Fluid Motion Review – The Puzzle Feeder

I am always on the lookout for new style bowls, enrichment mats, or puzzle style feeders. After publishing a video on why I am not a fan of most all of the hard plastic slow feeders, The Puzzle Feeder reached out to me to ask if they could send me one of their bowls to test out and give some feedback on.

Before I agreed I wanted to check out what their bowls were all about and more about the company. This was back in November 2022 and they got started through KickStarter. I went through their website, and learned more about the bowls, how they are made, and the values of the company.

Their bowls are made from compressed wheat stalk and with no toxic materials. This was a very big win for me as I really wanted to find a feeder that wasn’t made from plastic, and didn’t run the risk of having toxic materials. I had been using the Pet Platter for many years, a big selling point for the platter it is made from non-toxic materials

What the bowl is made from

The bowl itself is pretty big and could easily hold all of my dogs food, whether that was my Grandma Lucys, raw, or kibble. The bowl also features a spinning “bone” attachment to add another layer of difficulty. I wasn’t sure when I first got the bowl if the bone was really necessary, or if i would like it. But i have been using these bowls for months now and the spinning bone has become my favorite part!

Measurements – Its just under 10” in diameter and 3” tall. With a capacity of 8 cups of food.

As of right now you can purchase either the Slow Feeder bowl or the Lick Mat bowl. And these inserts are interchangeable and later this year you will be able to purchase just the insert, so you can change what insert you want with a single bowl.

Slow Feeder Insert

I was prepared to not like the Slow Feeder insert as I am very picky about slow feeders.

They are usually made from a hard plastic, and I have used many different brands with the same result, they push up on the dogs nose. While this may not seem like a big deal, the nose is very sensitive with many nerve endings, and watching dogs having to push their noses into the slow feeder makes me cringe.

I have also seem a lot of frustration from dogs using a hard slow feeder, or even ones with a lot of small hard to get to spaces. I am pretty sure I have used every slow feeder on the market, and they all seem to have the same result.

Ally using the Outward Hound slow feeder

When I first opened the Slow Feeder insert I was immediately happy with how soft the silicone is, as well as the “wave” pattern. This offered enough difficulty to help my dogs slow their eating, but not to the point to cause frustration, or pushing their nose into the small crevices.

Ally becomes very frustrated with slow feeders and tends to either lose interest in eating, or jam her nose harder to try and get everything out. I wasn’t sure how much the Wave pattern would really help this, and i think that it a huge help in frustration levels, not pushing on their sensitive nose, while still slowing their eating time.

Ally using the slow feeder insert

Lick Mat Insert

I really loved the Lick Mat insert, it has different patterns within the mat for different textures for the dog, as well as using different kinds of food.

Both of the inserts can be removed from the bowl and washed. (All pieces of the bowl are dishwasher safe) I will say that the Lick Mat insert was a little hard to get out the first few times, but I figured out how to grab the middle and pull it out of the bowl.

Two different ways to pull out Lick Mat Insert

How I use the bowls

What excited me the most when looking through the Puzzle Feeder website was all the different ways I could use these bowls.

I could use either the LickMat insert or the Slow Feeder insert to adjust the level of difficulty, or vary the style of enrichment style feeding, as well as use the inserts without the spinning bone to lesson difficulty. I could also put food in the Lick Mat insert and then freeze just the insert for a longer lasting enrichment session.

I love this bowl for my old girl! I use just the bowl (no insert) and the spinning bone. She has some pretty severe cognitive issues and sometimes things like Toppls, or even Lick Mats are hard for her and she loses interest in eating, which is not a good thing at this age.

So for her, using just the bowl with the spinner provides some enrichment, without being too hard. And I want to use things like this with her that provides enrichment, and works her mind so she doesn’t decline even faster.

Nargles using the bowl with spinner

Final Thoughts

Overall I like these bowls, I was sent the first two (one with the slow feeder and one with the lick mat) but I then went and purchased another two bowls so all my dogs had one.

I use them almost daily with all my dogs (another post coming soon on why i switch up how my dogs eat ) and I can switch how I use them for each dogs and their needs, or to give them variety in the bowls for enrichment and difficulty.

The bowls have held up well with no wear in either the bowl itself or the inserts.

I am looking forward to their new product this spring, a Sniff Mat insert! The pictures on the website of the Snuffle Mat insert look very cool and I am excited that I can add that to my bowls to once again add some variety in how I feed my dogs, all with one feeder.

Sniffing insert come 2023

You can use this code: lovepet01 for 10% off your order

Link: https://thepuzzlefeeder.com?sca_ref=3212902.piMD2hFw3o

Note: I do receive a commission for those that use the above code, this helps me continue to review products and post blogs focusing on agility coaching, training, health, and fitness! Thank you!

Feeding for our Mental Health

Feeding our dogs and dog food in general is a very emotional topic. With all the different options to feed our dogs and so many polarizing opinions on what is “best” for our dogs, choosing not only what kind of food, but what brand.

But what I want to talk about is not how to choose what is “best” (if that is even something we can say 100%) But the mental toll that feeding our dogs can take on some.

The mental toll can be from choosing what dog food and the stress of trying to choose what is “right” or from trying to do what we perceive is “right”

Over the last couple of years i became obsessed with trying to find the “right” food, the choice that would ensure my dogs lived as long as possible, as healthy as possible. My constant research, would eat up HOURS of my day. Each blog would be contradicted by the next. Every article, every Facebook feeding group, every YouTube video would say something different than the last. Making trying to choose that best food a very stressful and time consuming part of my life, along with the intense fear mongering from some groups was to the point of unbearable.

I settled on feeding DIY raw/cooked for my dogs, feeling that would be the option that would make my dogs live their longest, healthiest life.

Making food, buying food, and feeding all four dogs a new time consuming part of my life. My days were now filled with either meal prepping, or putting together their food each day, in between my job, teaching, and having a life. And even then, feeding raw/cooked, my Facebook feed was filled with all the things i was doing wrong, or could do better.

I couldn’t hold on to the amount of work and time that DIY took.

Now let me say I have NOTHING against those who feed raw/cooked, it just didn’t work for me.

So I left the DIY raw/cooked route and went to feeding commercial. Mainly freeze dried (Grandma Lucys) mixed with Simple Food Project. I felt like a weight was lifted.

So here is the thing, I am doing the best I can do. The best that works for my mental health. The constant prepping, looking for the best deals on buying food, and trying to balance all their meals became such a toll that i was miserable.

And I know people do this all the time for their dogs. And i know there are ways to meal prep, but I felt like I was spending more time on food than i spent training or playing with my dogs.

Switching to a commercial lifted the mental load, maybe my choice isn’t the “best”, but it is the best for me, and for my dogs who now have my attention instead of reading books or the internet. I now feed my main food and add things along the way, some commercial raw, fresh veggies, eggs, yogurt, etc.

And I do what I call DIY days, where i feed no commercial and feed a complete DIY meal. And these meals happen when I am in the right mind set to do so. When I WANT to DIY a meal for my dogs, when I want to go shopping, and assemble a meal. I may do this for one day, or earlier this month I did DIY cooked for an entire week.

For me and my dogs this is what works.

My advice is this, if trying to find the “best” for your dog is causing more stress than joy, change it.

We are all doing the best we can not only for our dogs, but for ourselves. If the mental load is too much, leave it behind, and do the best you can.

Winter Rest and Play

Winter Rest and Play

Winter has officially started at my house here in Eastern Oregon, which means outside training time for my dogs has greatly decreased. 

While we still go outside for play time and daily exercise, with the off and on rain/snow, any agility training is off the table until spring. 

For my dogs I enjoy having some forced time off during the winter. Not only do I feel that it is beneficial for my dogs mental health, I also strongly feel that having some time off is crucial for my dogs physical health as well. 

Generally my trialing season slows down quite a bit after NADAC Championships in Sept/Oct. I will generally attend 2-3 trials in Oct and November, but from then until about March, my dogs have that time off. 

Their time off consists of no agility training as far as obstacles, and no trials. But this doesn’t mean that they sit around the house for months on end doing nothing. 

They still get daily exercise and play time outside, along with enrichment puzzles/toys 2-3 times a week. (more on why my dogs don’t eat all their meals from enrichment toys in a future blog) 

During the winter I like to teach my dogs at least two new tricks, as well as work on strengthening their foundational skills. Teaching new tricks helps continue to build a working relationship between myself and my dog, as well as help with my dogs cognitive health by learning something new. 

I strengthen their foundational skills like directionals, contacts, startlines, etc, by going back to the foundation steps of how I taught those skills. By taking your dog back to these foundation steps each year, no matter if they are young and in Novice, or in Elite, will help continue to strengthen and make those advanced skills even more solid. 

The benefits both mental and physical of having time off from trialing, and obstacle work, to working on those foundational skills is huge, and has a big pay off for both you and you dog! 

What are your plans this winter with your dog? Let me know in the comments below!

Wanna see what I am doing with my dogs this winter? Come join the Fluid Motion Coaching Group and join me in working foundations this winter!

Fluid Motion Cue Series – Out 101

In the first lesson of this Directional Series I will be talking about the foundations for how I teach my Out cue.

Out for my dogs means for them to move away from me, or take the obstacle furthest from me.

I like to begin with teaching an Out using cones, but you can start with a hoop as well.

First, like all your cues, you need to define what an Out cue means to you. As well as what your body language and verbal cue look like for your cue.

Because Out for me means for my dog to move away from me or take the obstacle furthest from me, I will start my Out foundations with a cone, and asking my dog to go to the far side of the cone.

Beginning Cone Work

The video above shows some beginning cone work with Ally. I am trying to really focus on using my lower body/feet to show her the path I want her to take around the cone.

To start, you can use either a toy or treats. I like to use a toy, as it can be easier to toss a toy to the dog to reward.

I want to take a step toward the dog with the leg closest to the dog, as I step toward the dog I will give my verbal cue “Out”. As my dog starts to move, I will toss the toy, or the treat to the far side of the cone.

Cone Work with Wall-E

I will continue working with this single cone, varying my handling positions (but always making sure my body language and verbal is clear. Do not put yourself in a handling position that would be an actual “Out”) I want to add distance to my cone to help proof my Out as well as build confidence in my dog for their Out cue.

Once I have proofed and built confidence with my dog on a single cone with their Out cue, I will start adding more cones. The videos above show working with Ally and Wall-E on multiple cones.

The above video shows examples of using multiple cones and includes a voiceover explaining what I am doing in the video clip.

Before I consider moving on to adding other pieces of equipment, I first want to make sure that my dog has full confidence in their understanding of the Out cue.

I will build my dogs confidence and clarity in the cue by continuing to proof my cone with with various handling positions as well as increasing distance.

Because I have built such a strong foundation for the Out cue, I can start bringing in other pieces of equipment and transferring my cue to those as well. I like to start with hoops, and then start incorporating the other pieces of equipment.

The biggest thing to keep in mind with teaching Out, or any directional cue, is confidence. Your first priority should be building your dogs confidence in that skill. Proof that skill with varying handling positions, and adding distance. If you take the time to really proof and build your dogs confidence at this foundation level, it will pay off down the road.

Practice the Positive!

How many times do you watch your runs from a trial and pick out all the things that went wrong? Instead of all the things that went right?

I am very guilty of this and I have been trying to focus on the positive things that happened during the run instead of just focusing on everything that went wrong. And I will be the first to say, its hard!! I have to make sure and make a conscious effort to list all the good things that happened, but it has definitely helped my mental process during trials. 

This doesn’t mean I ignore the things that went wrong, I will think about them, what happened, what I maybe need to go home and train, or maybe handle differently. I let those thoughts come into my mental space, and then I let them go. 

I don’t want those thoughts of “all the things that went wrong” to occupy my headspace for the rest of the trial. Because if I let that happen, it will continue to loop for the rest of the day and each run could continue to loop those negative thoughts. 

And what happens when those thoughts loop? 

Well something happens on the next run, and “confirms” to us all the bad things, and that continues that negative loop. 

And again, being honest, it is hard to let those negative thoughts go. But here is the thing I have learned. Let them occupy your mental space, sit with them for a certain amount of time, I give myself 5-10 minutes. And then move on, focus on the good things that did happen, and I mean ALL the things. 

  • Stay at the start line? YAY!!
  • Hit their dogwalk contact? YES!!!! 
  • Did that 180 sequences from 10 feet??? WOOT!!! 

So for your next trial, try this, mull over those bad things in that run, give yourself a time limit, put a timer on your phone (thats what I do!) 5 or 10 minutes, and then shake them off and start going over all the good things! Take your dog for a walk, go hang out with your friends, whatever you need to do to shake off those thoughts and focus on the good stuff. 

Its hard to do, but worth it!! 

Amanda

Troubleshooting Your Start Line

I feel that most dogs with start line issues are lacking full understanding of the criteria. Add in, that some dogs also have issues handling over arousal, and that can be a mixture that causes dogs not holding their start line, bolting out of the leash, creeping, etc. 

Some handlers biggest struggle is the start line. From dogs who are wanting to creep forward, to dogs who will barely let the handler get the leash off before bolting for the course. 

Wall-E and I have been struggling with some start line issues this year, he can only hold himself for so long before he breaks, usually after a certain distance in my lead out. 

For Wall-E I believe his start line issues stem from lack of confidence on the start line skill itself, and he is a young male learning to control his over arousal. So I have moved all of my start line work away from the agility equipment and I am focusing on building his confidence and understanding of the criteria for his start line behavior. 

Wall-E has a pretty good moving wait, but it can be improved, and he definitely doesn’t fully understand the criteria for my Wait cue when we are moving. 

The short video below is a clip from a live training session I did for my Coaching Group on Moving Waits. 

As you can see from the video, he does a really nice wait for the toy that I have thrown, but as soon as I add movement, he loses confidence in the criteria for the wait cue.

Adding movement in my opinion is huge for really working on start line skills. Adding movement brings in an element of adrenaline that they feel in trials. If you are only working on your start lines in a very calm, manner, with very structured sits or downs. It might be time to bring in some movement and really build a positive association with your Wait cue. 

I want to build his confidence for his wait no matter what I am doing, and really reinforce that he is only released on my verbal cue. I will be working on these moving waits away from any agility equipment until he is consistent and confident with waiting while I am moving, leading out, in front of him, behind him, in new places, with other dogs around, distractions, etc. 

Once I know he is confident with the criteria in that setting, I will now start bringing in equipment. When I start to bring an obstacle into his training sessions, I will break everything back down into foundations. 

So lets say with his moving wait, I am able to have him run next to me while I say Wait, with other dogs running nearby, in a new area, with lots of noise from kids playing. 

When I increase the difficulty of adding say, a tunnel, into our training session, I am not going to ask him to do it at the high distraction level. I will go back down to easy steps and build his fluency with waiting in front of the tunnel. As I build his confidence in the skill, then I will start adding layers of difficulty. 

I feel that most dogs with start line issues are lacking full understanding of the criteria. Add in, that some dogs also have issues handling over arousal, and that can be a mixture that causes dogs not holding their start line, bolting out of the leash, creeping, etc. 

If you are having start line issues, I highly recommend taking it back to foundation steps and really work on their understanding of the start line criteria and what you want from them on the start line. 


If you want to learn more about moving waits and start lines, check out the Fluid Motion Coaching Group!

https://fluidmotioncommunity.mn.co/feed

The Straw That Broke the Camels Back

This little graphic is a very good representation of me and how it feels to have my battery drained.  I love teaching seminars, going to trials, seeing my friends, laughing, and having a great time. But I pay the price for that with needing alone time. Time to recharge and give my mental space a break. 

For me recharging usually involves being alone and watching some of my favorite tv shows, playing video games (I used to play World of Warcraft a lot for this reason, but not as much anymore) or lately knitting/crocheting and creating content for my Patreon group.

Being alone is usually the key here. Time and space to just let my mind rest and reset.  If I can’t be alone, like if Jimmy is here, I usually go for a drive. Even just a drive to the “big” town which is about 45 mins away helps. I will listen to my music and just drive alone, usually to the pet store or the craft store, get a little something for myself or my dogs and head home. That can definitely help with the recharge. 

So what happens if I don’t? 

Well that is what is currently happening right now. I haven’t had a chance to reset and I feel like I am nearing a breaking point.  

Last week was my virtual seminar, which was fantastic! I loved every minute of it! But during the sessions I am “on” while teaching and in-between I was usually on my computer answering questions from participants.  So my brain was always in this “engaged” mode. 

The same day the seminar ended, my brother and niece came to stay a few days. Which again, Fantastic! I love being around them, hanging out and having a great time. We spent a whole day just playing in the sand dunes and having a great time by the river.  

I knew I was going to be drained after the seminar, and after having a weekend of company, but I wasn’t too worried, I knew I had multiple days of alone time while jimmy worked out in the shop to recharge the next week. 

And then the Wifi went down. 

And yes, I 100% know how that sounds. I sound like a whiney little girl who is upset I can’t use the interwebs.  But what it meant was I couldn’t zone out to my tv shows, and what it also meant was a double in my work load. With no internet I couldn’t do review videos for my Patreon group, which meant writing all the reviews out, not a biggie, but definitely more work. It also meant going to town into a coffee shop to do anything online, which I need to do for my NADAC work as well as my personal training group. So that means crowded place, hard to focus for work, and more drain. 

So as pressure and stress began to build with no outlet I became short tempered, irritable, and just plain whiney. 

I ended up snapping at Jimmy, multiple times. And little things that should have been no issue, became huge issues that I couldn’t even begin to deal with. 

So how does this translate to dogs?  Dogs can experience the exact same thing. With more and more things draining their battery and no recharge, they can act out, be depressed, and snap. 

Wall-E, my whippet mix, is a perfect example of this. He is the friendliest dog I have ever owned, there is not a human or dog that isn’t Wall-E’s best friend. He loves to play and visiting people makes his whole day.  

But for as social as he is, if he doesn’t recharge his battery he becomes “weird” and needy.  Things that don’t bother him do, and he is just “off”. 

He has almost the same recharge needs as me, a quiet place where he can just chill. His main need to recharge is snuggling with either Jimmy or I, and just some down time. 

Now if I were to try and run him when his battery is low?  I get a dog who can’t give me any distance on a sequence, who can’t focus for the weave poles, and is in general just “off”.  

If I feel this happening at a trial, his battery draining, I will try to take him out for a long walk as far away from everything as I can. Or make sure his crate is covered and give him some sort of chewy to focus on.  But most important, I give him the benefit of the doubt during our runs.  If he is not feeling himself, I pick up the slack and help him through.  I also try very hard to let him recharge that night, hopefully a quiet hotel room and snuggles will help. 

Recharging looks different for every dog, for mine its quiet, for yours it might be playing ball, or going for a walk, a chewy, or maybe doing tricks and brain puzzles. 

Find what drains your dog, so you know when it’s happening, and more importantly, find what recharges them. 

Amanda

We will be discussing various methods of decompression and what it can look like in the Fluid Motion Patreon group this month, come join us at www.patreon.com/fluidmotion

Different Connections

A conversation between myself and a student today started with what the definition of “connection” was between a handler and dog. Eventually it moved towards “Heart Dogs” and what that means to the two of us. 

The term Heart Dog is used pretty commonly in the agility world, and I am sure in other sports as well. It is hard to define, and even harder to try and put into words. Heart Dogs are the ones that touch us different, the connection between the handler and heart dog can be on a whole different level. 

So as the conversation grew into heart dogs, what about the dogs who aren’t? 

I have four dogs in my house currently, Nargles, Ally, Trip (he is technically Jimmy’s dog) and Wall-E.  I love each and every one of these dogs, they are an integral part of my life and bring happiness that I can’t put into words. 

Nargles is long retired from her agility career, and she achieved much more than I ever thought possible. She was an amazing distance dog and put her entire soul on the line every time she ran. And I love this little dog more than I can put into words. But is she a heart dog? No. 

Ally is my tough dog, she came into my life to teach me things and to make me a better trainer. Her mission in life is to make me better, and I am, because of her. I love her “take no crap” attitude and the fact she wants to be a lap dog, but doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Is she a heart dog? No. 

And before I get to Wall-E, we have to go into the past and talk about the last heart dog I had. Try. 

Try literally showed up at my doorstep, I wasn’t expecting a puppy and a good friend brought her to me and said “this is a good pup”.  I never looked back from that day forward. From the time she was an 8 week old puppy, something was different with her. We connected in ways that were far different from any previous dog.  Her and I just knew what the other needed. 

Years go by and Try won everything there was to win for a Stakes dog in NADAC. She did things and took me places I had no idea I could reach.  But that dog could have never left Novice and I would have been just as happy. 

Walking into the ring with her was different, it was amazing, it was connection beyond what I could explain to anyone. 

So does that make Ally and Nargles “less”? Or that I don’t love them as much? Absolutely not. 

I connect with them, I ran courses with Nargles where I was sure we missed something because the connection was so amazing that the run just flew by.  

Heart Dogs connect on a different level, I personally don’t think that means that they are more loved, or a better dog. Just different. 

Sometimes I see people struggling, as my student today was. That they may not have that connection that they have heard people talk about with their dogs. Or maybe they had it with a previous dog, but not their current one, so something must be wrong. 

Connection is different for every person and for every dog. I do believe everyone will have a heart dog in their life, and you may have dogs who are not. But that does not mean you are a bad owner or trainer, its just a different connection. 

So this brings me to Wall-E. 

I watched videos of his litter, always drawn to this little pup that had unique and pretty markings.  And then this one video happened, the breeder was letting them hear and see a vacuum cleaner. And all the puppies were checking it out, or staying back. And then there was Wall-E who was just trying to get the breeder to pet him.  

I started watching that little brown puppy more and more, and falling in love with him. When we got there and she said he was the one that was left, it was like a hole in my heart started to repair. 

When I held him that first day, it was different. It was the same feeling I had when I held baby Try.  And again, I have never looked back. 

Everything happens for a reason. My heart had been broken after losing Try, and I lost so much of my passion for agility after her loss and then feeling like I was failing Ally.  I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to have that same passion for agility again. 

Wall-E is my heart dog. Him and I connect on a different level and when we run agility, even though he is still learning, I feel that connection.  

We love every dog in our life, and connect on different levels with each one. 

Cherish, learn, and love every connection you have with each dog, they are all magic.

Ally’s Series – Rebuilding Confidence and Trust

During the month of November I am working on a content creating challenge, so for every day this month there will be a new blog post, video, or podcast! I am very excited to create so much new content for everyone this month! Its going to be great! 

My first day of content creation was yesterday and started with Episode 2 of my podcast, talking about Goals.  You can check it out at this link:  Fluid Motion Podcast – Episode 2 – Goals

The first blog for November is going to be part of a series, and it will be covering how I will be helping to bring back Ally’s confidence and connection with me.  

Connection, Confidence, and Trust between me and my dogs is the foundation to of my training with my dogs. And last year some of that was lost between Ally and I, so my goals over this winter is to try and rebuild it. 

2019 was hard for Ally and I, and I made mistakes that eroded away some of the trust her and I had between us.  When the pandemic hit and forced us to take the rest of the year off, this was not completely a bad thing for her and I.  

I probably would not have taken the time off like I have if it was not forced upon me. With staying at home and no trials, Ally has pretty much just been hanging out all year just being a dog.  I have noticed huge changes to her personality and general attitude, and I credit the months of doing nothing for that. 

I also needed a break, I knew that our relationship was not in a good place, but I was not sure how to even begin to fix it. I had planned on just stopping training her, which I did, and that helped, but I think it helped because it was giving her the break she needed. I needed some down time to give myself time to think, and I also have realized that I need to reorganize and reprioritize my life. 

So how has Ally changed? 

She engages in play now, she wants to run and play with the other dogs, and me. She wants to cuddle and be around me much more than she used to. I took her out last week to play around on a small sequences I had built and much of her frantic, over aroused, and frustrated barks were gone. She will always bark, that is who she is, but I noticed she was much more “at ease” when we were working. 

Same goes for me, I felt less stressed and pressured while training her. The goals I had for her are gone and I didn’t feel them weighing on me anymore. My goals for her were wrong and she desperately tried to tell me that, but I did not listen. 

The year off gave us both time to heal, and figure out what we each needed. And while all this can sound odd when talking about a dog, I have learned so much from her, and I hope I can help others with her lessons. 

The first lesson being that my dog will always choose their path in agility. And the second is that I need to listen. 

In the next part of this series I will talk about some of the non agility things Ally and I are doing to reconnect, and what I am working with her on in agility to build back her confidence. 

This picture is my new goal for Ally, for us to both feel like this again.

Fluid Motion Podcast – Episode 2 – Goals

Fluid Motion Podcast – Episode 2 – Goals
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