Day 25: Taking Advantage of Mealtimes

Training with treats helps to solidify your relationship with your dog. Using all of the opportunities to treat your dog can make the process much more efficient and rewarding.

A frequently missed opportunity to use “treats” is when you feed your dog. A bowl of kibble can contain hundreds of individual pieces. Filling a bowl with kibble and placing it on the floor allows your dog access to calories and nothing more. Making your dog work for their kibble provides enrichment.

Self Story Time:

When I brought Evey home she wouldn’t finish her bowl when I put it down for her. So we started picking it up after 30 minutes. This set boundaries for Evey so she knew when it was time to eat. It also removed an opportunity for her to guard her food bowl, which became an issue when we started to foster kittens.

Eventually time got short, so to train Evey I also took 5 minutes before every meal to do a short training session, using the kibble as rewards. This sharpened her responses to cues and performances of behaviors. It also ensured that she got some enrichment in her day. As this became a part of our routine Evey started to look forward to breakfast/dinner time because it’s time we spend together. Since Evey gets her food from ME and not a BOWL it raises her value for me. Evey understands that I am a source of good things (not the food bowl) and is very likely to respond to cues even when there are a lot of distractions around. In fact, as Evey has gotten more tricks added to her repertoire I will put her food down in a bowl, but before she can go and eat it she has to perform a laundry list of tricks. This way she’s ignoring the food on the ground until she’s invited to take it. It’s a great way to develop impulse control as well as the behaviors I want from her.

These days Evey loves spending time with me. She actually frequently seeks out “play time”, which is actually training time (or dinner time) with me. Because she works for her kibble and finishes the bowl when I give it to her it’s easy to monitor her weight. No getting fat from treats here! If she puts on too much weight I just cut back on some of her meals. If she’s looking a bit lean I just add more kibble to her meals.

Apply Hand Feeding to your dog:

This sort of feeding is fantastic for building a relationship between you and a shy pup. If he won’t take a treat from your hand just drop it on the floor. Wait for him to eat the bit and then drop another one. He knows it’s coming to you and as he gains confidence and learns to trust you he’ll be eating out of your hand too.

For dogs that are new to your home or even dogs that aren’t but need a bit of reminding that you are important I highly recommend feeding them their kibble one piece at a time. Oh, and don’t forget the most important part, make them work for each individual piece by asking them for a behavior (come, sit, down, touch, mat, etc.). As always have fun!

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