Investigating the usage of enrichment feeding for pet dogs and the associated perceived benefits and challenges

Fund

AWF Research Fund

Grant

£2,995

Research Period

2021

Area of study

Student Research

Description

Investigator(s): Madeline Heys

Supervisor(s): Carri Westgarth

Whilst enrichment feeding toys are often recommended to dog owners by veterinary practitioners and dog behaviourists, very little is known about their use in practice, and there is currently very limited empirical research to support their use. The aim of this project is to investigate the use of enrichment feeding practices (including food/puzzle toys) with pet dogs and the perceived benefits. The project will increase our knowledge of:

  1. Who is using enrichment feeding, and for which types of dogs?
  2. How owners use enrichment feeders with pet dogs (how often, what sort, how, when, in what situations)?
  3. Why owners use enrichment feeders with pet dogs (what are the benefits and challenges as perceived by owners)?
  4. Whether enrichment feeding could be an effective tool to help owners manage their dog’s weight (due to reduced begging, perceived satiety and/or taking longer to eat)?

The analysis will focus on the benefits for animal welfare issues including behaviour problems and obesity. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data will be collected via an online survey to dog owners and analysed using statistical and thematic analysis. The findings will provide better understanding of how enrichment feeding toys are used by dog owners and provide a platform for further research into the use of dog enrichment toys for health and welfare issues.