How to use your dog's food in training.

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Do you have a dog or puppy who just will not listen? Are you dangling a treat in their face, trying to get their attention only to have them completely ignore you and run off to chew on your slippers? Maybe you have a dog that's just not "food motivated" or maybe you just have a dog that knows they'll be getting a bowl of free food from you at dinner so they figure chewing on everything in sight is a much more fun activity than practicing their listening skills.

In the dog world, rewards, in this case, food are currency. Imagine your employer pays you every week for absolutely no reason. You just know that there will be more money in your account and you don't have to worry. Then your employer asks you to actually do work and she'll give you $2 in return on top of your weekly pay. Would you stop whatever fun activity you are doing for those $2 when you know you're gonna get much more for doing nothing anyway?

That's exactly what feeding your dog free food from a bowl every day is like. So if you bring home a new dog or puppy or you have one already who has some bad manners, here's what you can do that will make a big difference:

Throw your dog's food bowl away!

Dogs need mental stimulation. Meeting their energy needs every day is great, but their brains, especially if they're puppies, also need exercise and enriching activities. If you do not provide your dog with such activities, they'll get bored and go on their search for something fun to do. The only problem there is, the amount of fun they have can usually be measured in dollar amounts.

So once you throw the bowl out, here's what you do!

1. Measure out your dog's daily allotment of food and place it in a container you can seal shut and locate it somewhere easily accessible throughout the day. (You can use multiple containers so you don't have to measure out the food every day.)

2. In the morning, take a handful of kibble (it will still work for wet food but might be a bit messy, you can wear gloves or dry the food out a bit first) and use it to train your dog on their obedience skills or use it to teach your dog to be calm by only handing them food when they sit politely.

3. Take a food-dispensing toy like a Kong and fill that with some kibble or wet food, your dog will have to work for that meal as well by manipulating the toy till the food comes out. You can use this step to help with crate training, just put the toy inside their crate.

4. When you need to leave the house, have a portion of your dog's daily food allotment (moistened if it's dry kibble) stored in a Kong and placed in the freezer so it will be harder still to get to. Leave that with your dog anytime you leave the house or you just need them to chill while you are busy. (you can do this part the night before so you have a frozen Kong ready to go for the day) Just make sure you don't make getting the food out of the toy too hard or they might lose interest.

That's the gist of it. You can, of course, modify these steps to fit your lifestyle and daily schedule. The point is, your dog should be "working" for their food! It should be an activity they have to think about. So throw out the bowl, fill a container (that can be sealed shut) with their daily food allotment, and make sure it's all gone by the end of the day via various activities.

If your dog is busy "hunting down" their next meal, they are not chewing on your walls, swallowing your socks, or barking madly out the window!

For more information, tips, and advice on how to use your dog's food to your advantage and end all your dog behavior woes, get in touch with us! A chapter dedicated to this subject can also be found in the eBooks sent to you if you signed up for puppy class or boarding with us so make sure to check that out!


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