One of our favorite types of activities to do with our pups is food-based enrichment. A great example of this is a PVC dog feeder! Both Prim & Goomba love it, it’s easy to use, and it provides a fun way to burn some energy!
Food-based enrichment is essentially entertaining your dog through physical or mental activity by using food. It’s a broad category, which is great since there is a wide variety of different options that you can choose from. Anything from lick mats or puzzles to balls that dispense food can get your dog moving around, problem-solving, or using their nose!
New to DIY? No worries! This is an extremely basic DIY guide and uses a small amount of tools and minimal other supplies. It’s great for those on a budget or anyone who likes creating things!
If you’re looking for alternatives to a DIY dog feeder, but still want some inside activities for your pup, check out our articles on making a DIY dog puzzles or our favorite inside games. Our dogs love them and they are frequently utilized in our household.
Benefits of a PVC dog feeder
A fun activity for your dog
The primary reason for doing any enrichment activity should be enriching your dog! For example, a PVC dog feeder can help your dog get some additional activity, problem-solve, and have a positive experience all with little input from you. It also helps keep your furry friend from being bored, which means fewer undesirable behaviors (read: fewer chewed shoes)!
Whether it’s a lick mat or turning a command like other side into a way to burn energy inside, your pup will love it, if you make it fun!
Increases food drive
At first glance, this seems an odd choice to be on this list, but having a pup with a high food drive makes everything else easier. For example, learning new behaviors is much easier when your dog has a high food drive. A PVC dog feeder can help with this, by combining play (or prey, depending on your dog) drive and food drive activity. When your PVC dog feeder is getting pushed, thrown, or otherwise moved across the floor, it will be dispensing kibble or treats on the way.
This works the other way, as well. For example, if you have a pup who has a high food drive but a low play drive, pairing food with play can help encourage playtime. We used this technique a lot with Prim when we first got her.
Occupies your dog when you’re busy
As much as we love our dogs, there are times when we simply aren’t able to interact with them. Whether it’s a virtual meeting, a workout, or cooking, we recommend having a few different options for ways to keep your pup entertained without you. Enter the PVC dog feeder. You can give your dog as much kibble as you want, provided your pup’s weight or activity level isn’t an issue.
We love that you can even give your dog’s entire meal in an enrichment tool, like this PVC dog feeder. If you’re looking for other options to keep your pup entertained when you’re busy, try stuffing hollow bones or using frozen lick mat recipes to keep your pups entertained. We find these tools helpful specifically while we’re cooking or eating.
How to make your own PVC dog feeder
If you’re interested in building your own PVC dog feeder, good news! As long as you have some basic DIY supplies, it can be done for less than $15!
Gathering the supplies
The supplies required for this DIY are minimal. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:
- 1 ft of 1.5 in PVC pipe (our local hardware store sells some smaller 2 ft sections)
- 2 PVC caps (same size as your pipe)
Tools you’ll need:
- Drill with drill bits
- PVC cutting tool (unless you’re lucky enough to have 1 ft segments available)
That’s it! Let’s get to construction.
Step 1: Creating the PVC dog feeder
If you weren’t fortunate enough to get a 1 ft segment of PVC, you’ll have to start with cutting the pipe to whatever size you wish for the PVC dog feeder to be. We recommend oversizing it, as you can easily cut off more if you find it is too long later. We started with 1 ft, as we have 70+ lb dogs and it helps the feeder not go under our couches when it’s being used.
After we have the segment of pipe, make sure to sand down any edge of the PVC to prevent your pup from ingesting any PVC shavings or getting cut by sharp edges. We like to feel the pipe gently by hand to make sure everything is smooth, so it doesn’t cut your pup by accident. The ends will be covered by a cap, so the most important thing is any loose PVC shavings.
We recommend leaving the caps off at this point as the next step will be much easier if you’re able to see inside the pipe.
Step 2: Drilling the holes
Now that we have the body of the PVC dog feeder done, we’ll finish it by making the holes & preparing it for your pup. For the holes, we recommend using a small pilot hole before creating the size of hole you want. As the pipe is round, holding the bit where you want it to be is challenging, so having a point to guide you will make it a lot easier. For us, we used a 1/2-inch drill bit for the final hole size.
If your kibble is bigger or smaller, you will have to adjust accordingly. If you’re not sure how large it is, grab a piece and then use progressively larger bits until your kibble fits through naturally.
A word of caution, make sure to secure your PVC dog feeder prior to drilling. The larger bits, especially 1/2-inch can bind and twist the PVC if you’re not prepared. As with every DIY project, make sure to wear appropriate protective equipment when you’re performing these steps, such as gloves, glasses/goggles, or a mask, depending on what you’re doing.
Step 3: Smoothing the finished product
After we get the holes created, we’ll need to lightly sand the edges of all the holes. We want to knock off any loose pieces and make sure everything is smooth for our pups. We used a combination of rolling a piece of sandpaper up to smooth the inside of the holes and reach through the end of the pipe. If you have a particularly stubborn piece, a precision knife can be extremely helpful and allow you to reach a few more inches inside the pipe. If you’re confused about what it should look like when finished, the far-right picture for the image above this section is what we’re going for.
After everything is smooth, make sure to wash all the pieces to ensure everything is clean for your pup.
Advice for using your PVC dog feeder
Using a PVC dog feeder is straightforward, but we wanted to provide some additional tips & tricks that we’ve learned.
First, when constructing this, if you’re not sure about the hole size, make it just slightly larger than your typical kibble. You can always drill it out more later if the kibble is too hard to get out.
Second, if you have elevated furniture, your pup’s toy will end up underneath it. We find it helpful to either block off the bottoms with dog beds or whatever is available or to take the toy to a room with fewer obstacles. Something like a kitchen or mud room generally has fewer issues than a living room or bedroom.
Finally, if you put a lot of high-calorie treats or a large quantity of dog food into the feeder, make sure to offset their food intake that day, taking into account your dog’s activity level and weight.
Creating your own DIY PVC dog feeder doesn’t have to be hard! With only a few tools and about $15 of supplies, you can make an enrichment toy that your pup will love! Our pups love food and nose-focused enrichment and are extremely enthusiastic!
Have you made your own PVC dog feeder or other dog enrichment tools? Share your photos of your dog trying them out with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.