I came across this silicone muffin mold in the cupboard this morning and I thought I would finally try doing a taster board for the dogs.
A taster board is a basic form of mental enrichment where you put various foods on a plate/tray/muffin tin in front of your dog and observe what they do – sniff, eat, ignore etc. For the dog, it introduces different food stuffs and encourages them to explore while the human can observe if some foods are higher value than others (useful to know for training, for example).
I have a fairly good idea of what my dogs value and I regularly encourage them to eat fruit and veg by giving them stuff as I’m prepping food. I know it isn’t most people’s preference to have dogs hang around in the kitchen but it doesn’t usually bother me, and it makes everything I hand them there more valuable which has encouraged Nell to eat things like lettuce and cabbage, and it’s easier to get her to eat medication when she assumes things I throw her in the kitchen are most likely to be valuable.
In any case, I had some time today so I chopped up some veggies for them – I decided to stick to vegetables only because it’s an absolute no-brainer that if I include cheese or ham, they’ll go first and I learn nothing new. So, my board had carrot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, courgette, apple and pepper (in the same order for both dogs). All except pepper are much loved by Nell – so much so that she runs into the kitchen when she hears me chopping!
I was interested in finding out if there was any order of preference, and whether Grace would be keen on them without watching Nell eat them too.
- Both dogs ate everything – Nell ate a bite of cucumber and carrot first, then sampled pretty much one of everything in true tapas style
- Grace worked a bit more methodically but that might be because she is smaller and therefore naturally ate the ones closest to her first
- Both dogs ate pepper last, which might be because it was in the furthest corner from them, or because they’re less familiar with it
All in all, I learned that my dogs really like veggies – both cleaned up the board at decent speed and I had to shoo Nell away for Grace’s turn because she wanted to eat another board… The most interesting thing was to notice they both chose a different veg for each mouthful – a bit like humans would vary the taste experience in their mouths over a meal.
I doubt I’ll use any of these as treats outside because of obvious mess reasons, but it was fun and I’ll probably play this another time with another board of super high value treats like cheese!