It’s always nice to get a freebie, well actually it’s not and sometimes they go in the bin. But this freebie, sent to me by the designer and producer, Kate Mallatratt, was one of the nice ones.
It’s a PickPocket enrichment feeder specifically designed for dogs. I wasn’t expecting to like it very much but actually, it’s very good. Kate has resisted the temptation to make the enrichment task too difficult and designed something really quite simple. Dogs don’t need to solve complex puzzles and have not evolved to do so. There are many complex puzzles on the market but do we give them to a dog and expect them to be solved? No (or we shouldn’t). We teach the dog step by step how to deal with the puzzle.
I’m a big fan of keeping it simple. My favourite type of enrichment is that which engages the dog in activities which he would naturally enjoy. These things do not only give him something to do, they fulfil a genetic and instinctive need within the animal to behave in a particular way. Behavioural issues are often the result of animals not being permitted to fulfil these needs.
To humans, sniffing is no big deal, but to dogs, sniffing is their world. To prevent a dog from sniffing (constantly pulling him away on walks) is similar to blindfolding a human and expecting them to walk around stress-free.
That’s why this simple PickPocket works so well for enrichment. It encourages the greatest of the enrichment activities; SNIFFING. It encourages the second greatest enrichment activity; SEEKING. The dopamine rush, associated with the feel-good factor does not come from getting what you want, it comes from seeking it, from the opportunity of winning (not from the winning itself). This is why enrichment feeding produces more enjoyment than placing the food down in a bowl.
The pockets are shallow (about an inch or so) which allows treats to be hidden out of sight yet still accessible to the dog without them feeling the need to rip open the pocket to get inside.
The PickPocket can be simply laid down flat or hung up. When hanging you should ensure it’s hung from something stable which will not fall. If hung from shelving (as in my enrichment shed) then the shelving should be secured to the wall. They may also be hung easily from a dog crate.
My advice is to start with the PickPocket laying on the floor and the treats poking out of the pockets. It may be made more challenging in small steps by pushing the treats inside so he cant see them, using smaller treats, flattening the pockets, or hanging it up.
One idea for use in training is to use the PickPocket when you have visitors. If used consistently each time visitors arrive the dog will learn that visitors mean a great opportunity to go play with the PickPocket forager rather than jump all over your guests.
You could possibly make your own version if you have the skills (I don’t) or you can visit PickPocketforagers.com or https://www.facebook.com/contemplatingcanines/ for more information on purchasing one ready made.
Disclaimer: I have no business or personal connection with Kate Mallatratt or PickPocketforagers.com. What I write on this blog is my personal opinion (based on knowledge gained from studying canine behaviour at degree level).
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read