Eating the same food from the same bowl every morning and night can become a snooze. Your dog can quickly get bored of their daily feeding routine. Food enrichment is a great way to teach dogs use their brains to work for their food!
Using toys bought from your local pet store, or ingredients from your supermarket, food enrichment is a simple way to keep dogs occupied with an interactive activity while you are at work or if the weather is too severe to take them for a walk.
Food enrichment is important because it can help decrease dogs’ boredom and stress levels by providing them with mental stimulation. Think less destructive behaviour, barking and whining!
With that in mind, we’ve put together a food enrichment starter-pack for dog owners.
Wobblers and puzzle toys are designed to encourage the dog to work for their food using their paws or snout to move the object to reveal the food from the inside.
It’s a good idea to fill puzzle toys up with dry kibble – don’t use wet food as it won’t come out of the puzzle toy, can frustrate the dog and can be extremely hard to clean out thoroughly!
Tip: Have a few different puzzle toys and swap out with each meal to keep your dog interested and enthusiastic.
When carrying out all food enrichment, wait for your dog to be calm. Ask them to “sit”, place the toy down on the floor and monitor your dog for the first few minutes. If they become frustrated or uninterested you may like to try a different food enrichment activity or you may need to encourage them to start by playing with the toy yourself.
This activity is really simple and stimulating for dogs. All it requires is a room, some objects, tasty treats and your dog! This activity starts by hiding treats in plain view so your dog can find them. Once you’ve hidden a treat, step back and say “find it”. Let your dog explore till they do. Once they find the treat mark this behaviour with a “click” from a clicker or verbal praise.
Advance the game by hiding multiple treats in, behind or on objects while your dog is in the room. Once they’ve mastered that you can hide the treats while your dog is outside of the room.
A TV dinner is a frozen whole meal. They can be made in various moulds such as ice cream containers, silicon baking moulds or small buckets or tubs. This food enrichment is great in summer to keep dogs cool in the hot sunny weather!
How to prepare TV dinners
Step 1. Ensure the mould has been thoroughly cleaned before preparing the meal.
Step 2. Place two cups of dry kibble into a mould.
Step 3. Add a few tablespoons of wet food (gravy-based wet food is best).
Step 4. Add two cups of water. Instead of water you can also use chicken or beef stock.
Step 5. Mix thoroughly.
Step 6. Cover, date and freeze.
Once frozen, serve up to your patiently waiting pooch!
* this recipe is for a medium-large size dog. Reduce the recipe for smaller dogs.
Tip: ensure the floor area is an easy cleanable surface as this food enrichment can make a mess!
A slow feeder is a bowl that is specifically designed to prevent dogs from gulping their meals. The design of the bowls mean that your dog will have to work to reach their food, slowing down their eating as well as providing mental stimulation.
Slow feeders can be filled with various dog-friendly foods but a good way to start is to scatter dry kibble throughout the slow feeder and add a small amount of wet food to encourage the dog to start eating the food.
PASS THE PARCEL
Just like the children’s party game, pass the parcel for dogs is the same concept – hiding goodies inside wrapping paper or a box!
How to prepare pass the parcel for pooches
Step 1. Use a sturdy cardboard box (removing any staples or cellotape that may cause harm if swallowed).
Step 2. Place bits of tasty treats on the inside of the box along with scrunched up newspaper and a selection of soft or hard toys.
Step 3. Wrap the box using newspaper!
Step 4. Make sure you hide treats in the wrapping so they can use their senses to dig it out.
Remember, it’s okay if they make a mess – it’s part of the fun!
Frozen treats are easy to make and can be used in hiding games or simply as an alternative treat for your dog.
Frozen treats can be made with various dog-friendly foods, however our most common recipe is:
Step 1. Mix chicken or beef stock with peanut butter and hot water.
Step 2. Place the mixture in different moulds and place biscuits on top.
Step 3. Cover, date and freeze.
You can also try a sweet option with plain yoghurt, blueberries and banana.
Tip: You can make your treats using a mix of different wet food and biscuits or stock, so get creative and see what your dog prefers!
KONGS and FOOD DISPENSING TOYS
A Kong is a rubber food dispensing toy which comes in various sizes and strengths for all types of dogs!
Preparing a Kong is easy. They can be filled with various dog-friendly foods but we recommend filling them with kibble and wet food, or peanut butter.
You can also place a stick-shaped treat in the end of the Kong to create a popsicle-style treat. If you want to prepare your Kongs in advance, simply put them in the freezer. Just make sure you use them within three days of making!
Tip: Do not use gravy-based wet food as the gravy leaks out before it gets a chance to freeze!
You may have seen footage on TVNZ's Seven Sharp last night that showed our SPCA Inspectors rescuing German Shepherds from a puppy farm.
When SPCA Inspectors arrived at the breeder's property, they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Adult dogs and puppies were slipping over in their own faeces, tangled in urine-sodden newspaper, and living amongst old food scraps.
Some of them were confined to a small room with no light, or fresh air. They were barking for attention, and their eyes pleading for help. We needed to intervene.
There are over 30 of these dogs in our care. So far, this case has cost the SPCA over $158,000.
This is an active and ongoing investigation, but we think it's important to share this with you. The SPCA is building a case against their owner in court, and we are asking today if you'll help our team. We are horrified that these dogs, especially young puppies, were being housed in this way. They were presented for sale to people who were completely unaware of the terrible conditions they were living in.
These dogs were betrayed, and although we can't change that, we can give them a voice.
So much money has already gone into giving these dogs the life they deserve, but this figure will only increase. We receive no government funding to undertake this vital work. It's completely funded by animal lovers like you.
Carla is just one of the dogs rescued from this horrible breeding situation. When she arrived at the SPCA, Carla would hide in the corner, and was frightened by everything. But recently, she was adopted by her loving foster dad, who is building her confidence and teaching her how to trust again.
Watching her get to live a life as a normal dog is why we keep doing this work.
Please help us continue to give these dogs the life they deserve.
Stepping off the plane onto Auckland soil, accompanied by her two pet Chihuahuas, Kooper and Kapone, Dr Shalsee Vigeant was about to embark on the biggest challenge of her life so far.
Five years has passed since Shalsee’s leap of faith, after moving half-way across the world to take on the role of Veterinary Manager at the SPCA Auckland. But, for Shalsee it was a no-brainer decision: to make a change for animals who had no voice, those who are abused or neglected and have no home.
“Working at a shelter has been the most bittersweet journey of my life, but one that I wouldn’t change for the world” explains Shalsee.
Shalsee, originally from Louisiana, always knew she wanted to work with animals, something she made clear to her father when she was just four years old. “One Christmas I told my Dad I thought Santa was a terrible pet owner since he left his reindeer on the roof every night as he came down chimney’s and ate cookies by the fire,” says Shalsee. From that point on she only left out ‘reindeer food’ on Christmas — it seems her life has been peppered with stories like this.
In a career that has spanned over two decades, Shalsee has worked all over the world specialising in trauma and emergency medicine and before coming to New Zealand, was the director of a large emergency clinic in New Hampshire.
A desire to travel lead to Shalsee to make the move to the land of the long white cloud. Her path took a different direction towards a new challenge working in a shelter hospital, one which she had never experienced before, “The hardest part for me was coming from a private practice environment where people will literally spend thousands of dollars on their animals to an environment where people will happily give their animals over.”
Life in the hospital
As Veterinary Manager she has led the dedicated hospital team — the first point of call for any incoming animals brought to the SPCA. From rodents to sheep, kittens to senior dogs, no two days are the same at the hospital, which means staff and volunteers are faced with new challenges every single day.
“One moment we can see the arrival of a litter of puppies who have been abandoned, the next a stray cat who has been abused and needs urgent surgery. That level of intensity requires a hugely resilient team who work tirelessly to save every animal they can, and we are so lucky to have that,” explains Shalsee.
A typical day for Shalsee could see her carrying out up to 40 surgeries a day, as well as managing four vets, ten nurses and four reception staff. All year round the team are busy tending to the animals in their care and are especially flat out during summer months with high numbers of cats and kittens, “During this time we can see up to 100 kittens a day arrive through the doors in Auckland alone. The SPCA looks after around 30,000 kittens and their mothers every year around the country. That’s an incredible amount of animals who need our help.”
Twelve months ago, Shalsee also rose to the challenge of becoming Head of Veterinary Services. This saw her help spread important animal welfare messages in the media such as responsible pet ownership. “Pets are a lifelong commitment, and sometimes people can get drawn in by the cuteness of animals without seriously thinking about the care they will need long-term,” she says.
She has also applied this drive for making a difference to build relationships with other local animal rescues and veterinary practices, because creating a better life for animals starts with our communities. “We can only do this by all working together, everyone needs to be on the same page and working towards the same goal. We also want to help smaller organisations where we can, that is very important to us.”
Over the course of five years, there are some moments that have stuck with Shalsee.
One spring morning, the hospital was shook when a very tiny kitten arrived with a damaged eye so severe that the vet team was certain it would have to be removed. However, the kitten was too young and too small to perform an operation on. “I knew this kitten was a fighter and I has to do all I could do give her the best shot. I took her home and became her foster mum, intensively treating her eye for six weeks,” recalls Shalsee. Over time the kitten began to recover and grew into a healthy and happy adult cat, and her damaged eye healed. She was named Minnie, and was eventually adopted by one of Shalsee’s best friends, meaning that she still get to make visits for cuddles.
Just last summer, a dog with extensive cancer was brought into the shelter. The dog, Bounce, was extremely sweet and mentally doing well, however due to the extent of the cancer she had to be on large amounts of pain medication and antibiotics to even keep her comfortable. When it was confirmed that her cancer could not be treated and the shelter team could no longer keep her comfortable it was decided that she would be put to sleep. "Sadly, our efforts couldn’t save her and the kindest and most humane thing to do was put her to sleep. That day was a difficult one and will never leave me – I had to take a moment to compose myself and remind myself it was the best thing to do. That sometimes making animals lives better doesn't always mean 'fixing' them.”
A personal journey
Shalsee has become known for not only her positive and infectious energy, but also her beloved dogs, who are always by her side. Her eldest Chihuahua Kapone who is seventeen, and five-year-old Kapone have accompanied her to work every single day since she adopted them.
Shortly after starting at the SPCA, she also fell in love with a beautiful tan-coloured Rhodesian Ridgeback named Tuuka. He had been kicked and beaten by his previous owner and needed someone special to show him the life he deserved. Shalsee didn’t have to think twice about taking him home.
Sadly, after three happy years together, Tuuka suddenly fell very sick with cancer earlier this year and had to be put to sleep. A bitter pill to swallow, Shalsee was thankful his later years were full of love and more toys than he knew what to do with, but it reminds her of the hardest part of working in a shelter.
“It’s a sad but real truth that as hard as we try, we can’t save every animal we see. Sometimes they have been through too much or are in too much pain and euthanising them is the only humane and caring thing left to do. It hurts your heart a lot.”
This emotional turmoil can be hard to take at times, and Shalsee explains that for this reason, her days working in shelter life come with a time limit. “As long as I can make as much positive impact as possible for the animals while working at the SPCA I will be forever happy.”
The most rewarding part of the job? "We get to see animals come in here every day that we know would've died if they didn't come to us. That makes everything worthwhile."
When young animals arrive at the SPCA, it is all hands on deck to ensure they survive. Olive was only 8 weeks old when she was abandoned on the side of the road, far too vulnerable to have nobody looking out for her. It doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened to Olive if she hadn’t been found. It could have been so much worse.
But the silver lining to a sad beginning, is that Olive found the best life and family we could’ve asked for.
Julie, Olive’s new mum, already had a rescue dog called Charlie who travelled to New Zealand with them last year. He was saved from the streets of Australia after he was found skin and bone and has spent the last 5 years with a life every dog deserves. It made sense that Julie and her family should give another rescue dog a home.
“What attracted us to Olive was her ‘I’m really interested in what’s going on’ look in her eyes and her large ears that turned like radars,” laughs Julie. “Now the last couple of months have passed and we have the one ear up and one ear down look instead.”
It didn’t take long for Olive and Charlie to become the best of friends. All Olive has to do is ‘woof’ at a sound and Charlie will race off to do the rest of the barking. But most of the time this is quite possibly only a ploy to get Charlie into trouble. “Olive has the brains and Charlie has the brawn,” Julie admits.
Olive’s cheekiness does not stop there. According to her mum she has got herself into a lot of trouble. In just a few months she has chewed Charlie’s kennel and all his bedding, the wooden trailer, the coffee table, slippers, jewellery, the sofa cushions, shoes, the deck, mats, and put Olive sized muddy footprints all over the car. “Once I left for only 20 minutes and came back to a black dog with little polystyrene beads stuck all over her fur, around her eyes and in her mouth. I went inside and followed a polystyrene bead trail to the spare bedroom. The sight was horrendous, she must have had a great time throwing that pillow around the room,” says Julie.
A couple of days later it suddenly went quiet and Julie knew that wasn’t a good sign. Olive had taken pot plants off the deck and proceeded to throw
them around inside. “I had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy as my last four rescue dogs have been adopted as adults. It has been interesting. Olive is best described as a whirlwind that races through the house ten times a day, but her training is coming along really well,” Julie says.
Olive and Charlie have had many adventures together. The two of them bound around in the surf at Waihi Beach, and love to lie in the trailer outside every morning. Julie says they like to pretend they’re lizards trying to warm up on a cold morning. The duo even dressed up for Halloween last year to greet all the trick or treaters, and although the house is filled with dog beds, Olive and Charlie will always be curled up together on one. “Charlie really misses her if they are apart,” says Julie.
It was a frightening start to little Olive’s life, but now she has her big brother Charlie to protect her, and her family to shower her with love and affection.
There is nothing better than being able to take your four-legged friend out with you when you want to grab a bite to eat. Whether it's Friday night drinks, a long lunch on Saturday, or Sunday brunch, it is so much better when they are by your side. The good news is dog-friendly cafes are becoming a lot more common, and below we have listed a few for you to enjoy from around New Zealand.
Waikato – The Keg room & Eatery
36 Horsham Downs Road, Rototuna North
The Keg Room in Hamilton is a dog-friendly bar which even has their very own doggie menu. Owner Melissa says her and Andy love dogs, and after seeing lots of people walking their dogs as they drove to work every day, they asked themselves how they could share everyone else’s dogs. That’s when the doggie menu ‘Gone to the dogs,’ was created. “People have their lunch or a few afternoon drinks, dogs snack on meatball treats and doggicinos – everyone is happy!” says Melissa. Then came Malt, their very own pub dog. Malt goes to work most days and even had his 1st birthday party at The Keg Room with 30 dogs of all shapes and sizes coming along to celebrate. “They all enjoyed a pup cake for his birthday and the proceeds went to the SPCA,” says Melissa. The doggie menu is available every weekend from 11am, so if you are in the area, and looking to get a bite to eat with friends and family, don’t leave your four-legged friend at home.
(photo credits - Jamie Wright Photography)
Christchurch – The Villas
290-292 Montreal Street, Christchurch Central
The Villas in Montreal Street provides the perfect inner city sanctum to take your fur-friend on a ‘dog’s day out’ that you will both thoroughly enjoy. Footpath signs outside the cafe advertise their dog-friendly nature, quickly make you realise you’re in a dog lovers’ zone, and this is soon backed up by the staff who often give dogs a personal greeting and pat. Water bowls are provided for your dog, while owners can sip on some of Christchurch’s most famous coffees. The only downside for dog owners here is the puppy-dog eyes you might get from your beloved pooch as they watch you devour the delicious food. Hagley Park is very close-by for a post coffee stroll.
Christchurch – Beach Café
16 Beach Road, North New Brighton
Beach Cafe is widely known by Christchurch dog owners as one of the best spots to take your dog. When you visit, it’s easy to see why. With sprawling views across the Brighton beach, Beach Cafe allows you a stunning setting to sit with your dog in the sunshine while both getting treated to delicacies. The cafe offers water and dog treats for your fur friends to enjoy, while the wide-ranging menu will keep all humans satisfied. Afterwards, there are many nearby popular walking tracks where you can both burn off your indulgences.
Marlborough – Le Café
2-14 London Quay, Picton
Le Cafe is one of Marlborough’s best renowned eateries and, lucky for pet owners, one of the region’s most dog-friendly sites too! Often called the “Gateway to the Marlborough Sounds”, Picton offers impressive views of the sea and harbour. Situated right on the waterfront, Le Cafe showcases this atmosphere and specialises in local seafood to dine on. Dogs are welcomed to sit outside the cafe with you and soak up the scenery. Water bowls are offered and dog hugs freely given.
Matakana - The Black Dog Cafe
23 Matakana Valley Road
Matakana is a little town which either makes a wonderful destination or a well-remembered on the way north from Auckland. There are plenty of places to eat, and shops to see, but if you have your doggy sidekick with you, the Black Dog Café is the place to be. It is a perfect place for brunch, lunch, a quick coffee, or a snack, and if your dog is giving you those pleading eyes you can also buy homemade dog treats. The Black Dog Café is a popular place for dog owners, and even includes a ‘dog wall of fame’ inside for all the dogs who have visited the café.
Wellington - Spruce Goose
30 Cochrane Street, Rongotai
A perfectly-positioned spot for a post-walk caffeine stop is Spruce Goose, at the far end of Lyall Bay. The ex-WWII aircraft hangar is now home to brunching Wellingtonians with an outlook over the best surf spot in the bay and the edge of the airport. Spruce Goose is a dog friendly cafe so dog watching/patting is always on the cards. Directly across the road is a dog friendly beach, the perfect spot for your furry friend to chase the waves.
Wellington – Rogue and Vagabond
18 Garrett Street, Te Aro
Rogue and Vagabond is all about live music, pizzas and a great sociable atmosphere to accompany your local craft brew. Live music six nights a week showcases everything from local acoustic to twelve-piece bands. A great spot for meeting friends, socialising or just watching the Wellington crowd do their thing. Rogue and Vagabond is the perfect location for those that want to bring their dogs along too! Dogs are welcome to enjoy the sunshine with their owners in the outdoor garden area.
Wellington – St Johns Bar and Restaurant
5 Cable Street, Te Aro
A stylish yet relaxed bar & restaurant on the waterfront, and a great spot for a social catch up. With outdoor tables and beanbags on the lawn, this is the perfect place to eat, drink and soak up the sunshine. Expect to bump into locals from the surrounding business district for working lunches, after work drinks and dinner. Very dog friendly, you can sit outside in the sun and let the good times roll! The staff are dog lovers, and will spoil your pooch with lots of pats!
Wairarapa - Everest Cafe and Bistro
17 Fitzherbert St, Rimutaka Hill, Featherston
Everest Cafe and Bistro in Featherston offers a multitude of delights to its visitors from their centrally located store. Enjoy fresh baked pastries, home-made bread and other delicious artisan-style food made from local, Wairarapa produce - not to mention their excellent coffee. A great location for groups, kids and dogs! Dogs are welcome outside with fresh water bowls supplied.
Queenstown - Joe's Garage
Searle Lane, Queenstown
This friendly and relaxed café is full of personality and boasts a perfect location in Queenstown’s ever popular Searle Lane. Since opening in 2000, the franchise has branched out to other regions, but the Queenstown locals’ favourite brunch spot was the first to open. It was originally found in the old Post Office sorting room come “garage” in downtown Queenstown before moving. Small but perfectly formed, the front outdoor eating area is perfect for dog owners to chill out with a flat white listening to cool tunes before adventuring around NZ’s adventure capital.
Auckland - Hemingway's, Devenport
2A Rattray Street, Devonport, NZ
Located a short walk from one of Auckland’s beautiful North Shore beaches, this family run café opened less than a year ago. It has since become a hidden gem for locals looking for the perfect family and pet friendly brunch spot all week round, with an extensive menu to cater for all tastes. The owners are huge animal lovers, and have multiple fur baby family members themselves who were all rescued, with some of them from the SPCA! Any and all dogs are welcome (as long as remember their doggy manners), and there is plenty of room for them to hang out in the outdoor eating area. Each pooch is greeted with a bowl of fresh water and lots of pats!