A routine part of your day with your dog can be transformed in to a powerful bonding and training opportunity. Overlooked by many trainers and dog owners, about ten minutes a day will connect you with your canine family member and help your dog understand that they should turn to you for permission to check out all those distractions like a squirrel, other dogs, people, smells … rather than just leaving you to investigate the ‘shiny object’.
Turning feeding time in to a little game time is key to a fully bonded dog. Simply measure out the food your dog would normally get in their serving for that part of the day and put it in your pocket. Use the kibble as a reward for doing things that you ask so they are “working” for the food instead of just having a bowl dropped on the floor for them to gorge upon. Dogs LOVE to work for their food. Think about that squirrel for a second, what’s the best part about the encounter? Is it eating the squirrel, or the chase? Of course it’s the CHASE!
In the process of feeding your dog by hand, offer a little affection while the dog is taking / chewing the food. The oils from your skin become a part of the scent of the food; so you become an even stronger part of the sense that everything good in the dogs’ world comes from you. If you’re the source of fun, food, and affection for your dog then those other distractions lose their power over the dog’s attention.
One final piece here is to keep it simple and fun. You want your dog to enjoy this experience, not get frustrated. So if your dog doesn’t know how to “roll over”, don’t ask for that behavior … do something more simple like sit, stand, lay down, come, etc. Train new behaviors in short sequences at other times of the day (like in the evening when you might be watching TV). This is all about building confidence, focus, and making your dog “love you more” through fun experiences!
If you end up with more food in your pocket after you have used up all the play time you can afford, you can either keep the food in your pocket and reward for other good behaviors throughout the next few hours or you can ask for one more “great thing” from your dog and give them a jackpot reward with the remaining food in their bowl.
In short, Ditch the Bowl – live a Reward Rich Life!