Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Ditch the Dish.
When we feed our dogs from a 'dish' or ‘bowl’ we miss a huge opportunity for training.
If we’re using food as a reward for our dogs and we’re starting to adapt our training to a ‘Game-Based’ approach this could potentially be problematic as we would be feeding our dogs treats often during the day and this could result in weight gain.
Why not use their food in training? This has 2 advantages:
· It means that your dog’s daily allowance of food becomes part of their training - and no problems with weight gain!
· It means that the ‘value’ in the training gets transferred to you as the source of ‘reward’. In other words, your dog no longer gets ‘something for nothing’ from the dish.
So, it would work like this. You would take your dog’s daily food allowance and instead of giving him it in his dish, you would use it in training throughout the day. If you feed your dog kibble this is easy. Just use the kibble in your training sessions.
Wet or raw feeding takes a bit more ingenuity but it’s possible. I use 'human' toddler feeding pouches if I’m using wet or raw food mixed with natural bio yoghurt to make it ‘runny’ (this also gives some probiotics to your dog!) and I can dispense some food through the pouch as a reward. I’ve also used silicone weaning spoons to feed wet food.
When we ‘Ditch the Dish’ we are also shifting the ‘value’ that a dog gets from his food onto us instead of the ‘Dish’. I don’t want my dog to be focussed on the dish, I want him focussed on me – and this is the way to do it.
One of the concepts we focus on in training is 'Calmness'. Calmness can be developed using food. Food can be used as a way to lower arousal as well as to increase arousal when we use it in more active games. You can use part of your dog's daily food allowance to stuff Kongs, or to spread on a Licki Mat.
Licking is an activity that tends to be naturally calming for dogs, so using your dog's food in this way helps your dog to settle. When used in conjunction with a crate or a playpen your dog will soon learn how to calm himself. Proper rest is an aspect of our dog's life that is often overlooked especially when we are encouraged to provide activities to keep our dogs from becoming bored.
Try 'Ditching the Dish', it’s one of the simplest yet most effective training tools that you can have!