Are you looking for a great puzzle-feeder to occupy your dogalini? Check out The Dog Trainer's review of the Northmate company's Green Feeder.
If you’ve poked around The Dog Trainer much, you know I believe many pet dogs spend much of their time climbing out of their skins with boredom, and I encourage – no, I beg – my readers and clients to liven up meals with food-puzzle toys. A couple of weeks ago, I asked for and got a sample (full disclosure: the sample was free) of a completely new design of food-puzzle toy, the Northmate company’s Green Feeder. It’s a heavy, phthalate-free plastic oval with 43 rounded blades of “grass” sticking out of it.
The idea is that you scatter dry food among the “grass” and your dog keeps busy extracting it. You can also put canned or other moist food in the rim. I tried the Green out on my dog and on some friends. To cut to the chase, they all had a blast.
Here’s my Juniper, giving his nose a wedgie:
Juni’s an eager chewer, so I was concerned that he’d pick the toy up and chomp it to pieces, but he stuck to nosing, licking, and pawing. I used ¼ cup of kibble, which took him about 6 snorting, rooting minutes from start to finish. Then I passed the feeder on to my friends Meg, Jess, and Viv. Meg’s little dog, Magda, got just a short round in the middle of the party, but Jess’s Calvin and Viv’s trio, Willow, Greta, and Toby, each took between 5 and 6 minutes to clean ¼ cup of food out of the Green. An extra bonus: Willow is big on licking, and she spent 5 more minutes making sure that her tongue had visited every crevice even after the kibble was gone.
The manufacturer tells me that these are unusually fast speeds. Maybe my friends and I have extra eager dogs, who knows?
The Green has a fairly hefty pricetag – about $25 is the cheapest I’ve seen. On the other hand, you can’t beat it for low effort on the human’s part; most food-puzzle toys are more work to load, and with the Green you don’t have to plan ahead the way you do if you’re stuffing and freezing Kongs (still my go-to for active chewers). It’s also surprisingly easy to wash: a minute with soapy water and the spray attachment.
There are toys that will keep your dog busy for longer, and if you don’t have much money but you do have time, you can make your own foraging toys out of cardboard boxes and crumpled paper. But if you want to add variety to your dog’s food-puzzling, and especially if the convenience of this clever toy will make the difference between meals-as-playtime and meals-as-gobbling-out-of-a-bowl, then … go for the Green.