juice. Lower in salt and fat than some brands, these are a hard chew designed to be gnawed. The extended chewing needed to consume the chew helps remove dental plaque. It also provides a calming activity to provide mental engagement and fulfil natural instincts. 

Protein 52.8%, Fat 0.9%, Moisture 10.2%, Ash 6.0%


Natural Dog Chews With The Longest Chewing Time

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@pawsandtors

Key Benefits: Hypoallergenic and very low fat.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age.

Notes: Ostrich bones have a unique structure, where the outer layer peels away to a honeycomb texture underneath. Air dried, low smell and non greasy. A novel protein, a good choice for allergy sufferers.

Protein 80.04%, Natural Fats & Oils 3.52%, Ash 6.26%

Solid antler dog chews. Natural long lasting dog chews

Key Benefits: Very long lasting chew.

Age Guide: From 12 weeks of age for a split antler, 6 months for fallow and solid antlers.

Notes: Antlers are the hardest of our long lasting chews. Split antlers are more suitable for younger dogs and less vigorous chewers. Solid antlers are for strong chewers and adult dogs. Fallow antlers are softer than solid antlers.

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Key Benefits: Very long lasting natural dog chew.

Age Guide: From 8 weeks.

Notes: We have olive wood sticks in 3 sizes, plus chew roots in 2 sizes. Non splinter and long lasting, wood chews are suitable for all ages, including puppies from 8 weeks. 100% natural and ideal for fulfilling your dog's natural desire to chew.

canine enrichment, dog enrichment, buffalo horns, lamb horns for dogs, lamb horn dog chews

Key Benefits: Long lasting. Can be stuffed with food.

Age Guide: From 16 weeks.

Notes: Lamb and buffalo horns are hollow, so they can be stuffed with raw or other wet food to extend the engagement. Dogs love that horns are stronger smelling than some other chews. Horns are a harder but totally natural long lasting chew that can keep some dogs quietly occupied for long periods. Popular with medium and larger breeds.


Other Options

Variety adds enrichment and enjoyment to your dog’s life. Other natural dog chews offered by Pawsitive Thinking include jumbo fish chewy bars, venison tendons, beef cartilage (moon bones), goat tripe, camel tripe, hairy rabbit rolls and hairy deer ears. None of our chews are chemically processed and all are ethically sourced. You can view our complete Doggy Deli selection HERE.

venison ears, deer ears for dogs, dog chews, venison dog chews, hairy dog chews

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Safety Of Natural Dog Chews

 

Whilst we believe natural dog chews are far safer and healthier than their processed or synthetic counterparts, all chews hold an element of risk. Potential problems include tooth damage, digestive upset and choking. To reduce the risks it is strongly recommended that all dogs are supervised when they have access to chews and that they are also introduced gradually. Some dogs may need help or training to improve safety and minimise the possible pitfalls.

 

Clean, fresh water should be readily available at all times. It is common for dogs to have a drink following a chewing session. 

 

When hard chews are small enough to swallow, they should be removed and replaced. For yakers, the leftover small bits can be placed in the microwave to puff up. Once cooled, these can be given to the dog as a crunchy treat.

 

Removing Chews From Your Dog

 

If you need to remove a chew for any reason, a good tip to minimise resource guarding is to offer something in return that is of equal or higher value to the dog. Dogs are less likely to demonstrate unwanted behaviour if removing something from their possession is a positive, enjoyable experience. This can take practice and is best done by an adult. It is also worth remembering that it is the dog’s opinion of value that counts, no-one wants to give up a chocolate bar in favour of a lettuce leaf! So being generous and training chew removal with high value rewards is safer and more likely to be successful.

 

Snatching, forcibly opening the dog’s mouth or trying to dominate the dog into giving up their chew is not recommended. Methods like these are more likely to result in a negative emotional state for both of you, which can lead to unwanted behaviour from your dog. It is much safer and more sustainable to train your dog that chew removal isn’t a bad thing. It is also advisable to train positive chew removal right from the start, just in case of an emergency and to optimise safety.

 

If despite your best efforts you find your dog choking, it’s worth knowing in advance what to do to help. Here’s a short video that is well worth watching-

natural dog chews, long lasting dog chews, ethical dog chews, dog treats, dog chews

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Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved dogs, cats and chickens. SHOP HERE 

Thank you to Paws and Tors for many of the images produced for Pawsitive Thinking.

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Canine Arthritis Management- Improving & Extending Lives

Canine Arthritis Management

Pawsitive Thinking is pleased to be working with Canine Arthritis Management to help improve and
extend the lives of dogs suffering with arthritis.

About CAM

Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) was developed by Hannah Capon, a veterinary surgeon with wide-ranging experience of working with arthritic dogs, their owners and fellow professionals to create effective long-term management plans. CAM is committed to promoting better care of our ageing canine friends. They believe that through education, the disease can be better tackled to give our dogs longer, healthier lives free from pain. CAM aims to challenge arthritis as the major cause of elective euthanasia in the UK.

Resources & Information On Canine Arthritis

The CAM website is a great place to start. It provides a wealth of information for dog owners, vets, trainers, groomers, walkers, physiotherapists and other pet professionals who would like to learn more about arthritis management.

Owners and pet professionals can read about the signs, causes and diagnosis of arthritis. Further information is available on management, things to avoid and possible treatment options. Useful case studies are also presented for a range of dogs, from 4 to 17 years of age. These help to show how varied and unique management plans can be for different dogs.

The CAM education centre runs courses for both owners and professionals. For vets, CAM offers interactive lectures and other support to help set up specialist arthritis clinics.

A whole host of free downloadable resources are available to help you manage arthritis effectively. There is a library of articles, checklists, charts, booklets and tools.

Interactive Lifestyle Tool

CAM also has a useful interactive lifestyle tool that gives further information about the hazards in the home and outside. It provides advice on how to manage these hazards for the benefit of your dog and their condition. You can access the tool HERE.

Practical Tools To Help With Canine Arthritis Management

Pawsitive Thinking offers a huge range of practical tools that can help people with canine arthritis management. We have a large choice of slow feeders to help with weight control, a range of snuffle and foraging mats for low impact activity and 100% natural long lasting chews for calm engagament. Other customer favourites are bestselling and clinically proven FidoSpore probiotics and Green Relief– a licensed herbal medicine for the symptomatic relief of arthritis.

We also have a large selection of ideas for canine enrichment, to help promote positive behaviour and provide mental stimulation without high intensity exercise.


Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved dogs, cats and chickens. SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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The Perils Of Puffed Dog Chews

puffed dog chews, puffed chicken feet, puffed snouts

Dogs have an in built need to chew, it is a totally normal and natural behaviour. Chewing releases endorphins, which have a comforting and relaxing effect. It is a self rewarding behaviour that has many positive benefits, so should be encouraged. However if dogs aren’t given chewing opportunities or the right training, they will often help themselves to items to chew that may not be appropriate. Shoes, clothes and furniture seem to be a favourite!

We like natural chews for the added benefits to enrichment of taste, texture, aroma, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. There are a vast array of natural dog chews available, such as ears, feet, hooves, horn, cheese, tendons and skin. Some people (me included!) can be a bit squeamish about feeding their dogs body parts, so some have been disguised to make them more appealing to humans.

When is a natural chew not natural?

Chemical Processing

Many people now know about the problems associated with rawhide chews. The chemical processing involved in their production has been widely publicised and although they are still readily available, there is a consensus that they aren’t very safe for dogs. However what is lesser known, is that some other chews sold as ‘natural’ are also highly processed.

Take a look at puffed ears, pig snouts and chicken feet. Just looking at the picture can tell you that they aren’t totally natural- pigs snouts and chicken feet are not white! In order to make them more aesthetically pleasing for us humans, manufacturers take the raw natural ingredient and heavily process it. Sold widely as puffed, still called natural and with the added suggested benefit of puffed chews being lower in fat.

Is a small amount of fat actually a problem? There is hardly any fat in a chicken foot, they are mostly bone, skin and connective tissue- one of their main benefits outside being good to chew is they offer nutrients like glucosamine that are good for dog’s joints. Snouts have more fat than a chicken foot but actually have more protein than fat, the protein to fat ratio is high (Iske et al, 2018).

The puffing process can involve the following steps-

  • Salting
  • Treating the animal by-product with lime and sulphuric acid
  • Adding ammonium chloride to remove the lime
  • Processing the animal by-product by adding a salt and hydrochloric acid solution
  • Drying
  • Rapid heat transfer at high temperatures to puff the chew

There are many other properly natural dog chews available, those processed with salts, acids and other chemical compounds don’t offer dogs any major benefits. They strip the chew of nutrients and when dogs are perfectly capable of eating a chicken foot raw, heavy processing is unnecessary. For those humans who can’t cope with raw chews, try air dried (not cooked) instead. Or for a puffed treat made without chemicals, cheese puffs are the small ends of yak milk chews simply microwaved.

Thank You For Reading

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE 

References

Iske, Morris and Johnson (2018) Composition of eleven pig by-products, Animal Industry Report. Iowa State University.

US patents 2009, Hot air puffed pet treat and method of making.

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Veterinary Treatments Linked To Canine Behaviour Change

Unwanted behaviour in dogs, dog aggression, behaviour change in dogs

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is a major cause of rehoming and even euthanasia. An American vet specialising in animal behaviour, stress evaluation and canine aggression has reported some interesting findings. Carlo Siracusa from the Department of Clinical Studies at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania has noted that several medical and surgical treatments that are routinely prescribed by vets can affect the behaviour of dogs.

Links Between Veterinary Treatment and Behaviour Change

  • Dogs under corticosteroid treatment were reported to have several behavioural changes. These include being less active, less playful, more nervous, more fearful, more aggressive in the presence of food and when disturbed, more likely to bark.
  • Apoquel, a drug used to help dogs with itchy skin conditions has been linked to increased aggression.
  • A well-known and frequently used antihistamine called Diphenhydramine has been linked as the cause of unwanted excitement and nervousness in dogs.
  • A drug called Phenylpropanolamine which is commonly used for the treatment of urine leaking in dogs, can cause restlessness and increased irritability.
  • Medication used to control seizures may provoke anxiety and agitation.
  • Surgery can be incredibly stressful and consequently cause major behavioural changes.

Worth Considering….

So if your dog is experiencing changes in their behaviour and is receiving or recently received medication or has had surgery, it is worth having a chat to your vet. Likewise, it would be a good idea during any veterinary consultations to discuss the potential side effects of treatments, including the potential for behaviour changes.

Lots of things can affect behaviour, including the gut, brain, immune system and hormones. Siracusa advises that any medications that affect body systems linked to behaviour have the potential to cause noticeable behavioural changes. 

REFERENCE: Siracusa, C. (2016) Treatments affecting dog behaviour: something to be aware of. Veterinary Record 179, 460-461.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE 

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Choosing The Reinforcer

Dog training, Puller dog toy

Reinforcers are an event that increases the likelihood that a specific response or behaviour will occur.

Making Choices

Dogs are making choices all the time, so we need to train our dogs to make the right choices. This is where reinforcement comes in. If you add the right reinforcer at the right time, it will encourage more of the behaviour you want. The reinforcer promotes the value of the choice the dog has made.

Good Choices + The Right Reinforcement = More Good Choices.

For example, you’re out walking and your chase loving dog sees a rabbit. They choose to start pulling on the lead. If they manage to go quicker or even pull the lead out of your hand, their choice to pull gets reinforced by the ability to run after the rabbit. However if you have reinforced looking at you or for walking calmly when they see a rabbit, then they are less likely to pull. This is because they have been reinforced for different behaviour associated with the rabbit, not for pulling.

Importantly, if you don’t reinforce desired behaviour it is unlikely to increase. In the case of unwanted behaviour the dog is often reinforcing themselves. Without you reinforcing the required behaviour instead, the dog will continue to choose to do things you might not want.

Dog training
Your dog’s choices aren’t always the ones you would like.

What Are Reinforcers?

Reinforcers are behaviours rather than objects. The following behaviours are all reinforcers-

  • Running
  • Eating
  • Playing
  • Sniffing
  • Chasing
  • Swimming
  • Chewing

Each individual dog chooses what is reinforcing to them. For example, swimming would not be reinforcing to our collie Milo but chasing most certainly would.

Dog training
Dogs are all individuals when it comes to what they find reinforcing.

Levels Of Reinforcement

Reinforcers do not neccesarily work in every situation. For Milo, eating a small piece of his regular food is enough to reinforce him lying down at home. However faced with that rabbit it is more reinforcing for him to chase it, rather than to stay with me and eat some food.

You therefore need to work out what your dog finds most reinforcing and use those behaviours to strengthen the behaviour you would like in different situations. Thinking about Milo again, it would be pointless me offering him a piece of food in a potential rabbit chase situation. However if I offered him a game of chase with me when he sees that rabbit, I am more likely to be able to get the opportunity to stop him running off. The chase with me would be running after a tug toy or me throwing a Puller dog toy.

Reinforcer Delivery

You can also change the delivery of the chosen reinforcer to change the level of desirability of that reinforcer. This gives you more versatility in different situations and more options to be able to gain the desired behaviour. If I just handed the Puller dog toy to Milo after he sees the rabbit, that would not be as reinforcing to him as me rolling or throwing it. For some dogs, calmly placing some food on the ground would be more reinforcing than you animating it. Alternatively, for Milo, he is reinforced more by me throwing a piece of food for him to run after than me just handing it to him. The Kong Hide N Treat is a great training tool for varying reinforcement delivery.

So once you have identified things that your dog loves to do, you can play around with the delivery of those things to help you with your training.

Examples Of Reinforcer Choices

  • Ask your dog to sit and then reinforce the completed behaviour by releasing the dog to go and swim
  • Cue your dog to wait, then reinforce them for waiting by opening the door and releasing them to go outside
  • Your dog notices a distraction in the distance, reinforce a hesitation to run by scatter feeding
  • After your dog has returned to your recall cue, excitedly play with their favourite toy
  • Ask your dog to stay beside you, then reinforce a positive response by releasing them to go and sniff
Dog training
Once established at home, practice reinforcing desired behaviour out and about

Examples of Reinforcer Choice For Milo

The tractor engine starting used to trigger Milo to run after the tractor, before it even moved. Now the engine starting is a trigger for Milo to run to me! How did I achieve this? Through me making the right reinforcement choices to reward Milo for the behaviour I wanted to see more.

What didn’t work-

  • Feeding a piece of regular food directly to him
  • Scatter feeding
  • Recall
  • Throwing a chew stick
  • Walking in a different direction

These didn’t’t work because they weren’t reinforcing enough to Milo.

What did work-

  • Playing with the Pullers regularly, building his desire for them away from a chase situation. Then starting with the tractor at a distance, rewarding him for not running towards it by throwing a Puller.
  • Throwing one piece of food towards the tractor, then several pieces of higher value food away from the tractor.
  • Throwing the Kong Hide N Treat in the opposite direction to the tractor when the engine started.
  • Gradually moving closer to the tractor and consistently reinforcing Milo’s good choices.

So now when the engine starts, he sees it as fun time with me and not fun time with a tractor wheel!

Positive reinforcement dog training
The power of training with positive reinforcement.

Thank You For Reading

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE